By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is the greatest champion the sport of football has ever known.
With a fifth title, Brady is now tied with former defensive end Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl wins of all time. But, well, yeah, a quarterback has more to do with winning a football game than a defensive end, so it’s safe to say definitively that Brady is truly in a class of his own when it comes to winning Super Bowls.
And really, it is in the fourth quarter, in crunch time, when Brady has built his legacy. That’s how his reputation was born, the way he confidently and casually marched the Patriots up the field for the game-winning score against the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. He led another winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVIII, he delivered what could have (and should have?) been the winning points in both Super Bowls against the Giants, and in Super Bowls XLIX and LI against the Seahawks and Falcons, respectively, he authored arguably the greatest two late-game performances in Super Bowl history.
If you include this year’s overtime drive, you’ve got seven-and-a-half quarters of football to see how Brady has performed under the largest spotlight in sports. Here’s exactly how Brady has performed in fourth quarters and overtime of his seven Super Bowl appearances:
73-for-112 (65.2 percent), 753 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
In those seven games, and particularly in the victories, he showed an ability to spread the ball. He hit five different receivers in 2001, six different receivers in 2003, five different receivers in 2007, five different receivers in 2014 and six different receivers in 2016.
The overtime in Super Bowl LI lasted just four minutes because of Brady’s efficiency, so it’s not exactly an entire quarter of football. But for the sake of simplicity, if we say Brady has “two games” worth of fourth quarter and OT performances in the Super Bowl, here’s how that shakes out to a per game basis:
37-for-56 (66.1 percent), 377 yards, 2.5 TDs, 1 INT
The five touchdowns may not be eye-popping, but remember first and foremost that they’re going against the best team the NFC has to offer. Lighting up an opposing defense is not always an easy task. Additionally, in the fourth quarter, Brady’s shown a knack for doing what’s needed to win. If that’s drive into field-goal range, he can do that. If it means handing the ball off and barely throwing at all, like he did in Super Bowl XXXIX vs. Philadelphia, then he’ll do that.
But as he’s shown especially in his past two Super Bowls, if it means going to another planet with his execution, he’ll do that too. In his last six drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of Super Bowls, Brady has led six scoring drives. (Quick math: That’s a 100 percent success rate.) That’s included five touchdowns and one field goal.
Overall, in seven Super Bowls, he’s led scoring drives on 13 of 23 drives, with nine touchdown drives, four field-goal drives, and five game-winning drives. (Kneeldown drives excluded.)
All of these numbers are colored from his fourth-quarter performance in 2011 vs. the Giants, which was not a very good showing. He went just 6-for-16 for 64 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception in that game. He was good, not great, in Super Bowl XLII, going 10-for-18 for 91 yards and a touchdown. But in the two losses, he led just one scoring drive on six chances.
In the five wins, he’s been out of this world: 17 drives, 12 scoring drives, 57-for-78 (73.1 percent), 598 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT in a little more than five quarters of football.
Aside from the win against the Eagles when Corey Dillon and Adam Vinatieri did most of the work, Brady has been the driving force behind the four other Patriots’ victories. In the other four wins, he’s been nothing short of incredible. He was given an MVP award for his efforts, and he earned each one of them.
You look at the stark difference in the performances in the wins vs. the losses, and it becomes clear: for as much as football games are won by the work of the 46 active men (formerly, 45) in uniform, the difference between everlasting glory and a crushing loss depends on the performance of the quarterback. And five times out of seven, he’s come through — most recently in truly historic fashion.