After watching Tim Tebow nearly lead his Broncos to a miraculous comeback in his 2011 debut, we’re left to reflect on the league’s true comeback artists. These five guys are the first that come to mind when we discuss who is truly clutch. If your team has the ball in the fourth quarter, these are the guys you want running the show.
Super Bowl victories, fourth quarter comebacks, and game winning drives are what define a quarterback as clutch in the NFL. That, and the ability to make high pressure situations on national TV look as laid-back as Thanksgiving two-hand touch games in your uncle’s back yard.
They don’t call him “Matty Ice” for nothing. Barely into his fourth NFL season, Matt Ryan already has nine fourth quarter comebacks and 14 game-winning drives. He’s the youngest quarterback on this list and is already establishing his Atlanta Falcons as a perennial playoff team.
During Week 2, Ryan led his Falcons to an impressive 35-31 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
With new weapons like Julio Jones adjusting to the Falcons offense, Ryan will remain a favorite in the fourth quarter, even when his team is trailing.
Had it not been for Victor Cruz tipping Manning’s final pass of the fourth quarter on Sunday, he likely would have completed his third consecutive come-from-behind victory this season. Eli Manning is often ridiculed for making poor decisions with the football. While this may be true overall, he seldom makes mistakes with the game on the line.
In games decided by eight or fewer points since 2007, Eli is an impressive 19-7. He trails only his big brother Peyton in that respect.
No matter what Eli does with the rest of his career, his legacy will likely be defined by his fourth quarter performance in Super Bowl XLII. Down by four with just 2:42 left on the clock, Eli Manning led his Giants 83 yards for the game winning touchdown. Giants fans are often left holding their breathe when their 6’4” QB drops back to pass, but in the fourth quarter, they’re glad to have him.
The only quarterback to complete 20 comeback wins before the age of 30, Roethlisberger is as clutch as they come. After coming from behind to beat the Colts in Week 3, Big Ben now has 27 comeback wins, including playoffs.
Of his many comeback victories, none is more impressive than Super Bowl XLIII. With the Steelers trailing 23-20 with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger led the Steelers down the field on an 88-yard drive, connecting with Santonio Holmes for the game winning touchdown with 0:35 to go.
Roethlisberger’s size allows him to break tackles in the pocket and wait for plays to develop. He’s also extremely mobile for his size. This combination of size and elusiveness makes it extremely difficult to put pressure on him late in games. Big Ben is literally built for the fourth quarter.
He may be out for the rest of the 2011 season, but Peyton Manning remains one of the most clutch players in the NFL today. He may not have as many Super Bowl victories as some of his competitors, but when it comes to Manning, the numbers speaks for themselves.
He’s the active leader with 46 game winning drives. He trails Dan Marino by just five for the all-time record. He’s also tied with John Elway for second behind Marino for career comebacks.
It will be interesting to see if Manning can return from his neck injury to pass Marino as the all-time great comeback artist. However, like Marino, he’ll need to make some more noise in the playoffs to be considered amongst the greatest of all time.
When you lead your team to three come from behind victories in the Super Bowl, you’re clutch, regardless of what you do the rest of your career. For the past few seasons, critics have been on Brady’s back about not performing in the playoffs. However, he’s been so dominant in important games throughout his career, that his expectations are excessively high.
Brady has 23 fourth quarter comebacks, 32 game-winning drives. He touts a 14-5 playoff record and has the ability to make even the most unlikely receiver a late-game hero. He opened his Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl season and led his team on game-winning drives in each of New England’s last three championships.
Brady does an excellent job of adjusting to opposing defenses and finding deficiencies in opposing schemes. His physical ability puts him in an excellent position to make plays and his awareness prevents him from making crucial mistakes. He’s the reason you don’t want the Patriots to have the ball last in a close game.
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