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Tom Brady Super Bowl Appearances for Dummies

We are getting you ready for Tom Brady’s 10th Super bowl appearance with a refresher on his first nine big games.

Tom Brady by Maize and Blue Nation is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Tom Brady Super Bowl Appearances for Dummies


Estimated Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Tom Brady, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, will start in his 10th Super Bowl this Sunday. Brady has made it to the Super Bowl in more than 50% of the seasons where he’s started more than one game.

Brady has simply too much history in the big game to expect anyone to remember all of it, so we’re providing this game-by-game primer as a refresher. If you’re someone who has never seen a Tom Brady Super Bowl but somehow clicked on this, welcome aboard.

Super Bowl XXXVI – Defeated St. Louis Rams 20-17

Brady took over as the starter for the Patriots in his second season when star quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured vs. the New York Jets. The team started out 5-5, but then went on to win their remaining six regular season games and playoff bouts vs. the Raiders and Steelers.

New England faced off against the Rams whose high-power offense had been nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf”. The Patriots defense stifled the St. Louis offense for most of the game, but the Rams tied the game with 1:30 remaining. Brady then led the Patriots down the field to set up a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri, and this was the first chapter of Brady’s storybook career.

Key Play – Law’s Pick-6

The Rams led 3-0 about halfway through the second quarter when Mike Vrabel rushed Kurt Warner into a bad pass that sailed right to Ty Law, who returned it for a touchdown and made New England fans believe anything was possible that night.

Super Bowl XXXVIII – Defeated Carolina Panthers 32-29          

Brady and the Patriots missed the playoffs after their first Super Bowl win and then started out the next season 2-2. ESPN Analyst Tom Jackson famously referenced what he thought Patriots players felt about Bill Belichick by saying, “They hate their coach.” The Patriots won their final 12 regular season games and then beat the 2003 Co-MVPS (Steve McNair and Peyton Manning) in back-to-back playoff wins.

This is also one of the weirder Super Bowls in history as points were only scored in the last three minutes of the first half and in the fourth quarter. The last seven minutes of the game was a true back and forth, and the teams were tied with a little over a minute remaining. In a moment of Déjà vu that Panthers fans didn’t want to see, Brady drove the Patriots down the field for another game-winning field goal by Vinatieri.

Key Play – Kasay’s Miscue

After the Panthers tied the game at 29-29 with 1:13 remaining, John Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. This resulted in a penalty giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40-yard line. New England only needed to gain 37 yards to set up Vinatieri’s winner.

Super Bowl XXXIX – Defeated Philadelphia Eagles 24-21

The Patriots matched their previous season’s record by again going 14-2 in 2004. New England then faced Peyton Manning and the Colts in their first playoff game. Manning had set the record for touchdown passes in a season with 49, but the Patriots defense held the Colts to only 3 points. Brady led the team to a victory in Pittsburgh the following week and their return to the Super Bowl was set.

The Patriots and Eagles were tied at halftime (7-7) and again at the end of the third quarter (14-14). But New England pulled away in the fourth quarter by scoring 10 points to take a 24-14 lead. The Eagles added a touchdown late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Patriots from repeating as Super Bowl Champions. Brady was now 3-0 in the Super Bowl after his first four seasons as a starter in the NFL.

Key Play – The Bruschi Gets McNabb

The Eagles had a first down on the New England 36, down 24-14 with about seven and a half minutes remaining. Instead of at least getting a field goal to pull within a single score, Donovan McNabb threw an interception to Tedy Bruschi and the Patriots were able to milk two more minutes off the game clock.

Super Bowl XLII – Lost to New York Giants 17-14

In the 2007 season Brady set a new season record for TD passes with 50, receiver Randy Moss set a new season record for TD receptions with 23 and the team went 16-0.

Many thought their Super Bowl win against the Giants was only a formality and their perfect season was guaranteed. The New York defense didn’t see it that way, sacking Brady five times and slowing their historic offense to a halt. Brady still connected with Moss on a late TD to take a 14-10 lead, but Eli Manning led his team down the field for an even later score, a Giants Super Bowl win and Brady’s first Super Bowl loss.

Key Play – Helmet Catch

The Giants faced a third down with just over a minute remaining when Manning heaved a prayer down the field. The rest is simply known as “The Helmet Catch”.

Super Bowl XLVI – Lost to New York Giants 21-17

The Patriots were 5-3 on the season after losing to the Giants in a Week 9 Super Bowl rematch. The team then won their last 8 games and demolished a Tim Tebow-led Broncos team in the playoffs. New England got lucky in the AFC Championship Game with a last second TD pass breakup and then a missed FG by the Ravens which sent them to a real Super Bowl rematch vs. the Giants.

Brady did not have a great start as he committed an Intentional Grounding penalty that had to be ruled a Safety as it occurred in their own endzone. The Patriots trailed 9-0 after the first quarter, but Brady would complete 16 straight passes over the 2nd and 3rd quarters and New England led 17-9 deep in the 3rd quarter. But Brady and the Patriots could not put up any more points on the board and the Giants came back to win 21-17, giving Brady his second Super Bowl loss.

Key Play – Welker Drop/Brady Misfire

The Patriots led 17-15 with a little over four minutes remaining, and New England had the ball on the Giants 44. Brady lofted a pass to Wes Welker, but the two couldn’t complete the connection (who was at fault is still debated). A catch would have put the ball right near the Giants 20 and allowed the Patriots to kill a lot of clock (the Giants only had one timeout left) and score at least three points. Instead, the Patriots failed to convert on the ensuing third down and punted.

