Tom Brady’s Historic Postseason Career
BOSTON (CBS) — It takes more than one player to win a football game, but when the same quarterback is at the helm for a record number of postseason victories, it is surely no coincidence.
That quarterback in New England, of course, has been Tom Brady, who last week added to his NFL record for most playoff wins with his 18th postseason victory.
Brady didn’t lead the way, per se, in that 43-22 win over the Colts, as the running game accounted for all six New England touchdowns. Yet Brady’s steady presence and ability to check into running plays when the defense shows a weakness was just the latest example of Brady’s willingness to win by any means necessary.
While the quarterback hasn’t won the big one in nearly a decade, he remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league and indeed one of the best of all time. His playoff record is now 18-7, good for a .720 winning percentage. That’s better than his childhood hero, Joe Montana, who owned a 16-7 postseason record for a .696 winning percentage. Among quarterbacks with at least 10 playoff wins, only Terry Bradshaw (14-5, .737) and Troy Aikman (11-4, .733) have better winning percentages than Brady.
As Brady and the Patriots now prepare for the AFC Championship Game — the eighth in Brady’s 12 years as a starting quarterback — here’s a brief run-through of all 18 postseason victories by Brady.
1. Jan. 19, 2002: Patriots 16, Raiders 13
Brady: 32-for-52, 312 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 Rushing TD
Brady’s postseason debut was one of the most memorable nights in Patriots history, as the Raiders visited Foxboro Stadium amid a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the field in white. Points were hard to come by early on, but Brady led the Patriots back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. He scampered for a six-yard touchdown, capped off with a spike in the end zone, and thanks to Walt Coleman’s generous call on “the tuck rule play,” he led them on drives for the tying field goal in regulation and the winning field goal in overtime.
2. Jan. 27, 2002: Patriots 24, Steelers 17
Brady: 12-for-18, 115 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
The magic of Brady’s first year as a starter nearly ended in the AFC Championship Game. A low hit by Steelers safety Lee Flowers knocked Brady out of the game in the first half, after Brady had come out of the gate completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Fortunately for the Patriots, Drew Bledsoe re-assumed his old role, and he threw a touchdown to David Patten. A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a Troy Brown punt return TD provided the bulk of the scoring, and the Pats were on to the Super Bowl.
3. Feb. 3, 2002: Patriots 20, Rams 17 in Super Bowl XXXVI
Brady: 16-for-27, 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the postponement of NFL games scheduled for the weekend that followed, the league did not have its usual two-week break between championship weekend and the Super Bowl. For Brady, that meant a quick recovery was necessary on that injured knee, and fortunately he was good to go in New Orleans. The quarterback, according to reports and myth, napped in the locker room in the hours leading up to the game, and it apparently helped him remain calm against the heavily favored Rams.
Brady threw one touchdown — a perfectly thrown pass to the back corner of the end zone for David Patten — and with the game tied in the final minutes, he completed five of eight passes for 53 yards before spiking the ball and setting up the game-winning field goal, which gave the Patriots their first ever Super Bowl championship. For the comeback drive, Brady became the third-youngest player in history to be named Super Bowl MVP.
4. Jan. 10, 2004: Patriots 17, Titans 14
Brady: 21-for-41, 201 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
After a one-year hiatus from the playoffs, the 14-2 Patriots hosted the 12-4 Titans on a freezing cold night in Foxboro where the temperature hovered around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with the wind chill in the negative teens. Brady out-dueled NFL Co-MVP Steve McNair on this night, as he connected with wide receiver Bethel Johnson on a 41-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ opening drive.
It came down to the final drive, when McNair’s pass to Drew Bennett was dropped by the receiver, ending the Titans’ threat and allowing the Patriots to narrowly move on.
5. Jan. 18, 2004: Patriots 24, Colts 14
Brady: 22-for-37, 237 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
The first postseason meeting between Brady and Peyton Manning — two quarterbacks on their way to etching their names all over the NFL’s record books — was anything but a shootout. Both QBs threw for exactly 237 yards (Brady did it on 10 fewer attempts than Manning, who like McNair was co-MVP of the NFL that year) and one touchdown apiece, but Manning was picked off four times, with three coming from Ty Law and the other being made by Rodney Harrison. It was just the beginning of Gillette Stadium serving as Manning’s own house of horrors, and it sent the Patriots to their second Super Bowl in three seasons.
