Tom Brady: Ranking His New England Patriots Teams Through the Years

Eddie LockhartContributor IIJune 18, 2011

Tom Brady: Ranking His New England Patriots Teams Through the Years

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    HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 1:  MVP Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots raises the Lombardi trophy as he is interviewed by television commentator Jim Nance after defeating the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium on February 1
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Tom Brady is without question the greatest player in Patriots history and one of the greatest to ever play the game. He has now started the majority of nine seasons for the Pats. 

    In my opinion, the best seasons are the Super Bowl championships, so while the 2007 team may have been the most talented, they did not win the Super Bowl, making them, at best, fourth. 

    Without further adieu, the list...

2002

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 29:  Adam Vinatieri #4 is lifted up by kick holder Ken Walter #13 of the New England Patriots after Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2002 in Foxbor
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Patriots first defense of a Super Bowl title did not go well. They finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs in an extremely up and down year. They started out hot, going 3-0, but proceeded to lose their next four games, the only time they have done so under Brady. 

    Brady had a good year leading the league in touchdown passes with 28. What it came down to, though, was a slow defense that could not stop the run, as well as some misfires in free agency—i.e. Donald Hayes. 

    In the final week of the season they were still in contention with Brady leading a comeback against the Dolphins to put them in position to make the playoffs if the Packers could beat the Jets.  Unfortunately, Favre and the Packers had nothing to play for and laid down, and the Jets took the division.

2009

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 18:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by teammate Randy Moss #81 after Welker scored a touchdown in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans on October 18, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massac
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The team's 50th anniversary season will be remembered for a lot of things.

    It will be remembered as the return of Tom Brady from his devastating knee injury in 2008. It will be remembered for 4th and 2 against the Colts. It will be remembered for blown leads and an inability to win on the road. And it will be remembered for seeing the Patriots lose at home in the playoffs for the first time since 1978.  

    Tom Brady was back, but he was not really back. It took him a while to get going and even when he did, something seemed off all year. He put up fantastic numbers, but he seemed a bit jittery in the pocket and in crunch time. He, and the team, consistently just missed on putting teams away.

    The team was also rife with under achievers such as Derrick Burgess, who the Patriots traded for as a pass-rush threat but never really panned out. 

    There was dissension in the locker room, epitomized by the incident that saw four players including Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas, sent home for being late to practice. 

    They won the division at 10-6, but they were an inconsistent and uneven mess all season long, leading to their blowout loss to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.

2005

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    FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 1:  Doug Flutie #2 of the New England Patriots successfully drop kicks an extra point after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium January 1, 2006 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    After winning his first 10 playoff starts, 2005 saw Tom Brady finally lose one to the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. 

    It was another season marked by misses in free agency, especially Monty Beisel and Duane Starks. Both players were overmatched from the start with Beisel routinely being blown off the ball and Starks getting torched by opposing receivers. 

    The team started 4-4, and it was not until Tedy Bruschi returned from his stroke that this team started to hit its stride. Bolstered by Bruschi's leadership and a stellar second half of the season from Rosevelt Colvin, the defense tightened up. 

    Tom Brady had his first 4,000 yard season and after winning four of their last five, only losing to the Dolphins in the finale, a game they seemed to lose on purpose, hopes were high entering the playoffs. 

    They demolished the Jaguars at home and then travelled to Denver.

    In a game marred by poor officiating, including a heinous pass interference call against Asante Samuel, Brady made the big mistake down 10-9, throwing a red zone interception that was returned to the 1-yard line, sealing their fate and ending the dream of a three-peat.

2006

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 14:  Wide receiver Reche Caldwell #87 of the New England Patriots catches a 49 yard reception past Quentin Jammer #23 of the San Diego Chargers during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game held at Qualcomm Stadium January 14, 2007 in San Die
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The 2006 Patriots were a group of overachievers. 

    With Reche Caldwell as their leading receiver (not a typo, he really was), they were one first down away from another Super Bowl appearance.

    It was an odd season that featured the departure of Deion Branch and David Givens before the season, the team's two leading receivers from the year before. 

    This lack of receiving was highlighted by a play late in the season in Buffalo in which Tom Brady, having all the time in the world, looked for somebody to throw to but could not find a target, so he simply sat down. 

    What this season will be remembered for most, though, is the amazing come from behind upset win over the top-seeded Chargers in the divisional playoffs. They simply wanted it more, as evidenced by Troy Brown stripping Marlon McCree following his interception of Brady in the fourth quarter that kept the Pats alive. 

    They came up short against the Colts in the AFC championship, which leaves fans wondering what could have been had they faced the Bears in Miami.

2010

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after running the ball for a first down against the Buffalo Bills in the second half at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Ge
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Tom Brady was back, for real this time. 

    The hesitance of 2009 was gone and the old Brady was back and better then ever. Thirty-six touchdowns to only four interceptions is a remarkable ratio, showing just how efficient he was all season. 

