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There's Now More Than An Entire Game's Worth Of Tom Brady Clutch Drives In Super Bowl And Postseason

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Once upon a time, long ago, we once were so naive, so ignorant, so shortsighted that we believed Tom Brady's game-winning drive to cap off a 25-point comeback in Super Bowl LI would serve as the perfect bookend to the quarterback's Hall of Fame career.

What fools we once were.

As we now know, Brady was able to do what no one in history has been able to do, sustaining his career into his 40s, adding an MVP to his resume, reaching two more Super Bowls, setting a new Super Bowl passing record and winning one more championship. Though the quarterback is somehow still not satisfied after winning Super Bowl No. 6, that doesn't mean we can't take a moment to marvel at the otherworldly career that is impossibly still ongoing.

It was really striking this week to be reminded of a story from February of 2017, a story that spotlighted the Patriots' game-winning drive in overtime to beat the Falcons in that fateful Super Bowl. The idea was simple: Tom Brady's had a great career, and you could sum it all up simply by watching the game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI vs. the Rams and the overtime drive against the Falcons. Two drives: the beginning, the end.

It was neat. It was tidy. Tom Brady's career, two simple, defining drives.

Brady being Brady, the picture has since been complicated.

Obviously, Super Bowl LIII between the Patriots and Rams was not an offensive showcase, but Brady nevertheless did something that every single quarterback who ever puts on a helmet and something that every kid in every backyard in the country aspires to do -- he led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. This drive -- during which Brady went 4-for-4 for 67 yards -- was not the pinnacle of Brady's career. Instead, it was just another chapter in the long, long history of Brady's postseason accolades.

In fact, if one were so inclined, one could compile more than an entire game's worth of footage that solely shows clutch, fourth-quarter drives in Super Bowl wins or playoff wins from championship seasons.

The definition of "clutch" may vary, but for the sake of this experiment, it's considered to be a fourth-quarter or overtime scoring drive that either contributed to a comeback, put the Patriots ahead, or put a one-score game out of reach. It's not necessarily scientific, but by that definition, Brady has led 18 clutch drives in victories -- and that's only including the six postseasons that ended with a Lombardi Trophy.

All told, from the Snow Bowl vs. Oakland through last weekend's win over the Rams, those 18 drives total 63 minutes and 45 seconds of game action.

That is to say, you could fill up 63 minutes and 46 seconds -- more than an entire game's worth of footage -- solely consisting of Brady leading clutch drives in playoff games during championship seasons.

Of that near-64 minutes of clutch performances, 31:36 comes from Super Bowl victories.


SB36: 1:21, 53 yards -- game-winning field goal
SB38: 3:52, 68 yards -- go-ahead TD with 2:52 left
SB38: 0:59, 37 yards, -- game-winning field goal
SB39: 4:46, 71 yards -- game-winning TD
SB49: 4:10, 68 yards -- TD to cut Seattle lead to 3
SB49: 4:46, 64 yards -- game-winning TD
SB51: 2:28, 25 yards -- TD to cut Atlanta lead to 8
SB51: 2:33, 91 yards -- game-tying TD (plus 2-point conversion pass)
SB51: 3:52, 75 yards -- game-winning TD in overtime
SB53: 2:49, 69 yards -- game-winning TD

TOTAL: 10 drives, 31:36, 621 yards (62.1 yards/drive, 3:10/drive)

The rest of that near-64-minute chunk of clutchness is quite memorable. Two scoring drives in the fourth quarter of the Snow Bowl, plus the soul-sucking game-winning drive in OT. A game-winning field goal drive (with a fourth-down conversion) to beat the Titans on a frigid night in the '03 playoffs. The unforgettable win over the Ravens in the '14 playoffs, capped with a beauty of a pass to Brandon LaFell at the front left pylon. The furious action late in Kansas City this year.

Put it all together, and you've got another 32-plus minutes of clutch playoff wins in championship seasons from Brady.


'01 Divisional: 4:32, 67 yards -- TD to cut Oakland lead to 3
'01 Divisional: 1:34, 26 yards -- game-tying field goal
'01 Divisional: 8:25, 61 yards -- game-winning field goal in OT
'03 Divisional: 2:29, 33 yards -- game-winning field goal
'14 Divisional: 4:49, 74 yards -- game-winning TD
'18 Championship: 4:13, 75 yards -- go-ahead TD with 3:32 left
'18 Championship: 1:18, 65 yards -- go-ahead TD with :39 left
'18 Championship: 4:50, 75 yards -- game-winning TD in overtime

TOTAL: 8 drives, 32:10, 476 yards (59.5 yards/drive, 4:01/drive)

To reiterate, this isn't merely a compilation of all of Brady's playoff wins. It's strictly a collection of the games that required Brady to lead scoring drives late in playoff games during seasons that ended with a championship. If he failed on any one of them, the Patriots' season likely would have ended in dismay. But where most quarterbacks find themselves successful maybe three or four times at best in their careers, Brady just kept on thriving. Again and again. Year after year. Decade after decade.