6. Feb. 1, 2004: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII
Brady: 32-for-48, 354 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
All the scoring in this game came in the second and fourth quarters, presenting a rarity where 61 combined points were scored despite two scoreless quarters of football. In those second and fourth quarters, things got explosive on offense, with Brady posting a career playoff high in yards at the time. His touchdown pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel gave the Patriots a seven-point lead in the fourth, and after Carolina tied it up, John Kasay’s kickoff sailed out of bounds.
The errant kick put the Pats on their own 40-yard line with 1:08 on the clock. That’s just too easy for Brady, who went 4-for-5 for 47 yards, setting up another game-winning field goal for Adam Vinatieri. The Patriots were once again champions, and Brady once again was named MVP.
7. Jan. 16, 2005: Patriots 20, Colts 3
Brady: 18-for-27, 144 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 Rushing TD
Brady and Manning once again faced off the following season, and even though the Patriots handled the Colts the year prior, many national pundits still picked Manning to win this game. He did not. In fact, the league’s No. 1 offense that averaged nearly 33 points per game during the regular season could only muster three points against a fired-up Patriots defense.
Brady had an OK day, efficiently completing 66.7 percent of his passes and even found the end zone with his legs instead of his arm to improve to 7-0 as a starter in the playoffs.
8. Jan. 23, 2005: Patriots 41, Steelers 27
Brady: 14-for-21, 207 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
The Patriots went 14-2 in 2004, but they had to travel to face the 15-1 Steelers in the AFC title game, who had beaten the Patriots already that season. That day, Brady was sick with a 103-degree fever that required him to take liquids through an IV the night before. But nothing — not the illness, not the single-digit temperatures, nothing — was going to stop Brady from suiting up in this game, and he came out firing. Brady connected with Deion Branch on a picture-perfect 60-yard deep ball in the first quarter, which gave the Patriots a 10-0 lead. Brady thew another touchdown to David Givens later in the first half, and a Rodney Harrison pick-six turned it into a laugher.
9. Feb. 6, 2005: Patriots 24, Eagles 21 in Super Bowl XXXIX
Brady: 23-for-33, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
The Patriots actually trailed 7-0 in this game, but Brady threw a touchdown to David Givens to tie it up at before halftime. Brady threw a touchdown to Mike Vrabel in the opening drive of the second half before a Corey Dillon touchdown run and an Adam Vinatieri field goal provided enough offense for the Patriots to win a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Brady didn’t earn MVP honors for his performance, though it was his passes that allowed Deion Branch to haul in 11 receptions for 133 yards and the MVP Award.
10. Jan. 7, 2006: Patriots 28, Jaguars 3
Brady: 15-for-27, 201 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
The 2005 Patriots were a flawed team, one that went 10-6 in a very uneven regular season. They were ripe for the first playoff loss of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, but the quarterback ensured that it would not come in the wild card round.
Brady carried the team to a blowout win over the 12-4 Jaguars, throwing touchdowns to Troy Brown, David Givens and Ben Watson (though Watson’s, a 63-yard catch-and-run, was a display of phenomenal athletic ability on the part of the tight end), and he improved his record to 10-0 as a starter in the playoffs. He and the Pats would lose a postseason game the following week in Denver.
11. Jan. 7, 2007: Patriots 37, Jets 16
Brady: 22-for-34, 212 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Bad blood was everywhere when the Patriots and Jets met in 2006, after former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini bolted New England to take over as head coach of the Jets. This was a move that didn’t exactly tickle Bill Belichick, and after the two teams split their regular-season meetings, emotions ran high for the playoff rematch.
The Jets opened up a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, but a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a touchdown pass from Brady to Daniel Graham before halftime gave the Patriots a lead they’d never relinquish.
Brady later threw a touchdown to Kevin Faulk, and Asante Samuel intercepted Chad Pennington and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to turn the game into a full-on blowout.
12. Jan. 14, 2007: Patriots 24, Chargers 21
Brady: 27-for-51, 280 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
The Patriots had a bear of a challenge in this game, when they had to travel to California to face league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers. Tomlinson ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught two passes for 64 yards. The Patriots were set up to lose late in the fourth, when Brady threw an interception over the middle to Marlon McCree on fourth down. If the defensive back had half a brain, he would have just batted the pass down, which would have resulted in a turnover on downs. Instead, he picked it off and tried to make a return, on which Troy Brown stripped the ball. Reche Caldwell recovered the fumble, giving the Patriots new life.
Brady went 4-for-5 for 32 yards after that, capped off with a four-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham, and Kevin Faulk ran in a two-point conversion to tie the game. The Chargers then went three-and-out, and Brady connected with Caldwell on a 49-yard pass to set up the game-winning field goal from Gostkowski.
