Hightower earns Super Bowl title in Patriots comeback
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- As a kid, years before he became a pretty good quarterback in his own right, Tom Brady idolized Joe Montana.
Now, at age 37, Brady owns just as many Super Bowl championships -- and just as many Super Bowl MVP awards -- as the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
And no QB in history has more.
Brady completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards with four touchdown passes, each to a different receiver, including an 8-for-8, 65-yard bit of perfection on the drive that led to the go-ahead score with about 2 minutes left Sunday night. That performance, and a victory-clinching interception by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler, lifted the New England Patriots to a 28-24 comeback victory over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in a Super Bowl with a slow start and a "Whoa!" finish.
This was not Brady at his best throughout. He threw two interceptions, including one deep in Seattle territory in the first quarter, and another in the third that led to points for the Seahawks.
That's part of why the Patriots trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter, before Brady got the comeback going.
Belief in winning
"It wasn't the way we drew it up. Certainly, throwing a couple of picks didn't help," said Brady, who broke Peyton Manning's Super Bowl record of 34 completions set last year. "It was a lot of mental toughness. Our team has had it all year. We never doubted each other, so that's what it took. That was a great football team we beat. I'm just so happy for our team."
And to think, back in late September, folks were writing off Brady, saying his best days were long behind him, especially right after a 41-14 loss at Kansas City that dropped the Patriots to 2-2.
"Every team has a journey," Brady said Sunday, "and a lot of people lost faith in us early. But we held strong. We held together."
Decades ago, sitting in his family's season-ticket seats at San Francisco's Candlestick Park while growing up, Brady would wear a No. 16 jersey, just like Montana, and cheer for his favorite player's team.
Brady did a fairly good impression of Joe Cool against Seattle.
He connected with Danny Amendola for a 4-yard touchdown with about 8 minutes left. That gave Brady 12 TD passes in Super Bowls, breaking Montana's mark. Then, with 2:02 to go, Brady hit Julian Edelman from 3 yards for TD toss No. 13 in Super Bowls -- and, more importantly, the lead.
"Tom's the best ever," Edelman said.
Brady turned to New England's sideline, pointed, then raised his right fist, his white jersey stained green from the turf.
Only after Butler grabbed Russell Wilson's pass from the 1-yard line in the final half-minute could Brady really begin to celebrate, leaping up and down on the sideline and embracing coach Bill Belichick.
Now Brady, Montana and Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only starting quarterbacks to earn four Super Bowl rings.
At the outset of Brady's career after being a sixth-round draft pick, he and Belichick combined to win three championships in a four-year span, in the 2002, 2004 and 2005 Super Bowls. Brady was the MVP in the first two of those.
But Sunday's victory ended a decade title drought, after losses in the big games in 2008 and 2012, both times against the New York Giants.
"Well, it's been a long journey. I've been at it for 15 years and we've had a couple of tough losses in this game," Brady said. "This one came down to the end, and this time, we made the plays."