Ranking Tom Brady's 10 Super Bowl Runs
When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field Sunday in Tampa at Super Bowl LV, it will mark Tom Brady's first Super Bowl as the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But it will mark the 10th such game of his career on that final stage.
In a career filled with jaw-dropping numbers, that might be the biggest of all. Bigger than the three NFL MVP awards. Bigger than the four Super Bowl MVP awards. Bigger even than the six Lombardi Trophies.
Ten Super Bowls. It's a number that underscores what has become obvious to anyone paying attention: Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.
His longevity is just as staggering since the first of his Super Bowl runs happened at the culmination of the 2001 season. The most recent came in 2018.
As Brady and the Buccaneers prepare to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, let's take a look back at two decades' worth of Brady's super seasons, six of which ended with him holding aloft the Lombardi Trophy.
As a matter of fact, let's go one better and rank them.
10. 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl LV)
Tom Brady's most recent Super Bowl run is the hardest to accurately rank because it hasn't ended yet.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can finish off this improbable run with an upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, then the 2020 campaign will rank among the best of Brady's career. The Buccaneers are the first team in league history to "host" a Super Bowl. Prior to his arrival, they hadn't been to the NFL's biggest stage since winning Super Bowl XXXVII and hadn't been to the postseason at all since 2007.
Oh, and at 43, Brady will (again) be the oldest quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl.
Even if he comes up short in his quest for a record seventh Super Bowl win, this will still have been an impressive season, especially when you factor in his age. His 4,633 passing yards in the regular season are his most since 2015. His 40 touchdown passes are the most he's thrown since his first MVP season all the way back in 2007.
Yes, the improved passing-game weapons Brady has had in 2020 have helped. But it's nothing short of amazing for a player well past his 40th birthday to turn back the clock the way he has this year.
However, since we don't yet know how this run will turn out, it ranks at the bottom of this list—at least temporarily.
9. 2011 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLVI)
Super Bowl XLVI had quite a few things in common with Super Bowl XLII, much to the chagrin of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Just like in the earlier edition, the later one featured a favored Patriots team facing an upstart New York Giants squad. And just like in the earlier edition, Eli Manning led the G-Men on a late touchdown drive to pull off the upset on the way to earning MVP honors.
Brady was good (but not great). He completed 27 of 41 passes for 276 yards and two scores, but he also threw an interception and drew an early intentional grounding call in the end zone that resulted in a safety.
However, while it didn't end the way Brady and the Patriots had hoped, the 2011 season was still an impressive one. New England won 13 games and ran away with the AFC East (again) before blasting the Denver Broncos and outlasting the Baltimore Ravens to reach Brady's fifth Super Bowl.
That loss dropped him to just 3-2 in the Super Bowl. But the regular season that preceded it was outstanding.
In 2011, Brady threw for a career-high 5,235 passing yards and 39 scores. At the time, it was the most single-season passing yards in AFC history. And while Peyton Manning would later surpass both, only Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (in that same season) had more in either conference back in 2011.
Brady wouldn't catch Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl wins for a few more years. But the march to Super Bowl XLVI moved him past both Hall of Famers in appearances under center.
8. 2017 New England Patriots (Super Bowl LII)
Let's be abundantly clear here: Tom Brady's lost fumble late in the fourth quarter may have been the play that sealed the deal in Super Bowl LII, but it's not his fault the New England Patriots lost that game 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brady threw for 505 yards, which remains the most of any player in league history in a postseason game. He also set a Super Bowl record with 48 pass attempts without an interception. He even tossed three touchdown passes and posted a passer rating of 115.4.
Three Patriots players (Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski) topped 100 receiving yards in the game—also a Super Bowl record.
That performance capped a 2017 campaign in which Brady won his third award as the NFL's most valuable player. He threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns with just eight interceptions and a passer rating of 102.8.
That year, the Patriots amassed a 13-3 record, winning the AFC East by four games over the Buffalo Bills. New England blasted the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round before squeaking past a surprisingly dangerous Jacksonville Jaguars squad in the AFC Championship Game.
