New England Patriots: Ranking Tom Brady’s Performances In AFC Championship Games
Ranking Tom Brady's Performances in AFC Championship Games
Tom Brady has put up downright astounding numbers during his 14-year career as a member of the New England Patriots. His figures in the passing game have continued to be top-notch, but his winning statistics are so ridiculous that he is just one Super Bowl win away from being the best quarterback in the history of the game, hands down.
This Sunday against the Denver Broncos marks the eighth time in Brady’s career in which he will quarterback his team to a conference championship game — an NFL record. Considering that Brady rode the pine pony as a rookie in 2000 and missed the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL and MCL, it boils down to two trips to the conference championship game for every three seasons.
It is all remarkable, but enough of that Brady jock-sniffing. When it actually comes to Brady’s play in those AFC title tilts, it has been mediocre at best. The quarterback has a 63.4 percent completion percentage in the regular season, but only a 60.9 percentage in AFC Championship Games. Brady’s average passing yards per game in 193 regular season performances sits at 254.7. Now compare that to just 222.7 when the Lamar Hunt Trophy is on the line.
It gets worse. In the regular season, Brady has 359 touchdowns to 134 picks, good for a 2.68 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Yet in his seven previous AFC title games, Brady has a mere eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Despite such discrepancies, Brady has a 5-2 record in games that decide the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl, and his numbers do indeed get better when the world championship is on the line.
The Patriots were 10-point underdogs going into the Steel City in 2001. Brady was having a solid day (12-of-18 passing for 115 yards) until he suffered a knee injury that looked a lot like a precursor to his 2008 ACL and MCL tears. Former franchise man Drew Bledsoe was promptly inserted, leading the offense to a two-minute drive score on route to a 24-17 victory over the Kordell Stewart-led Pittsburgh Steelers.
Whenever a quarterback has to attempt more than 50 passes, it seems inevitable that their team will lose. That is exactly what happen last year in a 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco hit Anquan Boldin on the first play of the fourth quarter to go up 21-13, and Brady proceeded to throw two fourth-quarter picks on 29-of-54 passing.
If Sterling Moore had not knocked a surefire touchdown out of the hands of Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff had not missed a surefire 33-yard field goal, this would have been Brady's worst game with the AFC title on the line. However, the Patriots won 23-20 despite Brady's 22-36 day. He threw for 239 passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Randy Moss only had one catch for 18 yards, and it was Brady's longest completion of the day. The rest of the stat line read: 22-of-33 passing, 209 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks in a 21-12 victory. If it was not for the defense backing up the best offense ever seen and holding a hobbling Philip Rivers (who played with a torn ACL) to just 211 yards passing, the San Diego Chargers might have beaten New England before they had a chance to lose Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.
We all know the Patriots gagged up a 21-3 halftime lead to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, yet Tom Brady had a pretty decent day (21-of-34, 232 yards, one touchdown, one interception), especially given how awful his assets were (Reche Caldwell and Ben Watson were Brady's top receivers).
Brady's day was not spectacular, but his barely-above-average performance (22-of-37, 237 yards, one touchdown, one pick) was overshadowed by how much agitation the New England defense was giving Peyton Manning. Manning had just has many passing yards as Brady, yet threw four interceptions in the Patriots' 24-14 victory.
This was Brady's only AFC Championship Game in which he had a passer rating over 100 (130.5). He ended the night with 207 yards on 15-of-21 passing, but was in complete control as the Patriots took care of business in over the Steelers 41-27.