The 2001 New England Patriots had benefitted from the “tuck rule’’ decision to defeat Oakland in the first round of the AFC playoffs, and then defeated a Kordell Stewart-led Pittsburgh to advance to the Super Bowl.

The investors in NFL activities were so unimpressed, the Patriots entered as 14-point underdogs vs. the St. Louis Rams. Only two of 52 Super Bowls have had a higher number at kickoff: San Francisco 18.5 over San Diego in XXIX, and the Baltimore Colts 18 over the New York Jets in IX.

One reason was a belief among wizened bettors that coach Bill Belichick was making a mistake by continuing to go with second-year quarterback Tom Brady over his now-healthy gunslinger, Drew Bledsoe.

Brady’s first Super Bowl start produced modest numbers: 16-for-27 for 145 yards and a touchdown.

What Brady did was complete a 45-yard touchdown drive that started with 1:20 left in the first half, throwing an 8-yard TD to David Patten. And then he led a 53-yard drive from the New England 17 to Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal on the last play of the Patriots’ 20-17 upset victory.

From then through Sunday’s eighth Super Bowl appearance, Brady is 235-for-357 with 2,576 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

He has thrown touchdowns to 13 receivers, with three to Rob Gronkowski, two apiece to David Givens, Danny Amendola and Mike Vrabel (a linebacker), and one to Patten, Deion Branch, Danny Woodhead, Brandon LaFell, James White, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, new Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Aaron Hernandez, a convicted murderer who committed suicide in his cell last May.

Brady has completed 10 or more passes to a receiver five times: Branch twice, and Wes Welker, Shane Vereen and White. He has completed passes to a receiver for more than 100 yards eight times: Branch twice, Welker, Edelman, White, Amendola, Gronkowski and Hogan.

In all, Brady has completed passes to 36 receivers in eight Super Bowls. Kevin Faulk caught passes from Brady in four. He threw a couple to former Gophers great Laurence Maroney and also one to Michael Hoomanawanui, which is a hard name to spell.

Thanks for coming, Tom. It was great.

PATRICK'S PLUS THREE

Winter’s Big Three that’s hard to enjoy:

Gophers basketball (men): No. 12 nationally in Week 4, now a disaster rivaling 2015-16. Richard Pitino’s Big Ten record stands at 30-56 (.349).

Timberwolves: The return to the playoffs after a 13-season absence won’t last more than six games for these road wimps.

Wild: The fans give ’em too much love. Time to go back to North Stars days and to start booing empty power plays with gusto.

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