But against the Eagles, the New England defense allowed 538 yards of total offense and 10 third-down conversions in 16 attempts
7. 2007 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII)
Like it or not, the 2007 Patriots are always going to be remembered more for what they didn't do than what they did. New England's stunning 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII is widely regarded as the biggest upset in the game's history.
After all, the 2007 Pats were an absolute juggernaut as the only team in league history to navigate a 16-game regular season without a single defeat. They set records that year for touchdowns (75), points scored (589) and point differential (plus-315).
That's right. The Patriots outscored their opponents by an average of almost 20 points per game. Had Brady and New England completed the perfect season against New York, the '07 Patriots would probably be considered the greatest single-season team in league history.
But facing a stout New York pass rush at University of Phoenix Stadium, Brady was uncharacteristically pedestrian, going just 29-of-48 for 266 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked five times and harassed numerous others, and it was only the third time that year he didn't throw multiple touchdown passes.
On the way to 4,806 passing yards and a career-high (and then-NFL record) 50 touchdown passes while throwing to a loaded pass-catching corps led by Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady had five games with at least four scoring strikes and three with five or more.
It marked the first time Brady was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player, and he also won Offensive Player of the Year honors after pacing the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating.
6. 2018 New England Patriots (Super Bowl LIII)
Now that we've slotted Brady's Super Bowl losses (and incomplete quest), it's time to start ticking off titles, beginning with his most recent.
The 2018 New England Patriots were not the best team in the NFL. They weren't the best team in the AFC, either. At 11-5, they entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the conference. They were fifth in the AFC in total offense and eighth in passing, well behind Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brady's personal production that year was good but not great: 4,355 yards, 29 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. While his passer rating of 97.7 would be great for most quarterbacks, it was the first time since 2014 that he failed to crack 100.
However, that relatively modest season (by his standards) had a lot more to do with the offensive weapons around him than Brady himself. New England's No. 1 wide receiver (Julian Edelman) had 74 catches for 850 yards and six scores.
Despite not exactly having a loaded offense, Brady and the Pats were still fourth in the league in scoring. And once the playoffs started, that offense caught fire by dropping 41 points on the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round and then outdueling Mahomes and the Chiefs 37-31 in the AFC title game.
The New England offense cooled off in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, and Brady didn't have a great game with 262 passing yards, an interception and a passer rating of 71.4. But the team made enough plays on both sides of the ball to get past L.A. 13-3, locking up the franchise's sixth championship.
5. 2003 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVIII)
Among the 10 Super Bowls in which Tom Brady has played (or will play), his second often gets lost in the shuffle. After all, Super Bowl XXXVIII was near the beginning of New England's unprecedented run of dominance. It's remembered more for a "wardrobe malfunction" at halftime than anything that happened during the game.
But while the 2003 season may not have been Brady's best, it was still pretty dang good.
As was the case for most of the first half-dozen or so years of his career, Brady's raw numbers weren't especially impressive. He posted 3,620 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 85.9.
As strange as it sounds now, Brady made the Pro Bowl just once over his first three seasons as the starter in New England.
After going 9-7 and missing the playoffs altogether in 2002, the Pats went 2-2 over the first four games in 2003. But then they peeled off 12 straight wins to close out the regular season before eking past the Tennessee Titans and taking down the Indianapolis Colts to get back to the Super Bowl for the second time under Brady.
That game against the Carolina Panthers was a back-and-forth affair, but Brady and the Patriots were the last team to possess the ball.
As so many opponents would discover over the years to come, that's bad news. On the way to 354 passing yards, three scores and his second Super Bowl MVP award, Brady led a drive that resulted in an Adam Vinatieri field goal that gave the Patriots their second Lombardi Trophy.
There would be more.
A lot more.
4. 2014 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLIX)
It's been at least somewhat forgotten, but when the Patriots faced the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, Tom Brady's championship legacy was at something of a crossroads. After victories in his first three Super Bowls, he had lost a pair—both to the New York Giants.
When the Pats took the field at University of Phoenix Stadium, it had been a decade since they had won a Lombardi Trophy. But thanks to some late-game heroics from cornerback Malcolm Butler and a 328-yard, four-touchdown passing performance from Brady, New England ended its dry spell with a 28-24 win.
