Did Tom Brady need any further validation of his greatness?
An almost infallible case can be made that Brady could have walked away after he captured a sixth Lombardi Trophy with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII two years ago with his legacy as the greatest of all time secured.
But whether it was down to a desire to outstrip Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles, win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick or simply because of his love of competing and winning, Brady felt the need to keep going further into his 40s in search of a seventh Lombardi Trophy.
That came in emphatic fashion in his first season since leaving Belichick and the Patriots, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the now-deposed champion Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium.
It was improbable by a number of measures. No team had ever played at a home Super Bowl before this season and the Buccaneers were underdogs to defeat the Chiefs and win it in their own building. If there was to be a blowout, it was anticipated Brady would be on the receiving end.
Yet Brady has never conformed to expectations. Not now, not ever. And the man who entered the NFL as a skinny sixth-round pick in 2000 proved yet again that it is foolish to doubt him.
This latest validation may have been unnecessary, but Brady has it after this new addition to the most comprehensive of Super Bowl resumes. Here, we rank where the Bucs’ upset of the Chiefs ranks among Brady’s seven wins on the grandest stage.
7. Super Bowl LIII (2018)
Brady’s last triumph with the Patriots was probably his least impressive, at least in the vacuum of the game itself.
An uninspiring defensive struggle with the Los Angeles Rams unsurprisingly fell in Belichick’s favor as he outcoached Sean McVay in a 13-3 win. Brady did, however, connect with Rob Gronkowski for the telling blow, a 29-yard pass that set up Sony Michel for the game’s only touchdown.
Boosting Brady here is the fact he led the Patriots to victory over Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC championship game, but that’s not enough to move it off the bottom of the list.
6. Super Bowl XXXIX (2004)
Sunday was the second Super Bowl in which Brady dealt a defeat to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, but Super Bowl 39 was a much tighter affair as Brady guided the Patriots to back-to-back Lombardi trophies.
But then-Philadelphia Eagles coach Reid perhaps bore as much responsibility for the Patriots’ victory as Brady. Reid was significantly criticized in the aftermath of the Eagles’ 24-21 loss for a lack of time management. Philadelphia’s final scoring drive took up nearly four minutes and made New England’s task in closing out the game much easier.
Reid’s shortcomings in that regard do not take away from Brady’s performance or the achievement in winning successive Super Bowls, one that has not since been repeated. But, in terms of memorable performances, this is not one that ranks highly.
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII (2003)
Brady’s second Super Bowl win is one that deserves more recognition than it gets as the Patriots held off an underdog Carolina Panthers team that refused to lie down.
After the Panthers overturned a 21-10 deficit to lead in the fourth quarter, Brady led an 11-play touchdown drive to restore the Patriots’ advantage and then orchestrated a game-winning field goal in the final 58 seconds of regulation to secure a 32-29 triumph.
It was a perfect encapsulation of Brady’s ability to deliver when the moment is the biggest, one which he has demonstrated time and again with all the marbles on the line.
4. Super Bowl LV (2020)
His first Super Bowl win outside of New England may have been one of the most unexpected, but it doesn’t quite crack the top three.
There is so much Brady deserves credit for. From taking the chance to leave his familiar surroundings and successfully adapting to a new offense to the manner in which he dissected the Chiefs defense in the first half.
But the Buccaneers’ victory was a team performance built as much on a swarming defense that continually had Patrick Mahomes running for his life as it was on Brady’s prowess leading the offense.
Brady was a deserved winner of the Super Bowl MVP but, without the Bucs pass rush, this would have been a very different game. And one in which the Chiefs offense may have been able to change the outcome.
3. Super Bowl XXXVI (2001)
Brady was not close to being the same quarterback he is now during his first Super Bowl, and that is what makes it still so incredible.
In his second season in the NFL, Brady came in and successfully filled the void after starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered a chest injury in Week 2 of the 2001 season and led the Pats to an 11-5 record. But he was not expected to go blow for blow with the vaunted St. Louis Rams offense.
As it happened, he received significant help from an excellent defensive display by New England, but the defining moment came in the final 90 seconds, with legendary commentator John Madden calling for the Patriots to play for overtime. Belichick had the faith in Brady to go the opposite route.
He promptly delivered a nine-play, 53-yard drive that began the legend, setting up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal that clinched a 20-17 win for the Pats’ first title. For a player of his relative inexperience to deliver in a situation of that magnitude, it remains one of Brady’s most remarkable achievements.
2. Super Bowl XLIX (2014)
It gets lost with the fact that Brady and the Patriots would have lost this game to the Seattle Seahawks if not for Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception, but his fourth quarter in a 28-24 classic was one of the finest produced by any quarterback in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots trailed by 10 points midway through the fourth, but Brady fearlessly and precisely led them on two touchdown drives against one of the best defenses in NFL history to turn the tide in their favor.
Of course, this game will always be remembered for the Seahawks’ inexplicable decision to attempt a pass on the one-yard line with victory in their grasp, but the game never gets to that point without what was at the time Brady’s greatest comeback effort in the Super Bowl.
1. Super Bowl LI (2016)
Regardless of how many more Super Bowls Brady plays in, this one will likely never be topped.
All seemed lost for Brady when the Patriots trailed 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter but what followed was an accumulation of all the clutch moments he has produced in his unparalleled career.
The Falcons were reduced to near helpless spectators as Brady masterfully instigated the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
When the Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime, their 34-28 triumph was inevitable. Everyone knew what was about to happen, with the Falcons as powerless to stop it as the Chiefs were on Sunday.
It was a revival that added immeasurably to Brady’s aura, which, even at the age of 43, persists for a man who, whether it’s for validation or otherwise, maintains a ceaseless desire to collect Super Bowl rings.
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