CBS Sports They flashed Tom Brady's picture on the big scoreboard here late in the fourth quarter of his team's blowout victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game, advancing the New England Patriots to the eighth Super Bowl in team history -- and Brady's sixth.
Brady saw it, and acted like a kid winning his first high-school trophy, pumping his fist to the crowd, bringing even more euphoria to the home crowd at Gillette Stadium that was already in a frenzied state.
He was going to his sixth Super Bowl, courtesy of a three-touchdown game to lead the Patriots to the 45-7 rout of the Colts, but this had to be extra special for Brady. Not only is he the first quarterback to play in six Super Bowls, but he's doing so in a season where some made proclamations that he was done, ready to be benched.
That is laughable now as he moves one step closer to a fourth ring, facing off against the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in two weeks. It was laughable way back in Week 4, but his play has made it even more so. Asked about that making it more gratifying to be moving to another Super Bowl, Brady downplayed it -- sort of.
"There's a lot of motivation for a lot of different reasons," Brady said. "You don't want to judge your team after three or four games into the season, and it's important not to ride the roller coaster."
After a horrible road loss to the Chiefs in Week 4, a game in which Brady was pulled, the quarterback vultures circled like he was road kill. As it turned out, they were way off base.
"The way that guy works," receiver Brandon LaFell, " rubs off on all of us."
As Brady dressed in the locker next to him, you could tell that a little bit of him wanted to tell all the doubters a little something. But that's not him. He will let his play do the talking. When I saw his actions show up on the big screen, showing off his playful, competitive way, two things stood out to me.
One is that winning never gets old for competitors like Brady. The other was that the Patriots might want to enjoy this last moment in front of the home folks because they are about to get two weeks of build-up to what might be called the Hate Super Bowl.
Think about it: Are there two more hated teams in the league right now than New England and Seattle? I know they both have passionate fan bases, but outside their regions, are they not the two teams that others love to hate?
Why the hate? Count the ways:
• The Bill Belichick-Brady combo, with their three rings and six Super Bowls, fosters disdain. Everybody hates winners, even though they deserve mad respect.
• The Seahawks are defending champions. See: winners.
• Richard Sherman's mouth. I like it, but others don't.
• The Seahawks' brashness, including receiver Doug Baldwin ripping the media after his team rallied to beat Green Bay Sunday and Marshawn Lynch grabbing his privates after scores, and then making a mockery of the media with his postgame antics.
• Spygate. Enough said.
On and on it goes. The only team that comes close to this type of national hate is the Dallas Cowboys, and even Chris Christie couldn't help push them to the top two spots.
But you know what, we wouldn't want to see any other game right now. There is so much to love about this matchup.
There's Brady vs. the Seattle defense. There's Seattle coach Pete Carroll against the team that fired him. There's Belichick getting two weeks to face Russell Wilson's talents. There's the natural comparison of Sherman vs. Darrelle Revis and trying to decide who's the league's best cover player.
I started that topic in the locker room after the game by asking Revis if he was ready for two weeks of comparisons to Sherman.
"That's not going to happen," Revis said.
"Oh, yes it will," I said.
"No, it won't," Revis said.
"I am going to deflect the questions," Revis said.
He's too late. I already started it.
The two teams last met October 2012 in the "U mad, bro" Bowl. That name came because Sherman asked Brady that question after the Seahawks rallied to beat the Patriots 24-23 in Seattle. Brady threw for 395 yards and two scores in that game, but he was picked off twice. Wilson won the game with a 46-yard score to Sidney Rice with 1:27 left.
A lot has changed since then, so much so that Aaron Hernandez, now in jail readying to face murder charges, actually caught a touchdown pass in that game.
But that's in the past. As Belichick loves to say, they're on to Seattle -- this year's Seattle team.
I, for one, can't wait. The early lean for me is to the Patriots mainly because I believe in Brady and Belichick. At some point, they have to get that fourth title, but it's hard to overlook Seattle after what they did Sunday coming back from the dead against Green Bay.
"We're playing a great team," Brady said. "That's why they're in it too. They've overcome a lot of adversity too. They're really well coached, but we have two weeks to prepare. We'll be ready to go."
We know Brady will for sure. Not bad for an old man who some had headed to the bench.
• There was a late-night report from respected Indianapolis columnist Bob Kravitz that the league was looking into whether the Patriots deflated some footballs for Sunday's game to give them some kind of competitive advantage. If true, the allegations won't help the Patriots shed the cheater label they got from Spygate. Just remember, for now they are allegations. The NFL is reportedly going to investigate and the Patriots could lose draft picks.
• While Brady got the headlines, running back LeGarrette Blount had a heck of a day for the Patriots. He ran 30 times for 148 yards and scored three touchdowns. He gained 4.9 per rush and looked powerful running through the Indianapolis defense. This was the same defense New England's Jonas Gray through for 201 yards in Week 11. For Blount, it was a huge game in the big spotlight after getting cut by the Steelers earlier this season. Blount was cut because he left the field during a game after not getting any carries. The Patriots signed him for moments like Sunday. "He made some great cuts in not good conditions," Belichick said. "He found yards when there weren't a lot there and he's a tough guy to tackle. He's really a quality back. He made some great runs tonight. There were several times when he took nothing and turned it into something." Against Seattle, that type of running will be huge.