Super Bowl XLIX – Defeated Seattle Seahawks 28-24

In 2014, Brady was still looking for his elusive fourth Super Bowl, which would tie him with his childhood idol, Joe Montana. The team did not immediately look championship-caliber. After a blowout loss to the Chiefs put the Pats at 2-2 ESPN Analyst Trent Dilfer said the immortal line, “The New England Patriots, let’s face it, they’re not good anymore!” New England went 10-2 for the rest of the season, then beat the Ravens and Colts to reach the Super Bowl.

The Patriots and Seahawks played an extremely even first half and were tied 14-14 at halftime. Seattle received the kickoff out of the break and netted a field goal on their first drive. Brady was then intercepted by Bobby Wagner and Seattle scored a touchdown to take a 24-14 lead. As Brady saw another chance of a fourth ring slipping away, he put together a nearly perfect fourth quarter, going 13 of 15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots would hold onto their 28-24 lead, despite some last second drama, and Brady finally had his fourth championship.

Key Play – Malcolm, Go!

The Seahawks had one last chance to win the game as they had second and goal on the Patriots 1 with :26 left. Seattle chose to pass the ball in this situation and Russell Wilson’s pass intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by Malcolm Butler, securing the Lombardi Trophy for the Patriots.

Super Bowl LI – Defeated Atlanta Falcons 34-28 (OT)

The Patriots started the season 4-1, but most importantly, they did it without Brady who was serving a suspension for Deflategate (Editor’s note: the lack of explanation or link for that is intentional). When Brady returned, he led New England to a 11-1 record and only threw 2 interceptions in his 12 games back. The Patriots won both their AFC playoff games vs. the Texans and Steelers by double-digits.

The beginning of this Super Bowl was a much different story as the Falcons jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, which grew to 21-0 when Brady threw a pick-6 to Robert Alford late in the 2nd quarter. The Falcons added another score shortly after halftime and were winning 28-3 with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Brady and the Patriots proceeded to score 25 points in the final 17 minutes of the game to tie the score. New England also won the coin toss in overtime and James White capped a nine-play drive, and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, off with a Super Bowl-winning 2-yard score.

Key Play – Flowers Packs a Sack Lunch

There are many worthy candidates of best play, like the Hightower Strip Sack, the Edelman catch and what might be the best throw of Brady’s career. But the key play came from defensive end Trey Flowers.

After New England brought the score to 28-20 the Falcons had the ball with just under six minutes left and there was the opportunity to put the game away. Julio Jones made a miraculous catch and Atlanta had a first down at the New England 22 with about four and a half minutes left.  All they had to do was drain the clock or kick a field goal to put their win over the top. But after a one-yard loss on first down, Flowers burst through and sacked Matt Ryan all the way back at the New England 35. A hold on the next play took the Falcons out of field goal range and their punt then allowed Brady to lead the game-tying drive.

Super Bowl LII – Lost to Philadelphia Eagles 41-33

The Patriots lost Julian Edelman to a torn ACL in the preseason, and started out 2-2. New England then went 11-1 the rest of the season and Brady won his third MVP. After easily handling the Titans in their first playoff game, Brady led a comeback that erased a 10-point Jacksonville lead in the 4th quarter to get to his 8th Super Bowl.

The second time Brady faced the Eagles in the Super Bowl went differently. For one, there was only one punt in the entire game as neither defense seemed to have shown up for the big game. A lot of the storyline was about how Malcom Butler was benched by the Patriots, but the Eagles defense also allowed Brady to throw for 500+ yards and 3 TDs. But with the Eagles winning 38-33 right before the two minute warning, Brandon Graham strip sacked Brady with just over two minutes to go and all but sealed the Eagles victory.

Key Play – Pats D Can’t Get Off the Field

The Philly Special gets all the love, but that play also happened in the first half. Another Eagles play in the fourth quarter loomed larger. Philly was trailing 33-32 with a little over six minutes left. They completed a short pass to Torrey Smith on 3rd and 1 at their own 45 yard-line, failing to convert the first down. Instead of giving the ball back to an offense that would never punt in the game, Philly went for it and Nick Foles connected with Zach Ertz for the first down. The Eagles would continue to drive down the field until Foles found Ertz again for a TD and a lead Philly would never give up.

[Go to 02:02:20 in this video]

Super Bowl LIII – Defeated Los Angeles Rams 13-3

The Patriots started their season after their Super Bowl loss by again going 1-2. They won their next six games, but then lost three of the next five, and finished 11-5 on the season. While their win against the Chargers in the Divisional Round was applauded, no one thought they had much of a chance in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City. The Patriots had other ideas and jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense woke up in the second half and scored 24 points in the fourth quarter. Again, New England surprised everyone by keeping up with Kansas City, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter to force OT, and then scoring a touchdown on the first drive to earn their Super Bowl berth.

This Super Bowl was basically the antithesis of the previous year where the two teams combined to punt FOURTEEN times. After one of the more embarrassing defensive performances in Super Bowl history the previous year, the Patriots were on point for this whole game. New England sacked Jared Goff four times and intercepted him once, while also limiting the Rams to only 62 total rushing yards. The game was tied 3-3 until deep in the fourth quarter when the Patriots scored 10 points in the final seven minutes, securing Brady’s sixth Super Bowl ring.

Key Play – Glimpse of Vintage Gronk

The Patriots had the ball at the Rams 31 yard-line with under eight minutes remaining in the game. Rob Gronkowski had one of his worst statistical seasons this year, but when it mattered most Brady looked for him. He lofted a pass deep into the Rams red zone and Gronkowski brought it in at the 2. Sony Michel ran in the game’s only touchdown on the next play.

Now you’re all set for Brady’s 10th Super Bowl on Sunday. Enjoy the game!

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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