"It probably won't sink in for a very, very long time," Brady said after winning his sixth Super Bowl. "I'm just so blessed to play with the best teammates through the years, from our '01 team and all the way through now. I love all those guys. That's what makes this special, man. It's a brotherhood. All these relationships are so important in my life and I can't cherish it enough. It's going to be celebration tonight."

Certainly, nobody's been able to enjoy those early February celebrations nearly as often as Brady. He owns a 30-10 win-loss record in the postseason, and his 30 wins match the combined win total of the next two leading quarterbacks. Joe Montana went 16-7 in the playoffs, and Terry Bradshaw went 14-5; Brady matches them in total playoff wins, and his .750 winning percentage is better than Montana and Bradshaw's combined .714 postseason winning percentage.

To compile this list, we're ignoring 16 playoff wins where Brady and the Patriots took care of business long before the fourth quarter rolled around. Sixteen playoff wins would constitute a Hall of Fame career (it would have a player tied with Montana for second-most playoff wins in history). Yet we need not even mention those to make this particular case for greatness.

Even still, Brady's had his fair share of disappointments. Even for the greatest winner of all time, losses cannot be avoided.

Yet despite the final result of Brady's 10 playoff losses, even those games have not been without some dramatic drives from Brady.

In Super Bowl XLII, the undefeated Patriots trailed 10-7 with 7:54 left in the game. Brady led an 80-yard drive, completing eight of 11 passes for 66 yards and throwing a go-ahead touchdown pass to Randy Moss with 2:45 left in the game. It could have been the game-winner. It should have been the game-winner. Alas, the helmet catch happened, and history was made.

Another playoff loss -- in the 2015 AFC Championship Game in Denver -- included one of the most impressive drives of Brady's entire career. Trailing by eight points with 1:52 left and just one timeout left, the Patriots took over at midfield. Brady had been battered and beaten all afternoon by DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson (the Broncos recorded 17 QB hits), but he managed to stand tall in the pocket to deliver a strike to Rob Gronkowski for a 40-yard pickup on a fourth-and-10. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Brady again went back to Gronkowski for a touchdown after buying time in the collapsing pocket, a score which cut the Denver lead to two points. On the two-point conversion, though, Brady didn't go back to Gronkowski when he should have, instead trying to fit a pass in to Julian Edelman; it was picked off. The Patriots lost.

Brady also led a 75-yard scoring drive while trailing in Super Bowl LII against the Eagles, going 5-for-6 for 53 yards and capping it off with a touchdown pass to Gronkowski. The Patriots took a 33-32 lead, but Nick Foles drove the Eagles right back down the field for the winning points. Brady may have had one more winning drive in him, but he was strip-sacked.

Nevertheless, in those three losses, you can add another 11:36 of clutch drives to the reel.

And, obviously, there were plenty of wins from non-Super Bowl years that required some late-game excellence from No. 12.

It's possible that you wouldn't want to include his game-tying drive in the '06 divisional round against the Chargers, on account of his fourth-down interception, which Marlon McCree generously gave back to the Patriots. But after catching that fortunate break (thanks to Troy Brown being the perfect football player), Brady went 4-for-5 for 32 yards and a touchdown. (Kevin Faulk ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game.) The New England defense then held San Diego to a three-and-out; Brady completed a 49-yard pass to Reche Caldwell on a third-and-10 to get the Patriots into field goal range. Stephen Gostkowski booted the game-winner from the Chargers' 13-yard line. Lights out on the Chargers.

In the '07 divisional round win (in the running for the most forgotten Patriots playoff game of all time), Brady went 2-for-3 for 60 yards after Jacksonville had cut the lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. A chip-shot field goal put the game out of reach.

In the 2011 AFC Championship Game vs. Baltimore, the Patriots trailed 20-16 as the third quarter drew to a close. On what turned out to be the game-winning drive, Brady went 4-for-5 for 45 yards before scoring the touchdown himself:

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Tom Brady scores the winning touchdown in the 2011 AFC Championship Game vs. the Ravens. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

And in the 2017 season, facing a top-ranked Jaguars defense, Brady led the Patriots back from a 20-10 deficit in the fourth quarter. Brady went 5-for-7 for 93 yards and a touchdown pass in a scoring drive that took just 3:19. Brady and the offense were stopped in their next possession, but they were set up at the Jaguars' 30-yard line following a 20-yard return by Danny Amendola with 4:58 left in the game and Jacksonville clinging to a three-point lead. Everybody knew what would happen next: Brady went 3-for-3 for 27 yards, hitting Amendola in the back of the end zone for the touchdown that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

Add up those playoff wins in non-championship seasons, and that's another 17:33 of clutch, winning drives. Add in the losses, and it's another 11:36.

All told, if someone wanted to put together a highlight package that only consisted of clutch, late drives led by Tom Brady in playoff games, that person would have almost 93 minutes to include.

Gostkowski, who's been aboard to witness and partake in these games for the past dozen years, is looking forward to seeing that program one day on his TV.

"You can't say enough good things about Tom Brady," Gostkowski said after winning Super Bowl LIII. "It's just special. ... It will be crazy to see the 30 For 30's one day about this team."

It is, quite obviously, rather impressive. And even though Brady is showered in praise and credit for all of his success, there's still no way to properly gauge what we've witnessed -- and what we continue to witness -- until it's over.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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