HOUSTON -- Watching Tom Brady late Sunday night, the fifth time I've been there to watch him pull off his magic to win a Super Bowl, I came back to a quote that Arizona Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson gave me two weeks ago at the Pro Bowl.
Peterson's face lit up as he talked up Brady, almost in a bow-down-to-greatness feel as he chatted about the quarterback's career.
"He has that killer instinct," Peterson said. "There's only a couple of people in this world that have that 'it' factor. Michael Jordan, Tiger [Woods], Brady and Kobe [Bryant]. And now LeBron James. Seeing those guys have that it, that killer instinct.
"That's what makes [Brady] so great."
We saw that come out in the second half of Super Bowl LI, as Brady put on the most magical Super Bowl showing of his career -- and that's saying something -- to rally the Patriots to a 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Brady rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 deficit in the third quarter to an overtime victory, and he did it with the steely poise he has shown throughout his career and with a surgeon-like dissection of the Atlanta secondary.
The Falcons might as well have set out the operating tools and told Brady to slice them open, because he made it look that easy.
I have witnessed each one of Brady's Super Bowls live. Early in his career, I was defiant that he was just a guy. I can admit it now, but I thought the Patriots should have started Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXVI. Yes, that was a thing.
On that day, Brady drove the Patriots to the winning field goal to beat the Rams, which was the start of what would make him a postseason assassin.
Along the way, he got better. Along the way, he became the greatest quarterback of all-time. He might not be the prettiest passer like a Dan Marino or use the theatrics at the line like a Peyton Manning, but watching him do his thing there is no denying his stake as the best of all time.
At the age of 39, there was no better example of that than against the Falcons. With his team down 28-3, he turned a miserable first half into one of the great passing displays we will ever see -- especially under the national glare. Brady could not be stopped as he threw for 466 yards -- the most in Super Bowl history -- and two touchdowns.
This came after a pick-six in the first half put the Falcons up 21-0 and made some in the press box at halftime -- not me -- wonder if it might be time to trade Brady. Yes, I heard that from prominent writers.
Trailing 28-9 entering the fourth quarter, all Brady did was complete 21 of 27 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown to close out the game. He was 5 for 6 for 50 yards on the overtime drive to win it.
"I wasn't thinking much, you know?" Brady said of being down big. "I was thinking that we just got to score and then we scored the touchdown and it was nine [points] and then we got the turnover. There was a lot of s--- that happened tonight. And I got hit pretty hard, so yeah. It's 28-12 and then we got 28-20 and then 28-28 and then 34-28. Another play coming down to the end. How about that? "
The way the Patriots turned it around, especially Brady, reminded me of another conversation I had during Pro Bowl week. This one was with Ravens safety Eric Weddle. He talked about how tough it was to fool Brady. You might get him once or twice, but he eventually figures it out.
The Falcons got him a bunch in the first half, hitting him a lot, which is the Brady kryptonite. Then the Falcons got tired and Brady got white hot.
We've seen it before. It's why he's the greatest. Yes, Joe Montana never threw an interception in the Super Bowl, which some say makes him the greatest, but winning five titles in the free-agent era is far more impressive than what Montana did in winning four.
There have been a lot of times along the way during Brady's run that I bucked the idea he was the best. New England fans can tell you that. But he has proven to be that -- and maybe the best football player ever. Jerry Rice and Jim Brown are in the conversation as well.
He deserves the same admiration as a Jordan and all the other laser-focused greats who have ever played sports. Those guys own crunch time. Brady has for his entire career. That makes him the best.
It also makes his coach the best. Bill Belichick is a tough, hard-nosed coach who is gruff with the media and hard to know. But he is the ultimate NFL coach, and maybe the best in any sport.
He does his job.
It has become a corny, cliché phrase now, but it's what he believes. And it works. Do your damn job the way he wants it done or face the consequences. I have questioned many of Belichick's coaching decisions during his career, his blown situational calls especially, but that just proves that even the best don't get it right all the time.
Five rings for both men is a sign of sheer greatness in a free-agent era. This is the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen, and one of the best in any sport.
Yes, they got lucky by taking Brady in the sixth round, but after that it's on these two great men. They both just do their jobs, and they do them as well as anybody who ever has done it.
Way back in 2001, who could have imagined it would be this way? One was a skinny kid called into starting duty when Bledsoe when down and the other was a tyrant who had failed in his previous head-coaching stop with the Browns.
You might not like these two, and have a negative opinion about Spygate or Deflategate that they've been involved in over the years. But the only gate that matters now is this:
Both of them.