Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Top Ten Things: Tom Brady Super Bowls, Ranked

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I rank ten something-or-others and you all read it and dispute my ranking....

UPDATE: Tom Brady officially announced his retirement today, ending the greatest professional football career of all time.  Thank you Mr. Brady for two decades of excellence.  We New Englanders are now a spoiled fanbase because you made it look so damn easy.  There will never be another like you.

In the wake of Tom Brady's historic seventh Super Bowl win, I thought I'd take a look at his equally historic ten Super Bowl appearances.  But before we get to that, let's take a moment to appreciate just how superhuman this quarterback really is.  There have been 55 Super Bowls.  Tom Brady has played in 18% of them.  Brady debuted in the 2000 season as a fourth-string quarterback.  He became a starter in the 2001 season.  That means that there have been twenty Super Bowls since Brady became a starter.  He's played in half of them.  Not only that, he's played in five of the last seven Super Bowls.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hadn't won a division title since the 2007 season, and since then had failed to crack .500 in all but three seasons.  Tom Brady took them to the Super Bowl and beat the 2019 Champions.  Not only has he played in and won more Super Bowls than anyone else, he's played in several of the best and most exciting Super Bowls of all time.  The man is not of this earth.  He is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, and it's very unlikely that anyone currently living on this planet will ever see another like him.   

But enough praise, let's take a look at his ten Super Bowl games and find out which were the best (I've tried to balance Brady's performance and the quality of the game itself)....

10. Super Bowl XLII vs. New York Giants - 2.3.08

Of Brady's ten Super Bowl appearances, his upset loss to Eli Manning's NY Giants has to be considered the most disappointing.  The Patriots went undefeated in the regular season that year, a feat not achieved since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.  By comparison the Giants boasted an underwhelming 10-6 record, a recurring theme in this mismatched rivalry.  The usually dominant Pats were confounded at nearly every turn by a strong Giants defense, going scoreless in the first and third quarters.  Meanwhile the Giants managed a come-from-behind win in the final moments of the game with a stunning 83-yard drive (that included David Tyree's famous "helmet catch"), capping the score at 17-14.  Pats fans everywhere were left scratching their heads at such an uncharacteristically ineffectual performance, but sadly it wouldn't be the last time Brady was unseated by Manning.

9. Super Bowl XLVI vs. New York Giants - 2.5.12

Of all the championship-caliber quarterbacks Tom Brady has faced, it's baffling to think the one guy who truly had his number was Eli Manning.  The Patriots came into this Super Bowl 13-3 on the season, while the Giants set a new record for the worst win-loss ratio by a conference championship team, a scant 9-7.  This game on paper should've been a cakewalk for Brady et al, but once again the Giants' defense kept the Patriots off-balance and scoreless for two of the four quarters.  As with Super Bowl 42 the Pats led going into the 4th quarter but the Giants scored a go-ahead touchdown (uncontested, mind you, a strategic move designed to give New England more time to catch up), bringing the score to 21-17.  The Patriots had just under a minute to move the ball back down the field and win the game, but came up short after a messy drive and a batted Hail Mary pass.  For the second time in four years, the seemingly underqualified New York Giants had brought down the mighty New England Patriots for the championship.

8. Super Bowl LII vs. Philadelphia Eagles - 2.4.18

The second of three consecutive SB appearances for Brady was a veritable shootout between two 13-3 teams that amazingly saw the Patriots trail the entire game, with the exception of a 3-3 tie in the first quarter.  From there the Eagles were just a step ahead of the Pats, maintaining a small lead that slightly widened to 8 points late in the fourth.  Brady and friends, with 65 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, failed to score and for the first time in history the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl Champions.  Conspicuous by his absence on the field was star defenseman Malcolm Butler, benched presumably for breaking curfew, a clear case of Bill Belichik cutting off his nose to spite his face.  Had Butler played, perhaps the game would've turned out differently.  Regardless, Philadelphia was the better team on this night, handing Tom Brady his third Super Bowl loss.

