The numbers haven’t been overly impressive this postseason. But statistics don’t tell the story when it comes to quarterback Tom Brady.
They are the first wild card team in the “Big Game” since 2010. That season, the Green Bay Packers also won three playoff games on the road. That club would hold off the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 31-25 triumph in Super Bowl XLV.
Now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will now only try to become the fourth team in NFL annals to win three road playoff contests and the Super Bowl, they have to defeat the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the process. Bruce Arians’ club is riding a seven-game overall winning streak. The Bucs’ last loss? To the Chiefs in Week 12 at Raymond James Stadium.
Veteran Tom Brady becomes the fourth quarterback to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl. There was Craig Morton with the Cowboys (V) and Broncos (XII), Kurt Warner with the Rams (XXXIV and XXXVI) and Cardinals (XLIII), and Peyton Manning with the Colts (XLI and XLIV) and Broncos (XLVIII and 50). Only the latter managed to come up with wins with each club. Of course, Brady is in his 10th Super Bowl, nine with the New England Patriots (6-3) record and now with the Buccaneers in his first season with the franchise.
You have to give credit where credit is due. While the Buccaneers have had their share of talent in recent years, mistakes have plagued the club lately. In the span of two seasons, Arians’ team went from an NFL-worst 41 turnovers to giving up the ball just 17 times in 16 regular-season contests. Tampa Bay did lose five games this season and at times, their 21-year veteran signal-caller looked ordinary at best.
In fact, Brady’s numbers in the three postseason wins over Washington (55.0), New Orleans (54.5), and Green Bay (55.6) are far from eye-popping. Those are his completion percentages vs. the Football Team, Saints, and Packers, respectively. There have been a combined seven touchdown passes, at least two in each triumph. But the six-time NFL champion was picked off three times last Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Still, the Buccaneers are in the Super Bowl for the first time since winning it all in 2002. In fact, the team had not won a postseason game since ’02 before Brady’s arrival. Tampa has scored at least 30 points in each playoff outing but allowed 20-plus points in each contest.
So what’s the difference? The seemingly-ageless quarterback’s numbers are hardly awe-inspiring. But due to the fact that he’s literally seen it all in 21 NFL seasons, there’s no panic and no flinching. He orchestrated comebacks to help win Super Bowls XLIX and LI with the Patriots, overcoming 10- and 25-point deficits. He’s played in more postseason games than anyone in league annals and by a fair margin. Brady’s calm has been one of the driving forces for a club that sat at 7-5 with four contests to go. So the key number when it comes to this 43-year-old warrior may be 45 – as in the number of postseason games, Brady will have played in and started once he takes the field for Super Bowl LV.