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Giant defeats to giant rallies: ranking Tom Brady’s Super Bowl performances

The Bucs quarterback seeks his seventh Super Bowl ring next weekend against the Chiefs.
Then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at Super Bowl 51 in Houston.
Then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at Super Bowl 51 in Houston. [ DARRON CUMMINGS | AP ]
Published Jan. 28
Updated Jan. 28

If Tampa Bay’s quarterback becomes more synonymous with the Super Bowl, the NFL brass might be inclined to rename its sterling silver championship keepsake the Lom-Brady Trophy.

Counting Sunday’s proceedings at Raymond James Stadium, Tom Brady will have played in 18.2 percent of all the Super Bowls ever staged. The showdown with reigning champ Kansas City will be his 10th Super Bowl start, more than John Elway and Peyton Manning combined.

He has won six of his nine starts, giving him two more Super Bowl triumphs than any other quarterback. Naturally, such a sprawling body of work screams for a subjective breakdown: What was Brady’s best Super Bowl performance? His second-best? His worst?

We’ve gladly undertaken the task. Through analysis, advanced metrics (okay, not too advanced) and good ol’ gut reaction, we’ve ranked each of Brady’s nine Super Bowl performances, worst to first. Statistics, performance in clutch situations, and how profoundly Brady elevated those around him all were factors.

9. Super Bowl 42

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, rear, sacks Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during Super Bowl 42 in Glendale, Ariz. The Giants stunned the previously unbeaten Patriots, 17-14.
Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, rear, sacks Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during Super Bowl 42 in Glendale, Ariz. The Giants stunned the previously unbeaten Patriots, 17-14. [ MATT SLOCUM | Associated Press (2008) ]

Giants 17, Patriots 14

Feb. 3, 2008 (Glendale, Ariz.)

Brady’s line: 29-for-48, 266 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 82.5 rating (sacked five times, lost a fumble)

While perhaps not Brady’s most dismal Super Bowl effort, it’s certainly his most disheartening. The 18-0 Patriots, who set an NFL regular-season record with 589 points, were trying to join the 1972 Dolphins as the only undefeated teams in league history. But the Giants opened the game with a 10-minute field-goal drive, then closed it with David Tyree’s improbable “helmet catch” from Eli Manning that set up the winning score. In between, Brady was sacked five times and lost a fumble.

8. Super Bowl 46

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before Super Bowl 46 against the Giants on Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. The Giants won, 21-17.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before Super Bowl 46 against the Giants on Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis. The Giants won, 21-17. [ JEFF ROBERSON | AP ]

Giants 21, Patriots 17

Feb. 5, 2012 (Indianapolis)

Brady’s line: 27-for-41, 276 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 91.1 rating

Brady threw for a career-best 5,235 regular-season yards before encountering his playoff kryptonite. He was whistled for intentional grounding while throwing out of his own end zone in the first quarter, resulting in a Giants safety; and threw an interception inside the New York 10 in the fourth. He engineered a 14-play, 96-yard scoring drive in the second quarter but could muster none of his magic on New England’s final drive, which ended with his Hail Mary from midfield getting deflected.

7. Super Bowl 53

Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots topped the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl 53, the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.
Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots topped the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl 53, the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. [ JEFF ROBERSON | Associated Press ]

Patriots 13, Rams 3

Feb. 3, 2019 (Atlanta)

Brady’s line: 21-for-35, 262 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 71.4 rating

Brady wasn’t nearly as responsible for this victory (in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl) as his defense. This is the only Super Bowl in which Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass, and his passer rating (71.4) was by far the lowest of his nine Super Bowl outings. He was clutch on New England’s lone touchdown drive (4-for-4, 67 yards), but was overshadowed by a defense that allowed 260 total yards and held the Rams to a 3-for-13 effort on third down. “The Rams defense played their butts off,” Brady said. “We finally got a touchdown and our defense played great — challenged all these plays. They held them.”

6. Super Bowl 52

The Eagles' Trey Burton, left, throws a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles during Super Bowl 52 against the Patriots in Minneapolis. The "Philly Special," on a fourth down late in the first half, will be remembered as one of the gutsiest calls in sports history. The Eagles won, 41-33.
The Eagles' Trey Burton, left, throws a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles during Super Bowl 52 against the Patriots in Minneapolis. The "Philly Special," on a fourth down late in the first half, will be remembered as one of the gutsiest calls in sports history. The Eagles won, 41-33. [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP ]

Eagles 41, Patriots 33

Feb. 4, 2018 (Minneapolis)

Brady’s line: 28-for-48, 505 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 115.4 rating

Brady’s 505 passing yards in this contest remains a Super Bowl record, and his 115.4 passer rating is the best of his nine Super Bowl appearances. He led three consecutive touchdown drives to start the second half that gave New England a 33-32 lead, but came up empty on his last two possessions. For all intents, the game ended when he lost a fumble inside his own 35 after being sacked by Brandon Graham, resulting in an Eagles field goal (and eight-point lead) with 1:10 remaining.