After the game, Tomlinson was offended by some Patriots players mocking Shawne Merriman’s celebratory sack dance, which provided a nice side story, but the Patriots’ season ended in heart-breaking fashion the next week in Indianapolis.
13. Jan. 12, 2008: Patriots 31, Jaguars 20
Brady: 26-for-28, 262 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
Considering the Patriots were coming off a 16-0 regular season, the Jaguars fared better in this game than many might have expected. Still, it wasn’t nearly enough to slow down the Patriots and Brady, who was nearly perfect in his dismantling of Jacksonville. Brady didn’t throw an incompletion until the third quarter, which was actually a drop by Ben Watson on a pass that hit his hands.
Brady’s 92.9 percent completion percentage was the best ever in any game, regular season or playoffs, and he showed off his acting skills when he faked as if a snap went directly to Kevin Faulk. Brady stood with his back to the play, the ball hidden in front of his hips and his left hand hanging calmly in the air — which was his go-to move when the snap actually did go to Faulk. Brady then quickly turned and delivered a strike to Wes Welker to give the Patriots a 21-14 lead in the third quarter. Brady would later throw a touchdown to Watson, the tight end’s second of the game, and the undefeated Patriots were on their way to the AFC Championship Game.
14. Jan. 20, 2008: Patriots 21, Chargers 12
Brady: 22-for-33, 209 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
The Patriots played perhaps their worst game of the season in the 2007 AFC Championship Game, but with opposing quarterback Philip Rivers hobbling around on a torn knee, and with LaDainian Tomlinson opting to spend the day on the sideline rather than play through his own injury, it didn’t end their quest for a perfect season.
The Patriots were “good enough” on this day, though Brady’s two touchdowns were offset by his three picks, matching his number from the previous postseason against San Diego.
Perhaps the lackluster showing should have been seen as a warning sign, as you know how the Patriots fared in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
15. Jan. 14, 2012: Patriots 45, Broncos 10
Brady: 26-for-34, 363 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT
Brady and the Patriots lost three straight playoff games before finally getting another win in January 2012, and Brady put his stamp on this one with an exclamation point.
Tim Tebow was a lightning rod of debate, controversy and attention that year, and he and the Broncos were fresh off shocking the Steelers in the wild card round when they headed to New England. There, they ran into a buzz saw.
Brady threw five first-half touchdowns, and he threw one more on New England’s opening drive of the second half to take a 42-7 lead. Even 10 Tim Tebows couldn’t have climbed out of that hole, and the beating was so thorough that Brady resorted to punting on a third down rather than piling on. The 363 passing yards were a postseason high for Brady’s career.
16. Jan. 22, 2012: Patriots 23, Ravens 20
Brady: 22-for-36, 239 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 1 Rushing TD
Brady didn’t follow up that career performance with one of his better days, as he threw two interceptions and two more picks that were negated by penalties. Yet Brady did get into the end zone on a QB sneak that resulted in one of the more iconic photos from his Patriots career, and Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff shanked the would-be game-tying field goal in the final seconds to punch the Patriots’ ticket to the Super Bowl, where they’d once again lose to the Giants.
17. Jan. 13, 2013: Patriots 41, Texans 28
Brady: 25-for-40, 344 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
The Texans visited New England in Week 14 of the 2012 regular season and got absolutely rolled. When they came back a month later, it was more of the same.
Brady was his typically excellent self, throwing three touchdowns — two to Shane Vereen and one to Brandon Lloyd.
“I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization,” Brady said after the win that moved him past Joe Montana for most all time on the postseason list. “I think I’ve just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted.”
18. Jan. 11, 2014: Patriots 43, Colts 22
Brady: 13-for-25, 198 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
For just the second time in his last 22 playoff games, Brady was held without a touchdown. It was the fourth time in his playoff career he put up a doughnut in the touchdown category, but interestingly enough, he and the Patriots are 4-0 in those games.
This one was all about the running game and, specifically, LeGarrette Blount. The running back made his way into the end zone four times while gaining 166 yards on 24 carries. And what Brady lacked in touchdown passes, he made up for in versatility, as he was thrust into the role of holding on kicks after punter Ryan Allen left the game with a shoulder injury.
The effort helped the Patriots in their 21-point win over the Colts, and now New England moves on to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. For Brady, it’s a chance to win a 19th postseason game but more importantly play in a sixth Super Bowl. No quarterback has ever started in six Super Bowls, and a fourth Super Bowl win would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most in history.
Brady’s had a remarkable career to this point, but it’s clear that he still has a whole lot to play for.