7. Super Bowl LIII vs. Los Angeles Rams - 2.3.19

Brady's final Super Bowl appearance with the New England Patriots was a strange one indeed.  The lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history saw the Pats hold the Rams to a measly three points, while their own offense was stymied as well, resulting in a 13-3 final score.  This was a defense-driven game to be sure, as the 11-5 Patriots didn't score the game's lone touchdown until the fourth quarter.  While an historic Super Bowl, this game was not necessarily the most exciting to watch given the dearth of successful offense.  Nonetheless it brought Brady and the Patriots their sixth championship ring and capped off a dominant five-year period for New England that included four Super Bowl trips.

6. Super Bowl LV (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) vs. Kansas City Chiefs - 2.7.21

The 2020 NFL season was the one in which Tom Brady proved the Patriots needed him more than he needed them.  After a decade-plus of mostly finishing under .500 for the season, the Tampa Bay Bucs signed Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and ended up winning their first championship in 18 years.  Tampa walked into this Super Bowl as slight underdogs against 2019 champions the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Brady's heir-apparent Patrick Mahomes, the second-youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl.  But expectations went out the window quickly as Tampa absolutely controlled the field, scoring 31 points in three quarters and limiting the 14-2 Chiefs to three field goals.  Mahomes in particular looked a shadow of his usually unstoppable self, frequently scrambling out of the pocket to avoid being sacked and failing to score even a single touchdown.  At age 43, Tom Brady led a wild card team to the Championship (the first such team to achieve that feat in a decade), while becoming the first player to win more Super Bowl rings than any NFL team.  Tampa's absolute authority over KC in this game was incredible; it almost felt unfair.  For the record this was Tom Brady's first Super Bowl win by more than ten points.  At age 43.  Come on.

5. Super Bowl XXXIX vs. Philadelphia Eagles - 2.6.05

One of the most evenly contested Super Bowls, the second half of Brady's mid-2000s back-to-back championship wins bore the distinction of being the first Super Bowl with a tie score at the end of the first, second and third quarters.  It wasn't until the fourth that the Pats pulled ahead, amassing a 10-point lead with seven-plus minutes left.  The Eagles answered with a touchdown to bring the score within one field goal, but with less than two minutes on the clock they failed to catch up.  The Pats defense shut them down with an interception in the closing seconds to win their third Super Bowl in four years and establish the New England/Tom Brady dynasty.

4. Super Bowl XXXVIII vs. Carolina Panthers - 2.1.04

Widely considered one of the best-played Super Bowls of all time (and infamously the one that featured Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction"), this game set a record for the most time elapsed without a score, as the Patriots' first touchdown occurred with just over five minutes left in the first half.  From there it was a shootout as the Eagles answered with their own touchdown, the Pats scored a second, and the Eagles scored a field goal to bring the score to 14-10, all in 5:05 of play.  The third quarter was another scoreless one, while the fourth featured another scoring barrage as the Patriots put up two touchdowns, one with a two-point conversion, and the Eagles scored three, one with a PAT kick and two with failed two-point conversion attempts.  With 1:08 left on the clock the score was tied at 29.  Over the next minute Brady moved the ball into field goal range and for the second time in Pats history Adam Vinatieri kicked the Super Bowl-winning field goal with only seconds left to play.  Brady and the Patriots were now two-time champions.

3. Super Bowl XLIX vs. Seattle Seahawks - 2.1.15

Yet another action-packed Super Bowl, this game is best remembered for its amazing closing seconds.  After a scoreless first quarter, the teams traded touchdowns throughout the second, with Seattle finally tying the score at 14 with two seconds left in the first half.  Seattle continued that momentum in the third quarter, pulling ahead by 10 points, but Brady ground out two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth to regain the lead with only two minutes left.  What happened next was one of the most talked about Super Bowl finishes in history.  Seattle managed to drive the ball to New England's one-yard line with only 26 seconds left, and infamously opted to run a passing play on second down since they had no remaining timeouts.  The pass, intended for Ricardo Lockette, was intercepted by rookie Malcolm Butler, preventing the touchdown, effectively winning the game for the Patriots, and drawing a reaction from Richard Sherman that became the stuff of meme legend.  This was one of the most memorable endings to any Super Bowl, capping off one of the most exciting games of all time.


