Tom Brady stunned the NFL and wider sporting world by winning a seventh Super Bowl title at age 43, and he reportedly achieved that feat while battling an injury that would ruin the season for most players.
Brady revealed in May that his offseason knee surgery that was originally reported as a "clean-up" back in February was, in fact, "pretty serious".
And the extent of the problem was fully disclosed on Thursday, with NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reporting Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory in his first season with the team through the pain of playing on a completely torn medial collateral ligament (MCL).
The difficulty level of leading a new team to a championship, having previously spent the past 20 years with the New England Patriots and winning six titles, while battling a knee issue of that severity cannot be overstated.
However, after the Bucs lost three of four games to head into the bye week 7-5, Brady made it look remarkably easy, guiding Tampa Bay to eight straight wins, a streak capped off with a 31-9 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, as they captured the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in franchise history.
Brady finished his maiden season with the Buccaneers with 4,633 passing yards (third in the NFL), 40 touchdowns (tied-second) and 12 interceptions. His 41 passing plays of 25 yards or more in the regular season trailed only Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans (42).
Per Stats Perform data, Brady was fourth in air yards per attempt among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes. His average of 9.5 provided a further indication of his renaissance as a deep-ball thrower in Tampa.
He was second in pickable pass percentage, throwing an interceptable ball on just 2.2 per cent of his attempts. Only Alex Smith (2.1 per cent) did a better job in that regard.
The difference after the bye was stark. Brady's yards per game jumped from 275 to 299.3 while his passer rating improved to 112.4 from 95.1. He threw 28 touchdowns to 11 interceptions prior to the bye, but tossed 22 scores and just four picks across his final eight games.
His yards per attempt average leaped from 6.96 to 8.74, as the Bucs offense became more potent following the break.
Indeed, the Bucs averaged 28.7 points per game before the bye but upped that tally to 33.9 over the course of the final four regular-season and four postseason games.
Brady will be 44 when the Bucs start their quest to defend the title against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9. Conventional wisdom suggests the challenge should be tougher for him at an older age.
Yet Brady continues to challenge conventional wisdom and go beyond the limits of what was thought possible for an NFL quarterback. If the knee is healed, there's a chance that, soon to be in his mid-forties, he could be even better in 2021.