5. Super Bowl 39

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after New England defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, in Super Bowl 39 in Jacksonville.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after New England defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21, in Super Bowl 39 in Jacksonville. [ JULIE JACOBSON | Associated Press (2005) ]

Patriots 24, Eagles 21

Feb. 6, 2005 (Jacksonville)

Brady’s line: 23-for-33, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 110.2 rating

Three months after the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, Brady ratcheted New England’s collective euphoria by capturing his third Super Bowl ring in four seasons. This game’s synopsis is simple: Brady had no picks, while Eagles counterpart Donovan McNabb had three, including one in his own territory in the waning moments. After Philadelphia tied it at 14 late in the third, Brady went 4-for-4 for 37 yards on the ensuing drive, capped by Corey Dillon’s 2-yard scoring run.

4. Super Bowl 38

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady smiles after New England beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29 in Super Bowl 38 in Houston. The triumph gave New England its second Super Bowl title in three seasons.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady smiles after New England beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29 in Super Bowl 38 in Houston. The triumph gave New England its second Super Bowl title in three seasons. [ DAVE MARTIN | Associated Press (2004) ]

Patriots 32, Panthers 29

Feb. 1, 2004 (Houston)

Brady’s line: 32-for-48, 354 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 100.5 rating

Arguably no Super Bowl has featured such profound ebb and flow. Scoreless the first 26 minutes, the teams combined for 61 points in the last 34, including 37 fourth-quarter points. Carolina rallied from a 21-10 fourth-quarter deficit for a 29-22 lead before Brady went to work further refining his legend. Allotted 68 seconds and three timeouts on the winning final drive, he went 4-for-5 for 47 yards, including a 17-yard strike to Deion Branch on third-and-3 to set up Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard field goal with four seconds to play. At the time, Brady’s 32 completions were the most in Super Bowl history.

3. Super Bowl 49

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, and Rob Gronkowski celebrate after the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1, 2015.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, and Rob Gronkowski celebrate after the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 1, 2015. [ KATHY WILLENS | Associated Press (2015) ]

Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

Feb. 1, 2015 (Glendale, Ariz.)

Brady’s line: 37-for-50, 328 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 101.1 rating

Prior to this game, no team had overcome a double-digit second-half deficit to win a Super Bowl. At one point, the Seahawks’ win probability was calculated at 96.5 percent — meaning they left Brady too many percentage points. He went 5-for-7 for 59 yards on the Patriots’ first fourth-quarter touchdown drive that cut the Seahawks lead to 24-21 but was only getting warmed up. On the game-winning drive, Brady went 8-for-8 for 64 yards (capped by a 3-yard TD toss to Julian Edelman) and never faced a third down. Seattle, of course, made it back to the fringe of New England’s goal line, but Russell Wilson was intercepted by Malcolm Butler with 26 seconds to play.

2. Super Bowl 36

The Patriots' J.R. Redmond (21) pulls down a pass from Tom Brady (12) during the final drive against the St. Louis Rams during Super Bowl 36 on Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans. The completion helped set up the winning 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with no time remaining as the Patriots pulled off a 20-17 upset.
The Patriots' J.R. Redmond (21) pulls down a pass from Tom Brady (12) during the final drive against the St. Louis Rams during Super Bowl 36 on Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans. The completion helped set up the winning 48-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with no time remaining as the Patriots pulled off a 20-17 upset. [ KATHY WILLENS | Associated Press (2002) ]

Patriots 20, Rams 17

Feb. 3, 2002 (New Orleans)

Brady’s line: 16-for-27, 145 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 86.2 rating

The Super Bowl that started it all for Brady, who had taken over for injured Drew Bledsoe in September. The Patriots were prohibitive underdogs to the “Greatest Show on Turf,” which finished 14-2 and led the NFL with 503 points. But New England’s defense forced three turnovers leading to 17 Patriots points. After Kurt Warner’s 26-yard scoring toss to Ricky Proehl tied the score at 17 with 1:30 to play, Brady set about applying the initial brushstrokes to his masterpiece career. With no timeouts, he went 5-for-6 (not counting a spike to stop the clock), highlighted by a 23-yard strike to Troy Brown. It set up Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as time expired. With that, a baby G.O.A.T. was born.

1. Super Bowl 51

Tom Brady celebrates with coach Bill Belichick and teammate LeGarrette Blount after the Patriots' unprecedented overtime comeback victory against the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.
Tom Brady celebrates with coach Bill Belichick and teammate LeGarrette Blount after the Patriots' unprecedented overtime comeback victory against the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.

Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT)

Feb. 5, 2017 (Houston)

Brady’s line: 43-for-62, 466 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 95.2 rating

While this Super Bowl never will be mistaken for Brady’s prettiest (he was sacked five times) or most proficient (he threw an 82-yard pick-six), it stands as his career climax — so far. After the Falcons took a 28-3 lead with less than 2-1/2 minutes to play in the third, Brady went 22-for-28 for 269 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to force overtime. He added five consecutive completions on a 75-yard drive in the extra session, ending with James White’s 2-yard TD run. Brady set Super Bowl records for attempts and completions that still stand, and his 466 passing yards were a record at the time. “(Brady) is an assassin, man,” Patriots receiver Chris Hogan said. “That guy, he’ll take your life. He went out there and he took it from them.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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