With the New England Patriots set to take on the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday, another playoff season for Tom Brady has begun. This will be the 38th playoff start in the 41-year-old quarterback’s career, and he’s certainly had some unbelievable postseason moments. As you will see, the majority of these brilliant performances came in the Super Bowl. That is not a coincidence, as Brady has always been known for coming up big in the Big Game. From Super Bowl heroics to six touchdown games, Tom Terrific has done it all. Let’s take a look at the five best performances in the playoff career of the greatest postseason quarterback of all time.
Tom Brady’s Top Five Playoff Performances
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII
Vs the Carolina Panthers, February 1, 2004
There was a multitude of games that could have cracked the number five spot, including the 2017 AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2014 Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens, but I decided to go with the game that made Brady a playoff legend.
Before this game, Brady was just that backup quarterback who miraculously led the underdog Patriots to their first Super Bowl win two years earlier. After this game, Brady was a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP, as well as the leader of the new Patriots dynasty. I would argue that this 32-29 win was when Brady’s legend began to materialize.
He completed 32 of his 48 passes and threw for 354 passing yards and three touchdowns in this game. The 32 completions were a Super Bowl record then. His only flaw was a costly interception in the fourth quarter.
Brady and Jake Delhomme went toe to toe in this thriller, which was filled with highlight reel plays. Similarly to Brady’s first Super Bowl, he made some clutch throws in the last minute to set Adam Vinatieri up for a game-winning field goal. This was one of the best games of Brady’s young career, and it really cemented him as a clutch Super Bowl performer, which he would continue to prove again and again.
4. Super Bowl LII
Vs the Philadelphia Eagles. February 4, 2018
This is the only loss on this list, but this loss certainly wasn’t on Brady. Statistically, this was one of Brady’s best games ever, as well as one of the best Super Bowl performances ever. It would be higher on the list, except that winning is the most important criteria for a great game.
Brady set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards, and he threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The only blemish was the devastating fumble he lost on the strip sack by Brandon Graham to seal the Eagles 41-33 victory.
Brady absolutely picked apart the Eagles defense in this game, but the Patriots defense was even worse. Nick Foles played the game of his life and had his way with the Patriots D all night. This game was a shootout in every meaning of the word, and Brady, although he played fantastically, found himself on the wrong end of this one.
3. 2011 Divisional Round
Vs the Denver Broncos. January 14, 2012
Any time someone throws six touchdown passes in one game, it is special, but when somebody throws six touchdown passes in a playoff game for just the third time in league history, it is legendary. I know it’s hard to believe now but at the time of this game, Brady had not won a playoff game in almost four years and was riding a three-game playoff losing streak.
So how did he respond to the only losing streak in his postseason career? By throwing for 363 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-10 demolition of the Tim Tebow-led Broncos. (Although he only threw five touchdowns to players not later found guilty for murder. Sorry Aaron Hernandez.) He easily could have had more too if the Patriots really wanted to run up the score, as they scored their final touchdown of the game with 12 minutes left in the third quarter. It could have been an eight or even nine touchdown game for Brady if he tried the last 25 minutes of the game. This was one of the best performances in NFL playoff history, and needless to say, Brady has never lost back-to-back playoff games since.
An added bonus: this was the only playoff game to feature a Tom Brady punt. The man really can do everything.
2. Super Bowl XLIX
Vs the Seattle Seahawks. February 1, 2015
This game will forever be remembered for the Malcolm Butler interception in the end zone after Russell Wilson‘s questionable decision to throw the ball on the one-yard line with a running back with the nickname “Beast Mode” in the backfield. But what always gets overlooked was how good Tom Brady was in this Super Bowl.
Brady completed a then Super Bowl record 37 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl and first in ten years. He threw two interceptions early in the game, but he made up for it by bringing his team back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. He threw late touchdown passes to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman to give the Patriots a late 28-24 lead, a lead they wouldn’t give up thanks to a disastrous play call.
Brady won his fourth Super Bowl ring and third Super Bowl MVP in this game, tying Joe Montana in both. After this game, Brady really started to enter the GOAT conversation, and he would put that conversation to rest in the number one game on this list.
1. Super Bowl LI
Vs. the Atlanta Falcons. February 5, 2017
How could this not be at the top of this list? This was the greatest Super Bowl of all time in my opinion. You couldn’t write a script better than this game, and the amazing thing about it was that it was a blowout until the end of third quarter. That was when Tom Brady started working his magic.
He led the Patriots to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in postseason history. Granted, the Falcons completely collapsed, but that doesn’t take away from how brilliant Brady was in the final quarter and overtime. He set a bunch of Super Bowl records for both his career and the game and confirmed that he was at least the best postseason quarterback of all time, if not the greatest quarterback to ever play.
Obviously, Brady couldn’t win this game alone. James White had an unbelievable game, setting a Super Bowl record for receptions and racking up 139 scrimmage yards. Dont’a Hightower came up with the crucial strip-sack of Matt Ryan to give the Patriots even a small chance to come back. But it was Brady who marched down the field time after time and staged that comeback with spectacular throws and terrific game management.
He finished the game by completing 43 of his 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 15 yards (wow!). Brady was so perfect in that fourth quarter that by the time the Patriots won the overtime coin toss, you knew that he was going to march down the field one last time to win it, which he did, resulting in the 34-28 Patriots victory after being down 28-3 with 17 minutes remaining in the game. Winning this game in the fashion that he did ended the GOAT debate for me.
Here is the list of Super Bowl records that Brady set in that game: oldest starting quarterback (39 years, 186 days), most Super Bowl appearances as a player (7), most Super Bowl wins as a quarterback (5), most Super Bowl MVPs (4), most pass attempts in both game (62) and career (309), most pass completions in both game (43) and career (207), most passing yards in both game (466) and career (2,071), and most touchdown passes in career (15).
How’s that for greatness?