Tom Brady's Top Red Zone Targets of All-Time in Playoffs
Come January, Tom Brady is a legend. With three Super Bowl victories and two Super Bowl MVP awards, Brady is in select company as one of the best postseason quarterbacks of all-time.
Since Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe back in 2001, he has thrown 38 touchdowns in the playoffs. Last season, he threw eight posteason touchdowns including a playoff-record six touchdown passes in the Patriots 45-10 romp of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Brady has spread the wealth among teammates and has a long list of recipients. As the Patriots wait for their opponent to be determined for next weekend in Foxboro, let's take a look at his best playoff targets since his 2001 Super Bowl season:
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Before Gronk wore number 87 for the Pats, it was David Givens who was on the receiving end of the majority of Brady's early playoff touchdowns. Surprisingly, Givens has caught the most postseason touchdowns from Tom Brady. From 2003-2006, Givens caught seven touchdown passes from Brady in the playoffs.
Givens is one of the only Patriots players to catch a touchdown in multiple Super Bowls. He caught his first playoff touchdown of his career in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers. The following season, in Super Bowl XXXIX, Givens caught a touchdown in the Patriots 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
This makes Givens the only Patriots to be on the receiving end of a touchdown in back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
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Deion Branch has been with the Patriots on and off for seven seasons. Branch and Brady are two of the few New England players that remain on team from their back-to-back Super Bowl wins. During his tenure with Brady, Branch has hauled in four playoff touchdowns.
At 33, Branch still knows how to get into the end zone. Just last season he caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Brady in the blowout playoff win over Denver.
Similar to Givens, it all started for Branch in Super Bowl XXXVIII, when he caught the game's first touchdown.
Although Branch did not record a touchdown reception in Super Bowl XXXIX, he ended the game with 11 receptions for 133 yards, earning Super Bowl MVP honors.
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Perhaps one of the best quarterback to receiver tandems of all-time is Tom Brady to Wes Welker.
Recently, Welker became the first player in NFL history to catch 100 or more passes in five different seasons. This season, he caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was one of several Pats to get a touchdown reception in last season's playoff rout over Denver.
After the playoffs Welker becomes a free agent. It will be interesting to see if New England resigns the veteran.
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Rob Gronkowski is arguably the best tight end in the NFL. Gronk has caught three playoff touchdowns from Brady, all coming against the Broncos last season. He also had 10 receptions for 145 yards in that game.
Last season, Gronk caught 17 touchdowns, best in the NFL. He was injured in the AFC Championship Game against Baltimore, however, which limited his production in the Super Bowl. Despite missing multiple games due to injury this season, he still managed to haul in 11 touchdowns, good for fourth in the league.
Gronkowski returned last week for New England's 28-0 win over Miami, in which he added another touchdown. Brady and Gronk could get back on track this postseason.
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Hernandez and Gronkowski make it very difficult for opposing defenses to match up against New England's offense. Though Gronk gets most of the credit, Hernandez is a very valuable player for New England as he can play tight end, wide receiver and even running back. He has had two playoff touchdown receptions from Brady.
Both of those came during last season's playoffs including one in the Patriots' 17-21 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Hernandez has faced injury issues this year as well, but should be a big weapon for Brady in this year's playoffs.
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Juilian Edelman is a typical New England Patriots player in that he does a little bit of everything when he has to. He is one of the Patriots best punt and kickoff returners. He has also played many snaps as wide receiver and some as a defensive back. Edelman has been on the receiving end of two of Tom Brady's playoff touchdowns.
During the 2009-10 season in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Edelman filled in for the injured Welker and caught two touchdowns in a 14-33 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Vrabel in Super Bowl XXXVIII
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Even though Mike Vrabel is primarily known as a fantastic linebacker, he was pretty good in his role at tight end as well. Vrabel caught two touchdown passes from Brady in the playoffs, both in Super Bowl victories.
Like Givens, Vrabel caught a touchdown in back-to-back Super Bowls, the first coming against Carolina and the second coming against Philadelphia.
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Randy Moss was a huge reason why the Patriots were so good in 2007. That season Brady and Moss both broke single-season records. In the final regular season game against the New York Giants, Brady hit Moss deep for the go ahead touchdown. That play was Brady's 50th touchdown pass and the 23rd touchdown reception for Moss, both single-season records.
Brady hit Moss again in Super Bowl XLII for the go-ahead touchdown, which would go down as the sole playoff touchdown between the duo. The Giants shockingly answered with 38 seconds remaining giving them a 17-14 win over New England, the Patriots first loss of the season.
Brady looked to Moss on a couple bombs with seconds remaining, but he was unable to haul in either of them.
Honorable Mention: Troy Brown, David Patten, Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, Reche Caldwell, Daniel Graham, Alge Crumpler, Bethel Johnson. Each had one playoff touchdown reception from Brady.