When the 41-year-old Tom Brady takes the field for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Sunday, he’ll be facing a Rams franchise that he defeated in his first Super Bowl exactly 17 years to the day.
While it’ll be Brady’s ninth appearance in the Super Bowl, the quarterback on the opposite sideline will be making his first trip to the biggest stage in sports. In fact, Jared Goff was seven years old when Brady hoisted his first Lombardi Trophy against the then-St. Louis Rams.
The two signal callers couldn’t be more opposite — the sixth-round pick that’s become the greatest quarterback of all time versus the 24-year-old No. 1 overall pick initially thought of as a bust following his rookie season. Goff has changed that perception over the last two seasons, though, finding his stride once Sean McVay took over as Los Angeles’ head coach.
Goff just completed his second consecutive season with a quarterback rating of over 100. After tossing for just 1,089 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions in seven games as a rookie, Goff has totaled 8,492 passing yards, 60 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions in 31 games since.
While a lot of the credit goes to upgrades on the coaching staff and talent around Goff over the last two years, the California product has undoubtably grown his game. Goff hasn’t been all that special in the postseason, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 483 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, but he also has made plays when he’s needed to.
So is Goff ready for the biggest game of his life? Well, he has his two best games of the season in primetime matchups, going off on a Week 4 Thursday night game for 465 yards and five touchdowns against the Vikings. And then we all remember what, at the time, we deemed a potential Super Bowl preview when the Rams topped the Chiefs 54-51 on a Monday night game that saw Goff sling it for 413 yards and another four touchdowns. While all signs point to Goff being able to rise to the occasion — and good coaching and talent around him should only help — the bottom line is that Goff remains an unknown entering this game.
Brady, on the other hand, is far from unknown when it comes to what we expect to see from him in the biggest of situations.
As Brady chanted to the crowd that sent the team off to Atlanta on Sunday in Foxborough, “We’re still here!” And that’s exactly the case with Brady’s play this season.
It wasn’t as pretty as it used to be, but Brady’s 4,355 passing were still the seventh-most in his 18-year career. And while his 29 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions marked the worst in his career since 2013 (in which he’s started all 16 games), Brady’s miraculous postseason play has the Patriots looking like one of their vintage Super Bowl teams.
Sure, Brady might be leaning heavily on the best rushing offense he’s had since the days of Corey Dillion, but he still completed over 71 percent of his passes during this postseason run for 691 yards, a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions.
When it comes to Super Bowls, Brady’s played half a regular season’s worth of games in the spotlight. The résumé speaks for itself, completing 235-for-357 passes for 2,576 yards and 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions. More importantly, Brady touts a 5-3 record to top it off.
With that kind of production, you’d think Brady would be content, when in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like all the greats in their respective sports, Brady can take anything and turn it into motivation. This season’s playoff run has been sparked by the narrative that the Patriots don’t have what it takes to win anymore, and that Brady’s too old. While Brady’s clearly already put the narrative to bed, he’ll hang on to it for one more game.
Goff’s a smart, young player with a fantastic arm. It would be a huge disappointment if he weren’t able to get his team back to at least one more Super Bowl.
But when it comes to siding with a quarterback in Super Bowl LIII, Tom Brady trumps anyone you can put in front of him.