ATLANTA — When Tom Brady was told that Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said age has taken a toll on the Patriots’ quarterback, Brady refrained from firing back.
“I don’t have anything to add,” he said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night.
Brady probably will store that and use it to fuel him on Sunday to prove he still has plenty left at the ripe old age of 41. If he can add a record sixth ring to his resume, that will say plenty.
Robey-Coleman said earlier in the night that his words were “taken out of context.” It’s a convenient and predictable response, but Robey-Coleman already had given Brady and the Patriots bulletin-board material to take into Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
That might not have been a smart move.
With a Super Bowl victory on the line, teams shouldn’t need any extra motivation, but they find things to inspire them anyway. Brady and the Patriots definitely have used outside opinions to push this drive to a third straight Super Bowl.
All season long, the Patriots heard they weren’t good enough or young enough or athletic enough to beat the Chiefs. They had to travel to Kansas City for the AFC Championship Game, and Brady led them to a 37-31 overtime victory.
After a touchdown pass thrown by Brady, receiver Julian Edelman screamed “You’re too old!” at his quarterback. Brady just nodded. Now Edelman can use Robey-Coleman’s words to push Brady on Sunday. Being overlooked, forgotten or told he’s too old to keep winning have helped him remain sharp.
“It’s part of who I am,” he said. “It’s part of my DNA. I think those emotions run really deep. When I scratch that, it’s great motivation for me.”
You can’t argue with the results. Brady will play in his record ninth Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, he will be the first player with six Super Bowl victories. He’s already the only one with four MVP Awards, and he already has said that win or lose, he plans to return for his 20th season.
“These experiences are so once-in-a-lifetime, but I’ve been so lucky to be a part of so many great teams,” Brady said. “I never imagined any of this. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine having all these opportunities. I’ve been very blessed to be a part of really great teams to get to this point.”
The Patriots are facing another great team that probably wouldn’t be here if not for Robey-Coleman’s vicious hit on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis that didn’t draw a penalty.
The Rams are the Chiefs of the NFC, a young team that has many weapons and can march down the field with ease. But this is the kind of game in which Bill Belichick’s defensive genius shows up.
The Patriots held the Chiefs scoreless in the first half and neutralized receiver Tyreek Hill. But unlike the Chiefs, the Rams have a good defense, led by Aaron Donald, who had 20 1⁄2 sacks. Brady hasn’t been sacked this postseason.
The Patriots’ line has been able to open holes for running backs Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead and keep the heat off Brady. Their play has been instrumental in keeping Brady fresh and sharp, and his critics have continued to keep him laser-focused.
“What’s important to me is playing my best game on Sunday,” Brady said. “This game, this is what it’s all about. You owe this to your team, to your organization, to be at your best, so I’m not thinking about anything beyond this.”