Tom Brady is about to appear in his 10th Super Bowl when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Feb. 7. at Raymond James Stadium. Let that soak in for a minute, and then take another 10 minutes after that because there’s no way you soaked all of it up in that initial minute. Most players enter the NFL and never get a whiff of a Lombardi trophy, let alone 10 chances at hoisting one. Now, consider Brady won six of those games and was only a helmet catch and a trick play or two away from having at least eight rings, and the magnitude of what he’s achieving in his illustrious career is nothing short of mind-blowing — especially from a former 199th-overall pick.
This is the kind of legacy Patrick Mahomes is looking to build with the Kansas City Chiefs, albeit with a much different beginning as a former 10th-overall pick, and his next step in that journey will require a postseason exorcism of the greatest quarterback of all-time.
It’s the matchup everybody wants to see , because it not only pits the GOAT against the most dynamic quarterback in all of football but additionally because Mahomes is seeking revenge for the AFC Championship Game that followed his record-setting 2018 season, one that saw him also land honors as league MVP only to fall one step shy of the Super Bowl thanks to overtime heroics from Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski — both members of the New England Patriots at the time. The coming matchup for Super Bowl LV enjoys a cavalcade of headlines, but where exactly does it rank when compared to Brady’s other nine trips to The Big Game?
As electric as it’s likely to be, it’s up against some very, very stiff competition.
1. Super Bowl XLII: Eli Manning , Giants
Result: 17-14, Loss
Perfect, no more.
The first matchup between Brady and Manning is what set the stage for the sequel, and both were jaw-dropping. Having acquired Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss in the offseason heading into the 2007 campaign, the Patriots No. 1-ranked offense launched an all-out assault on opposing defenses en route to the first 16-0 record in NFL history, but they’d still need to complete the run in order to match the perfection left behind by the 1972 Miami Dolphins (they played only 14 regular season games back then). It was a defensive showing by both clubs from the outset and for the majority of the game, with both Manning and Brady struggling to get their respective team into the end zone. It all came down to the fourth quarter and who wanted it more in what turned into a 12-round heavyweight bout we were all given the pleasure of enjoying.
There was one more haymaker set to land for the Giants, and it was one the Patriots wouldn’t get up from. Manning, having seen cornerback Asante Samuel drop an INT on the play before, dropped back on third-and-5 with the game on the line and — while under duress and scrambling for his life — heaved a prayer downfield that had little to no chance of being completed, until it was. It wasn’t a catch from Moss that changed the course of history, but instead, wideout David Tyree, who became an instant legend in New York by somehow coming down with the catch in traffic, and with the ball pressed up against his helmet; extending a drive late in the fourth quarter that resulted in a game-sealing touchdown to Plaxico Burress.
It’s a play that’s widely regarded as the best in Super Bowl history, and it not only gave Manning his first ring, but it also robbed Brady of perfection and set the two QBs on a collision course that would again come to a head four years later.
2. SB XLVI: Eli Manning, Giants
Result: 21-17, Loss
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
That is, of course, assuming the other team doesn’t own a microwave, and the Giants did. This matchup was an attempt to balance the scales with Manning and the New York Giants after losing to them in the Super Bowl only four years prior, and all eyes were on the latter to see if they could do the unthinkable and sink Brady a second time with a championship on the line. It also cemented Manning as the arch-nemesis of every human being in Boston. The teams were fairly evenly matched this time around, much unlike the first fight when it was truly David facing Goliath. The Giants got out to a 9-0 lead before Brady mounted a rally that saw them score 17 unanswered points, but that’s where the Patriots fun train hit a brick wall.
The Giants defense clamped down and allowed nothing further, and New York used two field goals and a game-sealing touchdown scoot by running back Ahmad Bradshaw to go 2-0 against Brady in the Super Bowl — an unheard-of feat — leaving the Patriots with only one loss on the year, but the one that hurt the most and still haunts him to this day. Brady has beaten a list of elite QBs to get to where he is in the annals of NFL history, but when it mattered most, he could never land a fatal blow against Manning. It’s tough enough to win a Super Bowl, and even more so when facing a defense like the one the Giants boasted, but toss in some unexpected escapability by Manning and an intervention from Lady Luck and you can basically call it a day.