2. Super Bowl XXXVI vs. St. Louis Rams - 2.3.2002

The first Super Bowl game played in February due to regular season delays caused by the 9/11 attacks, Super Bowl 36 marked the beginning of Tom Brady's two decades of dominance.  The backup quarterback became the team's starter after Drew Bledsoe sustained a strange blood vessel injury early in the season, and the team never looked back.  The Patriots struggled to get out of the blocks in the first quarter, giving up a field goal and failing to score, but took a solid lead in the second, putting up two touchdowns, both the result of turnovers.  New England widened their lead with a field goal in the third quarter (off another interception), and it would take an historic effort for the Rams to close the gap; no team in Super Bowl history up to that point had ever come back from a 10-point-or-higher deficit.  Amazingly in the fourth quarter the Rams did just that, scoring a pair of touchdowns, the second of which occurred with only 90 seconds left in the game and no timeouts.  Conventional wisdom, as echoed by color commentator John Madden, would've been for the Patriots to play it safe, run down the clock, and try to take the lead in overtime.  But with Tom Brady, as we'd all soon find out, conventional wisdom need not apply.  In the final drive of Super Bowl 36, Brady exerted his will in a way I personally had never before seen on a football field, moving the ball from his own 18-yard line to the Ram's 30-yard line in five passing plays to set up Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good, and for the first time in Super Bowl history the game was won on the final play.  It was the first of many Super Bowl firsts involving Tom Brady, and this was one of the finest Super Bowls of all time.

1. Super Bowl LI vs. Atlanta Falcons - 2.5.17

But the greatest Super Bowl in history, I daresay the greatest football game in history, would take place 15 years later, as Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to the biggest comeback in any Super Bowl, to snare their fifth championship.  The Pats spent the first half looking lost and outmatched, only putting up 3 points to Atlanta's 21.  The third quarter did little to assuage Pats fans, as the Falcons scored a fourth touchdown to bring the score to 28-3 with 23:31 left in the game.  The Pats answered with a touchdown but Steve Gostkowski missed the extra point, leaving them with a daunting 19-point deficit going into the fourth.  They'd score a field goal early in the quarter, reducing Atlanta's lead to two scores, and over the next ten minutes managed two unanswered touchdowns, astoundingly completing two-point conversions on both, to tie the game and send the Super Bowl into overtime for the first time ever.  Winning the overtime coin toss, Brady led a 75-yard drive in just under four minutes for a sudden death touchdown, giving New England its fifth Super Bowl championship and earning his record-breaking fourth Super Bowl MVP award.  The Patriots' 25-point comeback was not only the greatest in Super Bowl history, but the third-largest in NFL history.  Super Bowl 51 was the most dramatic, nail-biting football game I have ever seen, and isn't likely to be surpassed anytime soon.  It's the Super Bowl's greatest edition, and Tom Brady's best championship performance.

UPDATE: This guy in his final game almost repeated this exact fucking feat, when after trailing the LA Rams 27-3 in the third quarter, Brady tied the game with less than a minute to spare.  But sadly and ironically the Rams' quarterback Matthew Stafford pulled off a Tom Brady moment of his own, quickly driving the ball downfield into field goal position and allowing his team to pull ahead at the last second to knock Tampa Bay out of contention.  What a way to go out....

I hope you enjoyed this jaunt down Brady Lane.  Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is unquestionably the greatest quarterback of all time and his accomplishments may never be eclipsed.  

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