By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Tom Brady is 43 years old, several years older than the expiration date for just about every quarterback in football history. Based on his 2020 performance, you’d never know it.

The quarterback added to that reality on Sunday, when he threw four touchdowns to get his total to 40 on the season.

In doing so, Brady set the second-highest single-season touchdown mark of his Hall of Fame and GOAT-worthy career. That is to say, in his 18 other seasons as an NFL starting quarterback, Brady has thrown more than 39 touchdowns just once.

That is really saying something about the staying power of Tom Brady.

Brady, of course, threw 50 touchdowns in the famed 2007 undefeated regular season with the Patriots, which was an NFL record at the time. The 40th touchdown pass broke a tie for the second-highest total from the 2011 season, when Brady threw 39 touchdowns.

Brady’s touchdown barrage began when he threw a 50-50 ball into the end zone for Chris Godwin on the opening drive of the Buccaneers’ game vs. the Falcons.

 

The 37th touchdown of Brady’s season separated the 2020 campaign from a three-way tie for the third-best single-season mark in his career, along with 2010 (36 TDs, 4 INTs, unanimous MVP) and 2015 (36 TDs, 7 INTs).

Brady would have had touchdown No. 38 on the Bucs’ second drive, but Mike Evans dropped the pass while simultaneously suffering an apparent knee injury.

Brady threw incomplete on a screen on the next play and then threw it away on third down, settling for a Buccaneers field goal to give the home team a 10-3 lead.

Brady did get that second touchdown of the day on the Bucs’ next drive, connecting with Antonio Brown — who may have cut directly in front of an open Scotty Miller in the back corner of the end zone — for a 25-yard score to give Tampa a 17-7 lead.

That touchdown gave Brady 38 on the year, just one shy of that second-best single-season mark.

Brady had a chance at hitting No. 39 twice before halftime, but both drives ended in field goals. The Bucs threatened again in the third quarter, but a diving Scotty Miller dropped Brady’s pass, popping the ball up in the air and into the arms of Falcons safety Ricardo Allen for an interception. That was Brady’s 12th interception of the season but his first since Week 12.

After the Falcons cut Tampa’s lead to three points, Brady went 4-for-5 for 41 yards to get the Bucs to the 3-yard line, and Ronald Jones plunged into the end zone for a touchdown to give Tampa a 30-20 lead.

Later in the fourth quarter, Brady finally secured touchdown No. 3 on the day, hitting Godwin for a four-yard score to give Tampa a 10-point lead.

At that point, Brady had 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season. It didn’t quite compare to the MVP performance in 2007, when he had 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but it was an exact match of his 2011 touchdowns and interceptions.

It looked like Brady’s day might end there, but a Falcons turnover gave possession back to the home team. Brady didn’t need long to turn that opportunity into points, as he and the Bucs drove 38 yards on three plays in just 19 seconds. Brady connected with Brown for a 30-yard catch-and-run to give Tampa a 44-27 lead and secure the fifth seed (the top wild-card seed) in the NFC playoffs.

Brady finished the day going 26-for-41 for 399 yards with four touchdowns and the one interception. He finished the season with 401 completions (tied for the second-most in any season of his career) for 4,633 yards (his fifth-highest total).

Brady is obviously not an MVP candidate in 2020, but he entered the final day of the season ranked fourth in touchdown passes and fifth in passing yards. For an old man who dealt with the Patriots — his only employer for 20 years — giving up on him a year ago, turning in one of the best statistical seasons in his ridiculously successful career certainly can be considered an accomplishment.