If you’ve been a football fan for a while, then you’re plenty accustomed to seeing Tom Brady deliver clutch fourth quarter drives to win football games. It’s been his thing since 2001, and it has contributed heavily to his earning of “GOAT” status. Well, that and the six Super Bowl rings.
But, a handful of Brady’s game-winning drives have happened in the Big Game itself. Even though the Patriots’ offense wasn’t much of a spectacle this past Sunday in Super Bowl 53, they were still tied 3-3 with the Rams in the fourth quarter, and Brady chose the perfect time to drive the Pats down the field and put Sony Michel in position to score the go-ahead touchdown.
Brady has delivered a game-winning drive in five of New England’s six Super Bowl victories, with the exception being Super Bowl 39. Which drive was the best? Let’s give a quick rundown of each one.
Super Bowl 36: Against the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams, Brady, at the time just an unknown 24-year-old backup quarterback, took the ball with a little over a minute left and the game tied 17-17. He drove the Patriots right down the field and put Adam Vinatieri in position for a game-winning field goal. Patriots 20, Rams 17.
Super Bowl 38: Brady found himself in a very similar situation just two years later, as the Patriots and Carolina Panthers were tied 29-29 with a little over a minute left. Thanks to John Kasay’s kickoff landing out of bounds, the Patriots took the ball at their own 40-yard line. From there, it was basically a cakewalk for Brady to once again put Vinatieri in position for the winning field goal. Patriots 32, Panthers 29.
Super Bowl 49: In this game, Brady engineered not one, but two touchdown drives to beat the Seattle Seahawks. Trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter and going up against the “Legion of Boom” defense that Seattle boasted back in the day, Brady led a 68-yard drive culminating with a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. Then on their next possession, Brady did it again, this time hitting Julian Edelman for the go-ahead score. And then, of course, Malcolm Butler came along to steal the show and clinch the victory. Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.
Super Bowl 51: Tom Brady led New England’s game-winning drive in overtime, which might have just seemed like any old game-winning overtime drive. But the Patriots only had the opportunity to play in overtime because Brady led them back from an incredible 25-point deficit against the Atlanta Falcons. We all know the story from there: Patriots win the overtime coin toss, Brady takes them down the field, and James White runs it in for the win. Patriots 34, Falcons 28.
Super Bowl 53: After a defensive battle, Brady was finally able to get the edge on the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter. On the most productive drive the Patriots had all game, Brady took them down the field, connecting with Rob Gronkowski on an incredible diving catch that brought them within the five-yard line, and then handed off to the rookie Michel for the go-ahead touchdown. On their next possession, Brady set up Stephen Gostkowski for a game-clinching field goal. Patriots 13, Rams 3.
Brady has had so many clutch fourth quarter drives, it’s hard to keep count. But when it comes to my personal favorite, I always get pulled back to February of 2002 at the New Orleans Superdome.
That field goal drive to win New England’s first ever Super Bowl was as clutch as any quarterback performance in NFL history, and it’s typically something you would expect from an experienced veteran, an MVP-type quarterback. It’s certainly not something you would expect to see from a 24-year-old backup who hadn’t even started for a full season.
It’s not like Brady had done anything in Super Bowl 36 that really made you jump out of your seat. He only threw for 145 yards in the game. His only touchdown was a result of Bill Belichick’s gritty defense forcing “The Greatest Show on Turf” to turn the ball over.
But when the lights were at their brightest, and the Patriots needed him to come through against the best team in the NFL, the inexperienced kid from San Mateo, California took the keys and gave them an opportunity to win the game. It was at that moment when we realized that we might just have something special in Brady.
Seventeen years and six rings later, we were certainly right. You might have your favorite Super Bowl-winning Brady drive, but mine will always be that first one in New Orleans. I doubt anything will ever top it for me.