3. Super Bowl XXXVI: Kurt Warner, Rams
Result: 20-17, Win
Another clash lined with headlines before the ball was kicked.
Warner was the leader of The Greatest Show on Turf and it seemingly couldn’t be stopped, as he threw his way to First-Team All-Pro honors and a league MVP award — the most dangerous quarterback in the league that season set to go up against a former sixth-round pick from a year prior. Surely there was no way a still-learning Brady was going to help take down the almighty Warner in his prime, and himself having started only one game as a rookie before taking the reins from Drew Bledsoe? Well, that’s precisely what happened, and don’t call me Shirley. Brady didn’t have a lights-out game and was roundly outplayed by the more experienced and lethal Warner, but he also didn’t make any mistakes — neither fumbling nor throwing a single interception on the day.
With his defense doing much of the heavy lifting, the Rams were held to only a field goal through three quarters before throwing two touchdowns on the scoreboard to make it a thriller, but it was too little, too late. The mistake-free Brady completed five of seven passes on the final drive of the game to put legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri in position to boot the game-winning field goal as time expired. And with that, the legend of Brady was born as he lifted the first-ever Lombardi for both he and the Patriots organization, and NFL teams learned the hard way not to put the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
4. Super Bowl XXXIX: Donovan McNabb, Eagles
Result: 24-21, Win
It’s one thing to beat a team, but to destroy their entire franchise is quite another.
Few teams were as equipped to defeat the Patriots as were the McNabb-led Eagles, but he was only part of the equation. They also boasted Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens, who was hot off of another 1,000-yard NFL season and with 14 touchdowns to boot, champing at the bit for a shot at landing his first-ever Super Bowl ring. The headlines wrote themselves for this one, but were taken to a fever pitch when you take into account Owens racked up those numbers despite missing the final three games of the season with a fractured fibula that required surgery to repair, but somehow recovered in time to power through and take on the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It was an unreal feat by Owens and, with that, the 15-3 Eagles were ready to lock horns with the 16-2 Patriots.
McNabb was locked in and coming off of another Pro Bowl season — the fifth of his career to that point — and came out firing. His nerves got the best of him though, and it showed. McNabb threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns, but also three interceptions and he completed only 30 of his 51 pass attempts. The entire Eagles offense looked out of sorts after having been a fine-tuned machine for much of the season, and Owens didn’t hide his disdain. To this day, he blames McNabb for the loss and accuses the former QB of being unprepared for the fight with Brady, who had an efficient day on his way to yet another Super Bowl win.
The Eagles would finally get their revenge against Brady in Super Bowl LII with Foles at the helm, but this loss shattered the locker room in Philadelphia and was the genesis of the end of Andy Reid in Pennsylvania — something the Chiefs should be thankful for as Reid mounts up to aim for some revenge of his own against Brady. And his is a very, very long time in the making.
5. Super Bowl LVI: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Kick the tires and light the fires.
While this felt destined to happen at several points in the season, there were times you thought the train might’ve been derailed. All Brady had to do was mow through two other NFL legends in Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to arrive at this point and, with the help of a dominant defense, he’s done just that. On the other side of the coin, the Chiefs had their own level of adversity to overcome, having lost Mahomes in the second half against the Cleveland Browns and surviving thanks to some gutsy play calling by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and clutch play from backup Chad Henne . They’d survive the game and the subsequent scare related to Mahomes entering the league’s concussion protocol to see him return and dominate the Buffalo Bills in the AFC title game. And, with that, the former league MVP and reigning Super Bowl MVP is looking to repeat, but to do so he’ll have to do this season what he couldn’t do two years ago — move Brady out of the way.