That the latter's performance earned MVP honors over the former's game-sealing interception stuck in a few craws. But at game's end, Brady got his fourth ring and joined an exclusive club under center.
The regular season that came before it was rather average for Brady and the Patriots, which speaks to just how high that bar had been set by 2014. Brady passed for 4,109 yards and 31 touchdowns while the Patriots went 12-4 to capture the top seed in the AFC before downing the Baltimore Ravens and blowing out the Indianapolis Colts to make it to the Super Bowl.
By this point in Brady's career, he was already very much in the all-time-great conversation. But by winning his fourth title to equal Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, 2014 was the year he staked a claim as the all-time great.
And now he's about to play in his fourth Super Bowl since then.
3. 2004 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXIX)
If Kansas City can defeat Brady and the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, then it's a safe bet talk of the Chiefs as the NFL's next dynasty will ramp up.
Back in 2004, a similar conversation was taking place about the Brady-led Patriots. After wins in two of the past three Super Bowls, the Patriots peeled off a 14-2 regular season before downing the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs for an opportunity to become back-to-back champions.
By then, Brady had settled into something of a statistical routine. He'd throw for a bit under 4,000 yards, toss 25-30 touchdown passes and post a passer rating around 90. Those weren't elite numbers even by the standards of that era.
But when it came to winning, Brady was already unparalleled.
By the end of the 2004 season, his record in the regular season was a ridiculous 48-14. Even more impressively, by the time he took the field at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, he was a perfect 8-0 in the postseason.
And Brady wasn't about to let Donovan McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles ruin that perfect record.
In terms of passing yards and touchdown passes, Brady was outperformed by McNabb. The New England signal-caller threw for a so-so 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But as was the case in his first two Super Bowls, Brady didn't make any mistakes. Meanwhile, McNabb was intercepted three times. That clean performance helped pave the way for the Patriots to go back-to-back.
It's the last time any NFL team has accomplished that feat.
2. 2001 New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVI)
No matter how often you do something successfully, there's always something special about the first time you pull it off.
Brady's ascension to stardom as the quarterback for the New England Patriots has been well-documented. After starting the 2001 season 0-2, the Pats lost starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe to an injury. That opened the door for an unheralded second-year quarterback taken in the sixth round in 2000 to be thrust into the role.
From there, all that unheralded young signal-caller did was lead New England to 11 wins in 14 starts to get the Pats into the playoffs, where he engineered upset wins over the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers to reach Super Bowl XXXVI.
Brady's reward for those heroics? A matchup with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams.
The New England defense gets most of the credit for engineering a stunning upset over the heavily favored Rams, but Brady was named the game's MVP despite passing for just 145 yards and a touchdown.
Those relatively modest numbers were a carryover from the regular season. Brady had just 18 touchdown passes in 2001 and averaged fewer than 200 yards per game.
That became a theme in the early part of his career, though. The stats weren't great, but the wins just kept piling up.
And in just a few more years, fans and pundits alike would know 2001 was no fluke. We were witnessing the beginning of something special.
1. 2016 New England Patriots (Super Bowl LI)
There's a set of numbers that will forever live in Super Bowl lore, more than any other symbolizing the greatness of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
Twenty-eight to three.
That was the score of Super Bowl LI with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, and the Patriots were on the wrong end of it.
It looked like a season that started with Brady serving a four-game suspension after the Deflategate scandal would end in disappointment. The Pats finished the 2016 regular season at 14-2. After a November loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they peeled off nine straight wins to earn the right to face the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston.
But as it turns out, Brady was just showing Atlanta some light before slamming the door.
The Patriots peeled off 25 unanswered points, forcing overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history. When running back James White plunged across the goal line on the first drive of the extra period, it capped the largest comeback in Super Bowl history and gave Brady the fifth championship of his career.
Brady finished the game 43-of-62 for a whopping 466 yards and two scores on the way to MVP honors, and while his numbers that season weren't eye-popping, the comeback that moved him past Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw (in terms of championships) sits atop this list.