Tom Brady's six Super Bowl performances, ranked by PFF grade
As New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady prepares for his seventh career Super Bowl, the Pro Football Focus analysis team recently went back and graded Brady’s previous appearances in the big game prior to the PFF era (which covers the 2006 NFL season and beyond).
With that data now collected, it’s time to rank the future Hall-of-Famer’s Super Bowl games in terms of PFF overall grade.
1. Super Bowl XXXIX
NFL season: 2004
Score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
PFF overall grade: 82.7
New England came out with a conservative game plan as they worked in a number of screens to slow down a blitz-heavy Eagles’ defense, and Brady missed only a handful of throws while making some key ones in the red zone. As has been the case in many of his Super Bowl appearances, Brady was excellent at the end of the first half, throwing a well-placed touchdown to WR David Givens along the sideline in the end zone with 1:10 remaining in the second quarter. In the second half, Brady made his best throw of the day on a 21-yard corner route to eventual Super Bowl MVP WR Deion Branch, setting up a 2-yard touchdown to LB Mike Vrabel for his second Super Bowl score in two years. There was little work to do beyond that, as the Patriots’ defense cracked down in the fourth quarter, and a lack of urgency by the Eagles’ offense took too much time off the clock. On the day, Brady was 0-for-3 on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air, but 6-for-7 for 110 yards at the intermediate (10-19-yard) range.
2. Super Bowl XXXVIII
NFL season: 2003
Score: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
PFF overall grade: 79.0
After a slow start for both offenses, this one turned into a shootout, and Brady made a number of big throws to lead the Patriots to 32 points. His performance was marred by two poor decisions—a dropped interception in the first quarter and a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone—but he bounced back from both plays to make throws in crunch time. With New England down by one in the fourth quarter, Brady led a 68-yard touchdown drive, capping it with a 1-yard touchdown pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel. With the Patriots ‘defense once again unable to hold onto the lead, Brady and the New England offense got the ball back with 1:08 to go in a tied 29-29 game, and Brady completed 4-of-5 passes for 47 yards to set up the 41-yard game-winning field goal by Vinatieri. While the New England defense was one of the league’s best at the time, they were not sharp in this one, and this was perhaps Brady’s most impressive game, as he made big plays throughout the night while finishing 12-for-21 for 226 yards and two touchdowns on passes thrown at least 10 yards in the air.
3. Super Bowl XLVI
NFL season: 2011
Opponent: Giants 21, Patriots 17
PFF overall grade: 77.2
The rematch looked similar to the 2007 season game, as the Giants’ defensive front did damage again, pressuring Brady on 20 of his 43 dropbacks (47 percent of the time). However, it was Brady’s hesitancy in the end zone that led to an intentional grounding penalty to give the Giants a 2-0 lead early on. After that slow start, Brady found his groove in the middle of the game, capping two touchdown drives with red-zone passing touchdowns. He then made another bad decision early in the fourth quarter, though, as a jump-ball heave to an injured TE Rob Gronkowski got picked off by Giants LB Chase Blackburn, and New England was unable to hold its two-point lead down the stretch. Brady had his chances, as he threw behind an open Wes Welker on a drop that would have been a game-changer, and like the previous Super Bowl matchup with the Giants, he was unable to connect on downfield throws; Brady finished 4-for-10 for 71 yards on passes thrown beyond 10 yards. Overall, Brady handled the Giants’ pressure much better this time around, and he was efficient in the short game, but he did leave a few throws on the table in the end.
4. Super Bowl XLIX
NFL season: 2014
Score: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
PFF overall grade: 72.1
The game plan in this one was the put the ball in Brady’s hands, as New England runners carried only 19 times for 60 yards, and the quarterback dropped back to pass 50 times. New England worked the short-passing game extremely well, as Brady consistently found the open man while sprinkling in the necessary intermediate throws as they came available. His overall grade is marred mostly by a horrible red-zone decision in the first half, as he rushed a throw that was easily intercepted by CB Jeremy Lane in the end zone. A second-half interception by Seattle LB Bobby Wagner wasn’t a great decision, either, but Wagner deserves as much credit for a great play, while Lane simply hauled in the errant throw with ease. Beyond those two passes, Brady didn’t miss many, and he made key plays in the red zone, with a slant for a touchdown to WR Brandon LaFell, a touchdown to WR Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone, and the eventual game-winner to WR Julian Edelman. The other key pass in the game was a deep ball to TE Rob Gronkowski for one of Brady’s four scores as the Patriots took advantage of a mismatch with LB K.J. Wright. From Tom Brady’s perspective, this game will be remembered for the QB’s work in the fourth quarter, as he went 14-of-18 for 130 yards and two scores to carry New England to victory from a 10-point deficit. It was the fifth time Brady led the Patriots to a lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and it capped their fourth win in six tries with Brady under center.
5. Super Bowl XLII
NFL season: 2007
Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
PFF overall grade: 67.7
An opportunity for a perfect season was thwarted by a fantastic defensive effort by the Giants. The defensive coaching staff dialed up all the right blitzes, unloading free rushers on Brady at key times, but it was the front four for New York that did the real damage, helping to pressure Brady on 23 of his 53 dropbacks (43 percent of the time). The New England quarterback was unable to find a rhythm the entire game, as he got hit early and often; even when given a clean pocket, he was rushed just enough that he missed key throws. Brady finished the game 0-for-8 on deep (20-plus yard) throws while going 4-for-6 for 57 yards at the intermediate range, as the Giants did a fine job of keeping the ball in front of them defensively. Brady still managed to throw the would-be game-winning touchdown to WR Randy Moss late in the fourth quarter, but Giants QB Eli Manning pulled out his late-game magic to lead New York to the upset victory.
6. Super Bowl XXXVI
NFL season: 2001
Score: Patriots 20, Rams 17
PFF overall grade: 48.9
Brady’s very first Super Bowl win is often attributed to the Patriots’ defense, and rightfully so, as they did a fantastic job of shutting down QB Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams’ high-powered offense. Brady was charged with carrying out a simple game plan, working underneath routes while taking the occasional downfield shot, though he was officially 0-for-1 on passes thrown beyond 20 yards, and missed on another deep shot that was negated by penalty. However, Brady made the necessary throws under pressure, first connecting with WR David Patten for a touchdown at the end of the first half on a beauty of an out-and-up. The final drive was, of course, classic Brady, as he was cool under pressure while leading the Patriots to a game-winning field-goal attempt. Brady took the open check-downs on the drive before hitting WR Troy Brown on a 23-yard crossing route and TE Jermaine Wiggins for a 6-yarder to set up K Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning kick. While it wasn’t Brady’s finest outing, his work in crunch time foreshadowed his Hall of Fame career.
More: See why Patriots QB Tom Brady was the recipient of PFF’s Best Player, Offensive Player of the Year, and Best Passer awards for the 2016 NFL season.