For various reasons these are the best playoff performances of this sports colossus
The number 45 has been Tom Brady’s target. His goal for a long time has been to play at least until that age.
When Brady leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl LV against the Kansas City Chiefs on February 7, he’ll hit that number in a different way: It will be the 45th playoff game of his career.
It’s almost three full extra seasons of football.
Tom Brady has delivered great postseason performances throughout his NFL career. Getty
Brady’s performance in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game is not among his top postseason stat gems; it was his first playoff game with three interceptions since the 2009 Wild Card Round (a landslide loss to the Ravens). But one thing that is clear this season is how Brady’s impact on the Buccaneers has gone far beyond statistics.
Bruce Arians noted after the victory: “The belief he gave to everyone in this organization, that this could be done; it only took one man ”.
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In that regard, Brady’s work over the past three weeks, as the leader in the Buccaneers’ solid complementary game that weaves together offense, defense, and special teams, is one of the best of all time, especially when you consider which is his first year in Tampa and the season is played during a pandemic.
Brady is now 33-11 in playoff games and ranking his best postseason performances often sparks a debate about what should be prioritized: level of competition, stats, decisive game, impact on franchise, etc.
A top 10 list also provides an ever-evolving roadmap for a trip down Memory Lane, one that will likely continue to be updated in the future as Brady continues to defy Father Time:
10. Super Bowl XXXIX: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Date: February 6, 2005
Brady was 23 of 33 for 236 yards with two touchdowns (one to lineman turned defensive end Mike Vrabel) with the defense holding the Eagles in when needed. Deion Branch was Brady’s favorite target, who had 11 receptions for 133 yards and was MVP.
10. NFC Divisional Round: Bucs 30, Saints 20
Date: January 17, 2021
Brady’s excellence didn’t show up in the statistic (18-33, 199 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int), but this game ties for 10th in part because it reflects his impact on the franchise. The Buccaneers were loudly beaten twice by the Saints during the regular season, they got off to a slow start to the game, however, Brady’s tough mentality to take on the tough Saints defense was at championship level and did not allow his team give way and overcame deficits of 6-0, 13-10 and 20-13. Sometimes the best performances – which capitalize on possession changes and are complemented by fierce defenses – are beyond the statistics.
9. Super Bowl LII: Eagles 41, Patriots 33
Date: February 4, 2018
Brady was sacked while attempting to lead a final series possibly to win the game, leading to disappointment, but he was brilliant throughout: 28 of 48 for 505 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. One of the plays he would have liked to complete was one where he was wide wide receiver, which hurt even more after the Eagles converted a similar play for TD.
Tom Brady after beating the Jaguars for the AFC championship in 2018. Getty8. AFC Championship: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20
Date: January 21, 2018
It wasn’t the best from start to finish, but it was magical in the quarter-quarter as he led the team and turned a deficit of 10. Brady completed 26 of 38 for 290 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, a performance that was more impressive when you consider that he played with 12 points on his left hand, the result of a significant cut five days earlier in practice.
7. Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17
Date: February 3, 2002
From a statistical perspective, this game would be near the bottom of the table (16-27 for 145 yards, a touchdown, and 0 int), but it is going up from a game situation standpoint. While analyst John Madden was saying on television that the Patriots should go to overtime, Brady – then in his second season in the NFL and his first as a starter – took the Patriots away from the field goal and won the game.
6. AFC Championship: Patriots 36, Steelers 17
Date: January 22, 2017
The Steelers defense was no match for Brady, who finished 32-42 for 384 yards, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brady masterfully manipulated defense, and his precision was decisive on almost every pitch. Chris Hogan (nine receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns) and Julian Edelman (8 receptions, 118 yards, 1 TD) were the main targets. It wasn’t the first time Brady stabbed the Steelers defense, as Brady recalled on the NFL 100 All-Time Team, the 60-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch in the AFC championship game on January 23, 2004, it was one of his best releases of his career.
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
Date: February 1, 2004
A game that started with no points ended up being a shootout, with Brady completing 32 of 48 passes for 354 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Similar to its first Super Bowl, it required a winning final series at the last minute, aided by Carolina’s punt that ended off the field and allowed the Patriots to start at the 40-yard line of their own field.
brady-patriots-chiefs Getty4. AFC Championship: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31
Date: January 20, 2019
Converting three different 3rd and 10ths in the final series winning overtime is the definition of a clutch, with Brady finishing 30 of 46 for 348 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. One of the interceptions, at the Chiefs’ one-yard line, could have been costly, but Brady’s mental toughness pushed the situation forward and it was an epic aspect of the effort. That this game was at Arrowhead Stadium, in front of a noisy crowd, adds to why it was so impressive.
3. Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
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Date: February 1, 2015
It was Malcolm Butler’s interception on goal line that the victory was sealed, but Brady was excellent in the fourth quarter against one of the best defenses in the NFL to help the Patriots come back from a 10-point deficit. He was 37 of 50 for 328 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions and took MVP honors. Then he gave the truck he won for MVP to Butler.
2. Divisional Round: Patriots 35, Ravens 31
Date: January 10, 2015
Brady completed 33 of 50 yards for 367 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and led a furious comeback in the second quarter from 14 points down with an unusual tactic in which the Patriots declared eligible receivers ineligible players. Brady added a 4-yard touchdown that culminated in an emphatic celebration, and then his fire carried over to postgame interviews when he responded to criticism from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, saying to study the rules.
1. Super Bowl LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28
Date: February 5, 2017
Trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, in part because Brady threw a pick-six, the Patriots needed the best comeback in Super Bowl history to pull it off. Brady was sensational in the second half and overtime, eventually finishing 43 of 62 for 466 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. He was caught five times, which reflected his toughness to take a beating and not give in. What made the victory even more emotional was the presence of her mother, Galynn, who was attending her first game of the season because she had battled breast cancer.