I have to give Russell Wilson credit for helping to rally his team in the fourth quarter and for winning the game with a great throw to Jermaine Kearse in overtime. But he was really bad for much of the game. Wilson struggled to make anything happen and he was picked off four times. That's a red flag for me, but others see it differently. I see the bad play. Others see the rallying from behind as a sign of a how good he can be. If not for the botched onside kick, the narrative is that Wilson stunk. But thanks to that bad play by the Packers, it's how he rallied his team. The guy does show up in big moments. You can't take that away from him.
• One of the big mysteries of the Packers' loss to the Seahawks is why safety Morgan Burnett went down after picking off a pass with 5:03 left in the game. He had a ton of field to run and he just went down. Those 10-15 yards could have affected field position and forced Seattle to use a lot more clock on the drive to cut the lead to 19-14. Bad move.
• I have to give big props to Seahawks corner Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas for playing through what had to be painful injuries. Those two are gamers and I would love to have them on my roster. Sherman said he had an elbow injury, but he also said he would play in the Super Bowl. Thomas had a shoulder injury, but came back after going to the locker room, and he said he will play. But how effective will they be? Will the Patriots challenge them both early? That is one weird thing from the Packers-Seahawks game. Why didn't the Packers go after Sherman after he got hurt? He was clearly in pain.
• This is going to be nitpicky, but if the Seahawks were going to fake a field goal down 16-0, shouldn't they have gone for two? By going for one, they still needed to get the field goal they passed on kicking to score the touchdown on the fake. I know that play gave them life, but strategically it didn't make much sense.
• Somebody asked me if Packers coach Mike McCarthy should be fired. What? Are you crazy? The guy has done an amazing job -- it helps to have Aaron Rodgers -- but that is just lunacy. He made the right calls to kick field goals early in the game. Game flow matters.
• So Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin screamed at reporters after the game for doubting them? They were favored by seven points, and almost everybody picked the Seahawks to win. That disrespect card gets old.
• Colts quarterback Andrew Luck picked a bad day to be ordinary. He really struggled against the Patriots. Luck just never got in a groove and in the second half his pick to Darrelle Revis kind of ended any chance the Colts had to beat the Patriots, as if they had any chance. Indianapolis needs to get help for Luck and T.Y. Hilton outside. Donte Moncrief will be a good player, but Reggie Wayne can't run anymore. The defense needs to get an edge rusher, which is why the return of Robert Mathis is so important.
• Patriots corner Kyle Arrington did a heck of a job on Hilton. After the game, the Patriots secondary players, especially Brandon Browner, were calling him the "TY Killer." "Don't get nervous," Browner said to Arrington as the media gathered around. He didn't and he enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.
• There was some thinking by teams that Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was too young at 36. That's absurd. Consider this: He coached a quarterback who was 38 who swears by him, and gave him glowing recommendations to all the teams that asked. Gase will get his chance eventually, but the age issue is absurd. That played a big part in why the 49ers opted to go with Jim Tomsula, their defensive line coach. The players were said to back Tomsula. One question: Do you want your players liking the coach? Or respecting him?
• It's unfair to just say Tomsula is a yes man for general manager Trent Baalke. Every coach deserves the chance to show what he can do. But it's odd that the 49ers hired a guy who hasn't even been an NFL coordinator and whose only head-coaching experience -- aside from a one-game interim stint with the 49ers -- came in NFL Europe. It's a risky move for sure, but maybe they know a lot more than others, especially the media, know about their new coach.
• When Jack Del Rio came to Jacksonville, he did a heck of job. But in the later years, things got away from him. Del Rio likely learned from his past mistakes, and might be a better coach the second time around now that he's with the Oakland Raiders. I always liked Del Rio's straightforward approach, and always enjoyed talking football with him. There is some young talent in Oakland, and Del Rio knows how to build good defenses. It will be interesting to see how he does the second time around.
• The word out of Denver was John Elway wanted a tougher team. So why push to get Gary Kubiak? The knock on Kubiak, who is closing in on a deal with the Broncos, was that his teams were soft in Houston. He bristled at that suggestion, but it was there. Kubiak is a good offensive mind, and one of the nicest men in the profession, but if that's what the Broncos want, I am not sure that's the strong point of his teams. One more thing: Peyton Manning doesn't exactly have the skill set Kubiak wants in his quarterbacks. He isn't mobile, and Kubiak loves to move his quarterback outside the pocket.
• I know Doug Marrone is getting $4 million a year not to coach this season, but why leave one of only 32 jobs as a head coach in a league that makes it tough to land one? I think Marrone miscalculated his value on the open market.
• There is nothing more tiring than hearing a coach won the press conference. Who cares? The media was raving about Rex Ryan's first press conference with the Bills. Isn't that to be expected? Then again, it helps the old reputation when the media loves you.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell, Darrelle Revis, Donte Moncrief, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Jermaine Kearse, Jonas Gray, Kyle Arrington, LeGarrette Blount, Marshawn Lynch, Morgan Burnett, Reggie Wayne, Richard Sherman, Robert Mathis, Russell Wilson, T.Y. Hilton, Tom Brady, NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, NFL