HOUSTON - Tom Brady will never be remembered as the hottest quarterback in the regular season, only the coolest in the playoffs.
Cementing his image as one of the game's clutch performers, Brady stoically marched the New England Patriots into range for the deciding 41-yard field goal in last night's 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl.
It represented the fourth game-winning drive in six playoff games for Brady, who was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for the second time in three years.
"Tom is a winner," coach Bill Belichick said of Brady, who is 6-0 in the postseason. "That's the job of a quarterback. And Tom does that as well as anybody."
With the score tied at 29, Brady delivered a drive reminiscent of his thrilling yet methodical series from two Super Bowls ago against the St. Louis Rams.
He completed his last four passes succinctly for 47 yards in the final minute of last night's game. Keeping a steely look in the face of pressure, Brady calmly moved around the pocket to connect on passes of 13, 13, 4 and 17 yards.
Unlike New England's previous Super Bowl victory, this one came with more adversity. At the time he usually owns - the fourth quarter - Brady hastily floated a throw into the end zone and was intercepted by Reggie Howard.
After Carolina converted that turnover into a 22-21 lead, Brady turned his worst moment of the Super Bowl into a shining one. With a golden touch, he lined up in the shotgun and picked apart the Panthers by finishing 10-for-13 for 104 yards and a touchdown.
"We've done it before," Brady said. "You just got to keep your poise."
Brady completed a Super Bowl-record 32 passes in 48 attempts for 354 yards and three touchdowns, but it was his numbers in the five scoring drives that underscored his performance.
In directing the Patriots to four touchdowns and a field goal, Brady was 18-for-24 for 244 yards. The first two touchdowns were a result of Brady's slick play-action fakes, which sucked in the linebackers and enabled his receivers to run free behind the coverage.
"He's certainly climbing up the ladder as a productive quarterback in the NFL," Belichick said. "Tom is going to be mentioned with the better quarterbacks of today and in the past. You can't deny his production."
Said Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: "Who would you rather have running the two-minute drive in today's game of football than Tom Brady? I'd rather have Tom Brady 10 out of 10 times."
Brady is the ninth quarterback to win more than one Super Bowl, joining Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Jim Plunkett and Bart Starr.
He also put himself in a class by himself, becoming the youngest two-time champion at the age of 26.
"I can't put this in perspective," said Brady, who improved to 40-12 as a starter. "I don't know how it feels. You work so hard to get here so there's a lot of things going through my mind."
By being named MVP, Brady becomes the fourth player in the 38-year history of the game to win the award multiple times. Only his childhood idol Montana, with three, has more.
When asked whether the comparisons with Montana are more relevant with another ring, Brady said: "He's a benchmark for a quarterback in how he thrives in clutch situations. There's no way I'm close to that. Hopefully, one day I'll be at that level. But not right now."