If any of you are like myself, you didn’t exactly go out of your way to watch New England Patriots games over the course of the last decade-plus. Instead, we watched them when they were the only team on or - even some - ignored them completely because everyone was sick of watching them win.
Luckily for Buccaneers fans, a big reason they always won is now wearing number twelve in the pewter and red.
Given that and the stay-at-home orders many are under as well as NFL opening up Game Pass for free, I decided to go down the road of watching Tom Brady as much as I could. It’s difficult to narrow down a top ten for a player that has played in 324 games including the postseason. Game Pass helped narrow it down by only allowing access to games starting in 2009, so anything from his rookie year through 2008 was immediately nixed.
Next, it was about finding the diamonds in the rough. Yes, there are plenty of postseason performances that deserve recognition, but this is about any game I could find that stood out as stellar performances. Yes, there are certainly playoff games and championships here, but there are also some regular season games that deserved another look.
I went through countless lists, all-time moments, and even enlisted the help of my ten year old son, Beckett, to help find some games via YouTube while I was out working and he had completed his homework during the school closings. All this in order to narrow down my search as much as possible before sitting down and watching the condensed versions of the games via Game Pass
When all was said and done, I watched around thirty Patriots games spanning 2009-2019. Is it possible that I missed a stellar performance? Of course. However, I’m confident this list displays different reasons that Tom Brady is considered the greatest to ever play the game. Some games started off slow and Brady turned it on in the second half. Some games he was on fire from the word go. Some involved overcoming odds, some last minute heroics. Whatever the case, these were the ten games that stood out to me the most.
Starting at number ten, we enlisted the help of Bucs Nation readers as well as Locked On Bucs listeners to vote on which game deserved to be in this spot. There were three to choose from - week nine in 2014 against the Denver Broncos, the 2016 AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 2017 AFC Championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Without further adieu, here is number ten on our countdown...
10 - 2017 AFC Championship - Patriots 24 Jaguars 20
When the Sacksonville Jaguars shocked the NFL world by making it to the AFC Championship, no one thought they had even the smallest chance to beat the New England Patriots inside Gillette Stadium. Instead, they forced the Patriots to fight for their lives.
Sporting the number two defense in the NFL - having only allowed seventeen points per game - Jacksonville relied on that defense as well as the arm of Blake Bortles to go toe-to-toe with New England.
Things started off well for the Pats, marching down the field on their opening drive. Brady would go 6-for-6 on the drive - including a twenty yard pass to Danny Amendola on 4th-and-1 to set up 1st-and-goal - but the drive stalled after Brady was sacked on 3rd-and-goal and the Patriots settled for a field goal.
From there, it was all Jacksonville.
The Jaguars would go on to score two touchdowns in the next three possessions to take a 14-3 lead in the second quarter thanks to Blake Bortles pass to Marcedes Lewis and a Leonard Fournette run.
With under two minutes left in the half, the Patriots took over possession at their own fifteen yard line. Brady would hit his next three passes to move the ball to Patriots’ 40-yard line. Brady looked for Rob Gronkowski who dropped the pass but took a shot to the head. Jacksonville was flagged for unnecessary roughness, but Gronk was knocked out of the game. The very next play, A.J. Bouye was flagged for pass interference for pulling Brandin Cooks down by his neck, putting the Pats in prime position. Two plays later, James White was in the end zone and the halftime score was 14-10 Jacksonville.
After a tough third quarter - including another Jaguars kicking a field goal on their opening drive of the second half to go up 17-10 and two punts by the Pats - the Jaguars took a 20-10 lead to start off the fourth quarter.
With under fourteen minutes left in the game, Myles Jack stripped Dion Lewis of the ball, giving the Jaguars possession back. The Patriots’ defense held Jacksonville to a three-and-out, then...
Tom Brady started doing Tom Brady things.
The Patriots again started at their own fifteen yard line following the Jaguars’ punt. Brady would complete his first pass - an eighteen yard gain. Brady was sacked on the next play, a loss of eight. 2nd-and-18 from their own 25, Brady’s pass to Chris Hogan fell incomplete. At that moment, ESPN gave the Jaguars a 93.2% win probability. On 3rd-and-18, Brady found Danny Amendola for 21 yards to keep the drive alive.
Brady would then hit three of his next four passes, including a nine yard touchdown to Amendola. 20-17 Jaguars with 8:44 remaining...
The Jaguars were forced to punt after only five plays and only 2:23 taken off the game clock. The Jags’ defense, however, was up to the challenge and forced a three-and-out that killed only 28 seconds. Jaguars took over with 5:53 remaining in the game.
After Fournette ran for a loss of one, Bortles threw it - incomplete - on the next two plays. The Jags had to give the Patriots the ball back, only up three, with 4:58 remaining.
Following Amendola’s 20 yard return to the Jacksonville 30 yard line, Brady completed his next three passes to get the ball to the five yard line. After a one yard run by James White, Brady found Amendola in the back of the end zone for a four yard touchdown pass and the lead. The second best defense in the NFL that year just gave up seven more points than their season average and Brady threw two touchdown passes in 5:56 to take a fourth quarter lead with just 2:48 until another Super Bowl berth.
Six plays, and a stellar pass breakup by Stephon Gilmore, the Jags stalled and the Patriots were headed to the Super Bowl.
On the biggest stages, regardless of the opponent, that’s when Tom Brady shines brightest. The two teams were nearly even in a lot of categories - both had 22 first downs, 374-344 total yards in favor of Jacksonville, each team had three sacks, 5.6-5.3 yards per play in favor of New England, 7.1-7.0 yards per pass in favor of New England, and each team punted six times.
The stark difference was the New England came away with a mere nineteen rushing attempts - six of which weren’t even by running backs - to Jacksonville’s thirty-two. Leonard Fournette alone out rushed the Patriots’ entire team.
And Jacksonville also didn’t have a Tom Brady.
Brady finished 26/38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns - both of which came in that six minute span in the fourth quarter. Not the most eye popping statistical game, but it was what he did at the end that counted, especially given the defense he was up against.
You can watch the full game here. If you don’t already have NFL Game Pass, take advantage of their free offer through the end of May. You can re-watch full broadcasts or condensed versions of the game (usually around thirty minutes).
Next week, we’ll take a look at the number nine game on the list as we continue to count down Brady’s top ten since 2009.