Why Can't Tom Brady Win the Big One Anymore?

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Why Can't Tom Brady Win the Big One Anymore?
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There was a time when Tom Brady was the proverbial kiss of death for teams that faced him in the playoffs, when he was a 27-year-old quarterback who had won his first nine playoff games, including three Super Bowls.

Now Tom Brady is a 35-year-old quarterback who just played one of the worst postseason games of his career, a quarterback who is 3-4 over his last seven playoff starts dating back to 2009.

Has the bloom come off the rose? Has the NFL passed the Golden Boy by?

Like everything in life it's really not that simple, although things have certainly changed quite a bit since those halcyon days of 2001-2004.

In those days, a young Tom Brady wasn't exactly the gunslinger that we've come to know him as now, but while his statistics weren't gaudy he was very efficient with the football.

Tom Brady Playoff Starts 2001-2004

Starts

Comp. Pct.

Yds/Game

TD

INT

Rating

Record

9

63.1

216.7

11

3

90.3

9-0

As I said, the numbers aren't especially eye-popping, but in those days Brady also wasn't a quarterback who was asked to do too much with the football. He managed the game rather than carry it for a Patriots squad in which the sum was definitely greater than the parts.

However, the Patriots began to change as a team. As Brady matured the offense became more explosive, and while the 2005 season would see Brady lose his first playoff start (in Denver, a house of horrors for him throughout his career) the team still went 5-3 over his next eight playoff starts, including a loss to the Giants in Super Bowl.

Tom Brady Playoff Starts 2005-2007

Starts

Comp. Pct.

Yds/Game

TD

INT

Rating

Record

8

61.6

250.1

15

9

88.3

5-3

As you can see, Brady's passing yardage and touchdowns increased as a result of that more explosive offense, but so did the chances he took. That meant a lower completion percentage, more turnovers and a lower passer rating.

That brings us to the last four years of Brady's playoff starts, which have been bookended by ugly losses to the Baltimore Ravens by a combined score of 61-27.

Starts

Comp. Pct.

Yds/Game

TD

INT

Rating

Record

7

61.1

285.0

16

10

80.8

3-4

The same trend continues. More yardage per game and touchdown passes are offset by a lower completion percentage and passer rating and more turnovers, which seemingly results in his record continuing to backslide.

So, why has Brady regressed statistically?

There are two factors that would appear the easiest to point out, and frankly neither has that much to do with Brady personally.

First, over the past few years, the New England defense has become more of a liability than an asset, especially in the secondary. In Super Bowl XLVI, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning torched the Patriots for nearly 300 yards and completed 75 percent of his passes.

In Sunday's playoff loss, after cornerback Aqib Talib was forced from the game with an injury, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 123 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter alone.

When a quarterback can't trust his defense to make a stop, he's going to be forced to take more chances, eventually leading to a mistake.

Then there's the Ravens.

If there's one team that has Brady "figured out," it has to be the Ravens, and Joe Flacco has supplanted Peyton Manning as Tom Brady's primary nemesis.

In fact, it's been Flacco who has had the upper hand in their meetings to date. Since 2009 the two have met six times, including three playoff games. In those matchups, Flacco not only holds a 2-1 edge in the postseason, but has a higher completion percentage (63.5 to 60.2), passer rating (97.5 to 72.0) and touchdown/interception ratio (12/4 to 6/9).

It's not even close. 

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Also, Brady hasn't been immune to gaffes in recent playoff games. His intentional grounding in the end zone that led to a safety in last year's Super Bowl was inexcusable. So was the poor clock management that cost the team a shot at the end zone at the end of the first half of Sunday's loss to the Ravens.

Those are on Brady 100 percent.

All this isn't to suggest that Tom Brady is done or that he's over the hill. That's just silly, and while Brady may be on the downslope of his career, he remains a player who just put up MVP-type numbers in his 13th NFL season.

However, it can't be denied that some of the luster has been knocked from the Golden Boy, and until he can figure out the Ravens and the Patriots get something resembling an NFL secondary, there's no telling if that shine will be coming back.

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