This is a battle between the GOAT and the Baby GOAT, if one were so inclined to label it that way (you should label it that way). It’s Mahomes’ league for the next decade and that’s not to look past guys like Rodgers or Brady, as far as the old guard is concerned, but it is to say the new face of the NFL lives in Kansas City. That makes this a legacy game, even if more so for Mahomes, who has to prove he can beat the GOAT in the postseason before laying claim to the throne once it’s vacated. For Brady, it’s all about not allowing that to happen — a 43-year-old still defying Father Time and trying to prove he’s nowhere near done playing at a high level.
In a battle between Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson , both in their prime, who wins?? Everyone who’s watching, that’s who.
Result: 34-28, Win
How do you pluck a bird of prey in 30 minutes? Brady knows.
You know this game well. It was a matchup between league MVP Matt Ryan and his high-flying Falcons against the usual Super Bowl suspects in Brady and the Patriots, but Atlanta couldn’t be overlooked in this fight. Their offense was prolific and presented a very real threat to a New England defense that had holes in it, so if the Falcons defense could figure out how to suffocate Brady — they’d have great odds at landing the first Lombardi trophy in franchise history. They jumped all over the Patriots to the tune of 28-3 at the half, putting the entire football world in a state of shock because even if you believed they’d be competitive, no one expected the Patriots to be run out of the stadium. Turns out, Belichick and Brady were far from done and nowhere near dead.
They’d come out of halftime arisen to a degree that would make Rick Grimes nervous, feasting on the Falcons in the final two quarters on their way to outscoring Atlanta 25-7 in the second half, forcing overtime in the process. With the ball in Brady’s hands to begin the extra session, there was only one way this could end, and it did — the Falcons have never been the same since.
Brady walked them down with five consecutive completions before leaning on running back James White to pull the final feather off of the bird carcass and ride off into the sunset with another ring and literally the greatest Super Bowl comeback in the history of football. Ryan proved a worthy foe and the loss was more attributable to abysmal second-half play calling that took the ball out of his hand, but he was also sacked five times on the day as the aforementioned Patriots defense came alive in the third quarter and beyond — helped by Brady throwing for 466 yards and two touchdowns, negating the fact he himself was sacked five times.
7. Super Bowl LII: Nick Foles , Eagles
Result: 41-33, Loss
“You wanna go Philly Philly?”
The season looked promising for the Philadelphia Eagles with Carson Wentz playing at an MVP caliber level, but he’d tear his ACL just ahead of the playoffs and things looked bleak. They were forced to bet the house on Foles in the playoffs, and that’s when they learned what magic really means. Foles went on a tear in the postseason and finished what Wentz started by getting the Eagles to the Super Bowl, but there awaited a dance with Brady — with few outside of the city of Philadelphia giving Foles a chance to gut the more experienced, accomplished and savvy Patriots. The game turned into a high-scoring affair with both defenses struggling to get a handle on things, and it forced Bill Belichick to get creative, going so far as to call a trick play that sent Brady out as a receiver; but he’d narrowly miss a catch for an opportunity to extend a key drive.
Not to be outdone, Doug Pederson later dialed up a trick play of his own, and it looked eerily similar to what the world nearly witnessed Brady pull off earlier in the game. It worked for the Eagles though, with Foles pretending he was making pre-snap adjustments on fourth-and-goal just ahead of halftime — leading 15-12 at the time — before a direct snap to running back Corey Clement that turned into a toss to receiver Trey Burton that became a touchdown reception by Foles. Brady would go on to outplay Foles with an insane 505 passing yards and three touchdowns to only one interception, but ultimately it was the trick play that gave the Eagles all the self-belief they needed as they walked down a Patriots defense that left Brady out to dry.
As it relates to QB vs. QB going into this one, it’s Foles’ magic that made it intriguing, and that ultimately won the game.
8. Super Bowl XLIX: Russell Wilson , Seahawks
Result: 28-24, Win
Running backs matter, just ask Marshawn Lynch .
