Tom Brady, the greatest player in the history of football, made it known on Saturday that he will retire after 22 seasons and end a run of sustained excellence that will never be duplicated. Brady’s list of accomplishments is massive, from seven Super Bowl wins to his three MVP awards to his gaudy numbers of 84,520 yards passing and 624 touchdowns. Football, and sports, will never be the same without him. Any list of Brady’s best moments is insufficient, but here are the 12 that stood out most to me.
12. Patriots at Colts, Week 9 of 2007
The Patriots entered this game 8-0 and the Colts were 7-0 and defending Super Bowl champs. The usual high-flying Patriots offense was frustrated for most of the game, mustering only seven points in the first half and faced a ten-point deficit with just over nine minutes to play in a raucous RCA Dome. It looked as though the Patriots undefeated season was going to end. Brady then worked his magic. He threw two of his three touchdown passes in the final eight minutes and 134 of his 255 yards on those two drives.
11. Patriots at Colts, Week 13 of 2003
My personal favorite and not just because it took place on my birthday. This game was a blast to watch and ended with the Patriots defense stopping the Colts four straight times from inside the five-yard line to win the game. Also, Bethel Johnson’s kick return before halftime was absolutely wild. Both teams were 9-2 coming in and would meet later in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots built a 31-10 lead in this one before Indy came storming back to tie things at 31. Brady then threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Deion Branch with 8:36 left and the team held on for a thrilling win. Brady was uneven in this one, but it was awesome to watch start to finish. He would go on to once again defeat Manning in the AFC Championship Game and win his second Super Bowl.
10. Patriots vs. Bengals, Week 5 of 2014
Week 5 of 2014 was a rare time in the Patriots dynasty. The team was 2-2, had not played well in their two wins and had been blown out on National TV the week before. Brady was also coming off one of his worst seasons in 2013. Questions were being asked if the Patriots dynasty, and Brady, were finished. Brady and the team responded with a blowout win on Sunday Night Football in one of the most electric environments Gillette Stadium has seen. Brady went on to win his fourth ring later that season.
9. Patriots vs. Chargers Week 5 of 2001
The first comeback and sign of late game heroics by Brady. He exploded for 364 yards and two touchdowns while leading the Patriots to an overtime win after being down by 10 with four minutes to go. This was a true team win and a sign that New England had something special in number 12.
8. Patriots at Dolphins, Week 7 of 2007
Statistically, this is one of Brady’s best performances. His five touchdown passes at halftime (yes, halftime!!) is still unreal. Randy Moss added one of the best catches in NFL history when he secured one of his two touchdowns with little more than his bicep. Brady finished the day with six touchdown passes and 354 yards passing.
7. Super Bowl LV, Buccaneers vs Chiefs, February 7, 2021
Brady was 21/29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-9 defeat of the Chiefs. This was not only the most comfortable Super Bowl win of his career, but one of the most significant. Brady silenced the few remaining doubters who thought his greatness was solely a product of the Patriots system.
6. Super Bowl XXXVI, Patriots vs. Rams, Feb. 2, 2002
The first championship will always be the sweetest. Brady faced off against Kurt Warner and The Greatest Show on Turf and outplayed him throughout. Brady’s first half touchdown pass to David Patten was his only one of 2001 playoffs. With 80 seconds to go, the Patriots and Rams were tied at 17 and New England was staring down the barrel of a collapse after being up 17-3 entering the fourth. The legend of Brady was born in New Orleans during those final minutes as he led New England down the field to set up an Adam Vinatieri game winning field goal as time expired to secure the franchise’s first championship.
.@TomBrady's first Super Bowl TD. 🐐— NFL (@NFL) May 10, 2020
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5. AFC Championship, Patriots at Pittsburgh, 2004
The 2004 Patriots were one of the best teams of the Belichick/ Brady era, but this game was no layup. The Patriots had lost in Pittsburgh by two touchdowns earlier in the season and rookie starter Ben Roethlisberger had not lost a game yet in his career. The Patriots walked into Pittsburgh and smacked the Steelers in the mouth, ultimately winning 41-27 in a game that didn’t even feel that close. Brady’s 60-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch on the Patriots second possession was the early knockout punch that the Steelers never recovered from. Recently, on Man in the Arena, Brady called this game his favorite non-Super Bowl victory.
4. AFC Championship, Patriots at Kansas City, 2018
A fourth quarter for the ages and an overtime that included three consecutive 3rd and 10 conversions. Brady outdueled Patrick Mahomes and led the Patriots on two touchdown drives in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter and a touchdown drive to win in overtime. The Patriots defense was the biggest story of the 2018 season and Super Bowl 53, but New England does not win a Super Bowl if Brady doesn’t turn in this legendary performance.
3. Super Bowl LI, Patriots vs. Atlanta, Feb. 5, 2017
The Greatest Comeback in Super Bowl history. After throwing a pick-six and being down 28-3, Brady and the Patriots offense scored 31 unanswered points while Brady threw for 466 yards. Several of the throws in this game, including a 3rd and 10 pass to Chris Hogan in the fourth quarter and a throw to Danny Amendola in overtime are among the best of his career.
2. Super Bowl XXXVIII, Patriots vs. Carolina, Feb. 1, 2004
Of the Patriots six championships, this game may have been the most entertaining from start to finish. It had everything: great offense, great defense and key special teams. This was not a flawless performance from Brady, but it was one of his most resilient. He finished with 354 yards, three touchdown passes, one interception and won his second Super Bowl MVP. After sputtering in the first quarter, Brady led the Patriots offense on two touchdown drives in the second quarter. After a scoreless third, the Patriots put up 17 points in the fourth quarter including a game winning field goal with three seconds to go. What stands out most to me is what happened after Brady’s interception. The pick came on the Patriots first drive of the fourth quarter, in the red zone, and very well could have cost New England the game. How did Brady respond? By leading two successive scoring drives including the game winner.
1. Super Bowl XLIX, Patriots vs Seattle, Feb. 1, 2015
In a career filled with signature performances, this was Brady’s pinnacle. The Seahawks were the defending Super Bowl champions and best defense of the decade. Brady was not perfect in this one; he threw two interceptions including one in the end zone. However, he was brilliant. He threw four touchdown passes and 328 yards against a secondary and pass rush that routinely dominated opponents. The Patriots found themselves trailing by ten and facing a third and 14 in the fourth quarter, and Brady led them on a near miraculous comeback to take a four-point lead with two minutes to go. Although the play everyone remembers from this Super Bowl was Malcolm Butler’s interception, no other quarterback in history would have won that game against that defense after being down ten in the final quarter.
Honorable mentions: Super Bowl LIII, Super Bowl XXXIX, 2014 Divisional Round vs Ravens, 2013 comebacks vs Saints and Browns, 2001 Divisional Round vs Raiders, Super Bowl LII vs Philadelphia, 2003 overtime win at Miami, 2011 Divisional Round vs Broncos