Tom Brady’s six Super Bowl performances, ranked by PFF grade

Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo recaps Tom Brady's Super Bowl career, ranking each appearance by PFF overall grade.

| 4 months ago
Tom Brady

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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.

Tom Brady Super Bowl grades

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.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • B

    You forgot to include exceptional use of film taken of Rams practices the week of the Super Bowl.

    • crosseyedlemon

      You make it sound like the Rams had some secret playbook of ingenious strategy that they had hidden away all season long and were just now practicing. The reality is that coaches go with what got them that far and the Patriots would have seen nothing unexpected if they had done homework studying past Ram games (which of course they would have).

      • Rick

        The Patriots had played the Rams in the regular season and played a pretty close game. They of course had tapes of that game – that’s utterly normal. With that in hand, they were able to devise a different game plan for the Super Bowl. The Rams didn’t change anything in their game plan. Belichick outcoached Mike Martz.

        • crosseyedlemon

          By the time the championship game arrives coaches are very knowledgeable about what things will and will not work. No coach wants to stand before the media after the game and explain why he went away from something that was tried and tested and had been successful to try something unusual. Practice the week prior to the championship is used to fine tune timing and execution not to burden already distracted players with new playbook assignments.

          • Rick

            Good coaches design game plans for the opponents they are playing that week. The Patriots change their offensive and defensive game plans from week to week. And they have a lot of success that way. In contrast, the Steelers keep rolling out the same defensive plan to stop Brady and it never works.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Obviously coaches will make adjustments to account for players out with injuries (their own as well as the opponents) but they are not going to abandon those schemes they have worked hard at from day one of training camp to try something out of the blue. A week of practice is not nearly enough time to make major changes that can be executed fluidly with a high degree of success.

    • dougchase

      No VHS CASSETTE in the cameras.
      You are participating in slander.

    • Rick

      PFF isn’t in the business of passing on rumors that have since been retracted by the man who started them.
      But some people cling to lies and slanders no matter how many people tell them that they are false.
      Actually, the only accusation Matt Walsh made was that the Pats filmed the Rams’ walkthrough. “Taped practices” is a story that took on its own life without any evidence or testimony, ever.

    • Bruinman86

      Was proven to be false.

  • Larry

    What could have been for the Seahawks if Lane didn’t get hurt on that interception? Not that Lane is a shutdown guy, but his replacement, Tharold Simon, was a major contributor to 3 of the 4 touchdowns the Pats scored (1 to LaFell, 1 to Edelman on a route Simon had already seen one drive earlier yet still missed, and a big play that set up Gronk’s).

    Also, Super Bowl 38 against Carolina may be the most exciting Super Bowl I’ve seen. Great game all around (also played in Houston), going from a defensive stalemate to slugfest.

  • Rick

    Interesting that Brady’s Super Bowl MVPs came from his 2nd, 4th, and 6th best performances by PFF grade. That Super Bowl XLVI would be lowest is hardly a surprise – Brady actually did little in the victory over the Rams. But I’d expected a higher grade in the game vs. Seattle. Presumably I’m over-influenced by his 4th quarter play and have minimized the interceptions. After all, as Larry points out, the Lane interception led to an injury and his replacement by Tharold Simon. From that point on, Brady targeted Simon incessantly, and Edelman was finally able to get open at will. IMO, that injury was the biggest turning point of the game.

  • AJ

    Other than a few key plays, Brady’s overall performance, along with the entire offense, during the entire postseason of that first Super Bowl run was pretty unspectacular.

    Offense didn’t do much against the Raiders, finishing with 16 points in an overtime game (although the weather wasn’t exactly optimal), left early against Pittsburgh with injury, and the game winning field goal in that Super Bowl was the only drive that the offense scored on that started on their side of the field. The other 3 scores were on drives that started in opponent territory, and the defense scored on a pick 6 and got 2 other turnovers. Rams also missed a field goal in the game. That was a team win (mostly defense for holding the historically great Rams offense to 3 first half points).

    • Albert Heisenberg

      The Rams did score 17 second half points on them. If you average it out that’s a 34 point game (terrible for Belichick’s standards). Funny thing is the Pats D has hardly been shutout in their Super Bowls. They’ve given up an average of 26 pts per Super Bowl.

  • R.T. Flakfizer

    Please do not perpetuate the idea that Brady was off on his throw to Welker that was dropped. That was not a route. Tom and Wes both saw at the line of scrimmage that a general area of the field was going to be open. Wes ran to that general area and Brady lofted it to that general area. It was not exact route and Brady did not throw the ball with the usual zip he throws with precisely because he was not trying to hit a player in stride, but was throwing to decent-sized area wherein he knew Wes would be. He threw it soft enough so as to let Wes adjust and Wes failed to do so correctly. Please watch the play again. Brady does not loft throw to receivers on routes.

    • Rick

      It’s clear that there was a miscommunication about that pass. Welker turned in one direction and the pass was to the opposite shoulder, so he had to turn nearly 270 degrees to get his hand on it.
      I wouldn’t agree with the statement that Brady threw it “soft enough”. That wasn’t the problem in any case. It was thrown to the wrong shoulder and required an acrobatic catch. That could be either Welker’s fault or Brady’s – we don’t know what the play call was.
      “Brady does not loft throws to receivers on routes.” He certainly does.

    • AJ

      Going for a back-shoulder throw in that situation is perfectly understandable, but there was absolutely no need to throw it that high in the air to make Welker do an awkward jump just to get his hands on it. A better throw would have been the same throw but a foot lower, and it would have been much easier to catch. Yes, Welker got 2 hands on it, but it was from a body position, route, and spot on the field he never catches from.

    • Albert Heisenberg

      Totally agree. Ive watched that play plenty of times, and even noted Tom Brady hater Shannon Sharpe said Welker “HAS to catch that ball, it him square in the hands.” Welker over-ran the route – there’s a free safety playing the middle of field and Welker wasn’t paying attention to him. Alas, what could’ve been. Brady actually set a Super Bowl record for consecutive completions in that game.