This game lived up to its billing from a QB vs. QB standpoint, with Wilson and Brady going toe-to-toe as the teams matched serve in the first half, one that saw each defense shut out the other’s offense before seeing things heat up in the second quarter. Nursing a 14-14 tie entering the third quarter, the Seahawks came out swinging, scoring 10 unanswered points while also controlling the clock with Lynch — who went on to finish with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown on the day. But when the Patriots again awakened in the fourth quarter, hanging another 14 points on the Seahawks to take a 28-24 lead on a touchdown pass from Brady to wideout Julian Edelman . The pressure was on for Wilson to prove he had the chops to take down Brady, and he had only one drive left to make his point.
He’d march the Seahawks down the field on a sequence of passes that also involved Lynch as a receiver out of the backfield, and then it happened, but not for Seattle. Standing just one yard away from taking the lead with 26 seconds remaining in regulation, the Seahawks got too cute with their play calling. Lynch had been having his way all game but instead of handing the ball to him on second-and-1 with a championship on the line, Wilson dropped back and attempted to throw a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette . It was intercepted by Malcolm Butler , who went on to land honors as Super Bowl MVP, and the game ended with Brady kneeling and taking ownership of another ring.
Some will justifiably view this as the Seahawks haven’t lost the game as opposed to Brady winning it, and while there’s credence to that argument, the fact is the last touchdown scored was by Brady with the game on the line; and the last mistake made was by Wilson … with the game on the line.
9. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Jake Delhomme, Panthers
Result: 32-29, Win
Before there was Cam Newton in Charlotte, there was Delhomme.
It’s easy to overlook what the latter meant to the Panthers, but not if you know the history of the team. It was a rough go for the club before Delhomme took the reins in 2003, following a move on from Rodney Peete, who was the latest in a constantly spinning QB carousel in Carolina. Formerly an undrafted free agent of the rival New Orleans Saints in 1997, Delhomme went from being out of the league in 2002 (spending time playing football in Europe) before signing on with the Panthers and helping newly-hired head coach John Fox right the ship. Granted, there was nothing about this Super Bowl matchup with Brady that screamed “heavyweight bout” by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact remains Delhomme wasn’t supposed to be there. He was the leader of a gutsy Cinderella team that scratched and clawed its way to a shot at Brady, which was more than admirable in its own right.
The problem was as special as the season was for Carolina, they simply didn’t have enough tools in their shed to dismantle what Belichick and Brady had awaiting them. They didn’t go quietly though, instead, pushing the 17-2 Patriots to the brink before losing by only a field goal, and Delhomme put up 323 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in the effort. The problem is he was sacked four times and under duress much of the game, while Brady wasn’t sacked at all and bested him with 354 passing yards while matching his touchdown tally. And so the saying goes, when you swing at the king, you better not miss. The Panthers missed, but only by a hair.
10. Super Bowl LIII: Jared Goff , Rams
Result: 13-3, Win
Talk about a dud.
This was pegged as the high-flying offense of the Rams against the more experienced and playoff-polished Patriots, but in the end, it was a mix of good defense and odd mistakes by both teams. With only three combined points scored in the first half, the matchup quickly devolved from a potentially exciting affair to an offensive snoozefest. Neither Brady nor Goff looked great in this game, with neither throwing for a single passing touchdown but instead combining for two interceptions — one per QB. It was strange to see that stat line for Brady, and not simply because he’s Brady, but also because he was sacked only once while Goff was taken down on four separate occasions. That said, Brady did feel his fair share of pressure, but nothing he hadn’t seen before. In the end, it was more or less a throwaway game from both the Rams and Brady, and Goff has since discovered just how difficult it is to get back to the Super Bowl.
Brady, on the other hand, went to a new team and returned in his first year, marking this tenth appearance. So if you want to know just how challenging the feat is, ask around, or go directly to Goff and he’ll undoubtedly let you know. As for this particular Super Bowl? Other than the ceremony of it, let’s pretend it never happened, because it’s the antithesis of Brady’s usual Big Game battles, and that should be especially true for what’s to come when Mahomes strolls into Tampa.
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