    It is even more remarkable considering the trade of Randy Moss and the reinvention of the offense during the season. Gone was the high-flying instant scoring offense of 2007, and in its place, was the dink and dunk of Deion Branch and Wes Welker

    It worked almost as well, as they steamrolled through the second half of the season. 

    Defensively, the youth movement finally started to take form as Jerod Mayo led the league in tackles, and Devon McCourty was second in Rookie of the Year voting. 

    They may not have had pretty statistics, but down the stretch they started forcing turnovers, bending but not breaking. 

    The season ended in great disappointment, losing to the Jets in the playoffs, but the foundation is set for a run at more Super Bowl titles.

2007

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 29:  Randy Moss  #81 of the New England Patriots runs after a catch for his 23rd touchdown of the season breaking the all time season high for touchdowns in a season against James Butler #37 of the New York Giants on Decembe
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    The 2007 season was a season of records. 

    Some of those records include 589 points scored, 50 touchdown passes, 23 touchdown receptions, and a 16-0 regular season. And probably a record setting amount of disappointment following their upset loss in the Super Bowl to the Giants

    The Patriots rolled through the first half of the regular season, then the warning signs started.  Their games against the Eagles and Ravens were near losses and the offense struggled a bit against the Jets. 

    Then came the Giants game where they trailed 28-16 but came back behind the record breaking bomb from Brady to Moss.

    Brady then followed up his great regular season with a 26-28 performance against the Jaguars in the playoffs. They struggled against the Chargers but behind Laurence Maroney's running, they advanced to the Super Bowl. 

    The Giants, using what they learned from the first meeting, executed a brilliant game plan to shut down the best offense of all time and spring the massive upset. 

2001

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    3 Feb 2002:  Kicker Adam Vinatieri #4 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a 48 yard game-winning field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI, 20-17, beating the St. Louis Rams at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Al
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Super Bowl champion nobody saw coming. 

    Nobody expected this team to have a winning record, much less win the Super Bowl. Things looked even more bleak when Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out and the unknown, unheralded, Tom Brady took over. 

    Instantly things changed as he made everybody around him better. They beat the Colts in his first start, but it was the Chargers game that opened eyes. 

    Brady lead the first comeback of his career against Doug Flutie's Chargers and beat them in overtime. After losing to the vaunted Rams to fall to 5-5, they saw they could compete with what was deemed to be the best team in the league, and they would not lose again. 

    The legendary Snow Bowl against the Raiders saw the controversial, but correct, ruling of the Tuck Rule and propelled them to the AFC championship game. 

    They continued their improbable run by defeating the top-seeded Steelers.

    Finally, in a rematch against the Rams in the Super Bowl, Belichick's master game plan shut down The Greatest Show on Turf and Brady cemented himself as a Patriots, and NFL, legend, leading the team down for the game-winning field goal in the final minutes, giving the Patriots their first Super Bowl title.

2003

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    HOUSTON - FEBRUARY 1:  Defensive end Willie McGinest #55 of the New England Patriots stands next to defensive end Bobby Hamilton #91 in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers at Reliant Stadium on February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas.  The Patriot
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    An incredible team that won in every different way imaginable. 

    They won games 12-0; they won games by taking intentional safeties; and they won shootouts like the Super Bowl. 

    The controversial release of Lawyer Milloy at the start of the season marked the beginning of the season, which started in question as they lost to Milloy's new Buffalo Bills 31-0 in the opener. 

    The loss of Milloy turned out to be negated by the addition of Rodney Harrison, who became an instant leader on the team and one of the best defenders in franchise history. 

    They lost their fourth game of the season and then did not lose again, winning 15 in a row to end the season. 

    In the playoffs, they shut down co-MVPs Steve McNair in the first round, and then Peyton Manning in the AFC championship. 

    They came into the Super Bowl as favorites this time around, and the game started as a defensive struggle. A late half scoring burst made it 14-10 at half time. The third quarter returned to defense first, but the fourth quarter exploded. 

    After falling behind 22-21, Brady led a touchdown drive that ended with TD pass to Mike Vrabel.  The patented direct snap to Kevin Faulk was used successfully for the two-point conversion to put the Pats up 29-22. 

    The Panthers scored again, setting up a deja vu scenario in which Brady led the team down once again in the final minutes to set up the game winning field goal and a second world championship.

2004

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 06:  Wide receiver Deion Branch #83 of the New England Patriots celebrates after catching a 17-yard pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter of the Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 200
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The best team of the Tom Brady era and the best team in franchise history was the 2004 Patriots. 

    As great as they were the year before, the acquisition of Corey Dillon, who rushed for over 1,600 yards, puts this team over the top. 

    They rolled through the season, reaching an NFL record 21 straight victories before falling to the Steelers on Halloween. Aside from a let down game against the hapless Dolphins late in the season, this team was tremendous. 

    When they reached the playoffs, they tore the Colts apart 20-3, shutting down a team many thought they could not stop with all of the injuries in their secondary.They then went back into Pittsburgh and completely annihilated them 41-27.  And it was not even that close. 

    In the Super Bowl, they handled a talented Eagles team and established themselves as a dynasty and the team of the decade.