Pats QB confident even after interception
HOUSTON -- Tom Brady is getting quite a collection of playoff wins and Super Bowl MVP trophies.
The New England quarterback has won all six of his postseason games, including two Super Bowls in three years. He threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in leading the Patriots past the Carolina Panthers 32-29.
Brady also made up for a critical interception in the Carolina end zone by guiding the Patriots to a go-ahead score with 2:51 remaining.
"We realized we had done it so many times this year," Brady said of coming back. "We knew we could come up with the plays."
When the scrappy Panthers came back to tie it, Brady engineered a 37-yard drive in the final minute. His 17-yard completion to Deion Branch on third-down -- against a shockingly soft defensive alignment -- set up Adam Vinatieri's 41-yard field goal to win it with :04 seconds remaining.
It was a more masterly performance than in 2002, when Brady, then a first-year starter, helped New England upset St. Louis 20-17. Vinatieri also won that game on a late field goal, from 48 yards.
"Maybe it was a little deja vu of two years ago," Vinatieri said. "Tom did it again, he's amazing. This supporting cast did it again and gave me a chance."
And just as against the Rams, Brady made clutch throws throughout the final quarter in taking New England to its 15th straight victory.
"I think each game is different," Brady said. "To win this the way we did is incredible, unbelievable. A great all-around game.
"I don't know how I do it."
"In this day in the NFL," offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said, "who else would you want throwing the ball? I'll take Tom Brady 10 times out of 10."
Brady made sure the interception by Reggie Howard with 7:38 to go did not cost New England the championship. Carolina turned that pickoff into an 85-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad, the longest play in Super Bowl history.
"I kind of threw it right to him, but he made a great play," Brady said.
With Carolina on top 22-21, Brady went 6-for-8 on a 68-yard drive. He converted two third downs on the series with perfect passes, then found Vrabel in the front portion of the end zone.
After Delhomme rallied Carolina again and the first overtime in Super Bowl history loomed, Brady and New England got a break. John Kasay's kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at their 40 with 1:08 left.
"The kick out of bounds helped us out tremendously," receiver Troy Brown said. "I said, 'We got a chance, especially with Tom. He'll just advance (the ball) and we'll win the game.'"
Brady had two 13-yard completions to Troy Brown, leading to the 17-yarder to Branch when the Panthers played a conservative defense.
"Deion ran a great route, I laid it up for him, and it gave us enough time for Adam to run on the field," he said. "We made enough plays at the end there to win it."
Brady always does. His overall record is 40-12. He is 26-4 in games played after Nov. 1. And like Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw, he is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Only Joe Montana, with three, has more.
"You can never say enough about Tom Brady," Brown said. "He wins games. What more can you ask for?"
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press