TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl throwing to Troy Brown, Jermaine Wiggins and David Patten and earned his seventh ring firing passes to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
There’s a significant talent gap between his first crew of journeymen in New England and the all-star cast he has in Tampa Bay, but the common theme is No. 12.
Brady won with Deion Branch, David Givens, Brandon LaFell, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, and he helped Julian Edelman and Wes Welker become stars.
He’s relied on throwing to his running backs from J.R. Redmond and Kevin Faulk to Shane Vereen and James White. His tight ends have always been favorite targets from Wiggins, Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson to Aaron Hernandez, Martellus Bennett and Gronkowski.
Brady’s best receiver along the way was Hall of Famer Randy Moss. They broke records together and went 16-0 in 2007 but didn’t win it all.
The 44-year-old, five-time Super Bowl MVP faces the Patriots on Sunday night for the first time since leaving New England after 20 years. He’ll see plenty of familiar faces on the opposite sideline, including his leading receiver from their first Super Bowl victory two decades ago.
Troy Brown caught six of Brady’s passes for 89 yards when the Patriots stunned the ”Greatest Show on Turf” Rams in Super Bowl 36. Brown now coaches New England’s wide receivers and kick returners.
”I played with the guy for a long time and coached with him for a couple of years while he was here,” Brown said. ”It’s a little bit awkward, but at the end of the day, it’s still about competing and going against each other. That’s what it comes down to. I mean, I know I’m not playing, but still, you’re approaching the game as we do every other team around the league, is that we do everything we can to prepare for what they have. We’ll approach this game the same way, not because Tom Brady is Tom Brady or whatever it is, because it’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We have a really good football team all around.”
Brown isn’t surprised Brady is still playing at an elite level all these years later. The GOAT already has 10 touchdown passes in three games, putting him on pace to set a new career high. He threw 50 TD passes, including 23 to Moss, in ’07.
”Well, I think if anybody can pull it off, it would be Tom Brady,” Brown said. ”He’s been that type of guy his entire career. No reason to think that he wouldn’t still be playing. He said when he came into the league that he would play forever. And so, he’s trying to make that come true, I guess.”
Wiggins had two catches for 14 yards in New England’s first Super Bowl win. The Boston native can’t believe Brady switched teams.
”I still haven’t been able to get over it since he left here. I never thought I’d see it coming where he’d be wearing another uniform,” Wiggins said. ”Brady I thought would be that guy that I thought the only uniform he would wear would be the New England Patriots one. Then when he left, it was weird to see him in that Tampa Bay uniform. To this day I can’t get used to it because that championship he won down there I feel like could have been another one he won in New England.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week he didn’t want Brady to leave.
”He looked at his options and made his decision. We weren’t as good of an option as Tampa,” Belichick said on his weekly radio appearance on WEEI. ”You’d have to ask him about all that, but it wasn’t a question of not wanting him, that’s for sure.”
Brady wouldn’t elaborate on a report that Belichick spoke to him on the phone instead of meeting with him in person when he was a free agent last year.
”All of those things are super personal. We had a great relationship. I think it was handled the right way. We handled everything as gracefully as we could,” Brady said. ”It was an amazing time. It was handled perfectly. I think everyone understood where we were at, the people involved in the situation. Things worked out for the best for all of us and we’re all trying to do the best we can do now.”
For anyone who ever played with Brady, he’s always brought out their best.
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed.
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