Regardless of how you feel about the New England Patriots – and chances are you are tired of seeing them win – no one can deny the unprecedented and seemingly impossible thrills that the Brady/Belichick Patriots have delivered to every Super Bowl they’ve been a part of.
The Patriots under Brady/Belichick have played in eight Super Bowls prior to Sunday’s game. Every single one of those Super Bowls has come down to the final possession. Every one. Let that sink in for a second.
In those eight games, six games were decided by 3 or 4 points; another game went to overtime (after a Patriots 25-point comeback); and last year’s game was the widest margin (8) but only after Brady was strip-sacked on what could have been the game-winning drive, and ultimately ended with a nearly-completed Hail Mary that would have put the game on the brink of overtime.
Of all the games played between NFL teams, even great NFL teams, only a small percentage come down to the final possession. Yet Brady/Belichick are batting .1000 when it comes to Super Bowl classics.
To get a perspective on how remarkable the Patriots Super Bowls have been, just look back at Super Bowl history. From 1967 to 1997, only 6 Super Bowls ended up within 7 points (19%). In a staggering 19 of those Super Bowls, the margin of victory was 14 points or more (61%). From 1985-97, the NFC won 13 straight Super Bowls by an average score of 38-17.
For those of you too young to remember this pre-Brady era, just think back to 2014 when the Seahawks decimated the Broncos to the tune of 43-8. That’s the kind of sleep-inducing, anti-climactic experience Americans came to expect from the Super Bowl prior to the Patriots dynasty.
So before you curse another Super Bowl featuring the pride of Beantown, put aside your hatred for a moment and appreciate what this franchise has brought to America’s biggest sporting event for two decades running.
Just how good were the Brady/Belichick Super Bowls? Absolute classics…
Super Bowl 36: Patriots 20, Rams 17
The Patriots were heavy underdogs to the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf. The Rams came back from 14 down in the fourth to tie the game on 26-yard touchdown with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. With no timeouts remaining and John Madden insisting the Patriots should play for overtime, Brady led the Patriots into field goal range, setting up Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard game-winning field goal – the first time in Super Bowl history that a game was won by a score on the final play.
Super Bowl 38: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
When running back Antowain Smith scored on a 2-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter to increase the Patriots’ lead to 21–10 over the Carolina Panthers, it was the start of the biggest offensive explosion in Super Bowl history, with both teams scoring a combined 37 points in the final 15 minutes, the most ever in a single quarter of a Super Bowl. After both teams traded leads, the Panthers tied the game with 1:08 to play in regulation on a 31-yard completion to receiver Ricky Proehl – the exact same player who caught the Rams’ TD pass two years earlier to tie the game late in the fourth. But Brady led the Patriots into field goal range, and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game to give New England the title.
Super Bowl 39: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Down 10 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles made a furious comeback attempt, driving 79 yards in 13 plays and pulling within 3 with 1:48 remaining. After stopping the Patriots on three straight plays, the Eagles got the ball back on their own 4 yard-line with 46 seconds remaining. But a Rodney Harrison interception with 9 seconds remaining sealed the Patriots 3rd title in 4 years.
Super Bowl 42: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Down 3 late in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady hit Randy Moss on a 6-yard touchdown strike to give the undefeated New England Patriots a 14-10 lead over the Giants with only 2:42 left in the game. On the Giants final drive, they converted a critical fourth and 1 and survived two nearly-intercepted passes from Eli Manning, the second of which was the famous David Tyree reception where he stole the Manning prayer away from defender Rodney Harrison to extend the drive. Four plays later, a Manning-to-Burress touchdown pass ended the Patriots undefeated season with a mere 35 seconds remaining in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 46: Giants 21, Patriots 17
With the Patriots up by two and the Giants at their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left in the game and only one timeout, Eli Manning led another Giants’ comeback, this time aided by a miraculous 38-yard catch by Mario Manningham along the sideline. The Giants took the lead with 57 seconds remaining on an Ahmad Bradshaw run in which he attempted to stop short of the goal line to run down the clock, but accidentally fell into the end zone. Brady’s Hail Mary from midfield on the final play was batted mere inches away from the diving Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, leaving the Patriots with another heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Giants.
Super Bowl 49: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
The Patriots entered the fourth quarter down 24-14, and no team in Super Bowl history had come back to win after facing a fourth-quarter deficit of more than seven points. Brady would lead the Patriots to two-straight touchdown drives and take the lead with just 2:02 left in the game. A circus catch by Jermaine Kearse gave the Seahawks a first-and-goal with just over a minute remaining, and it appeared that the Patriots were about to lose their third straight Super Bowl because of a circus catch on their opponent’s final possession. But two plays later, the Seahawks would inexplicably call for a pass on the 1-yard line, and the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler would jump the route to make the most memorable interception in Super Bowl history and clinch the Patriots fourth title.
Super Bowl 51: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (OT)
This would be the game that defined the Patriots’ legacy and cemented Tom Brady as the single greatest clutch performer in NFL history. Down 28-3 midway through the third quarter, Brady and the Patriots mounted the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 16 with less than 10 minutes to play in the game, the Patriots engineered two touchdown drives and converted two 2-point conversions, the second of which tied the game with 58 seconds remaining in regulation. The first Super Bowl in history to reach overtime would end on a James White touchdown run on the first possession of OT.
Super Bowl 52: Eagles 41, Patriots 33
While the largest of final margins in Brady/Belichick Super Bowls, this game still qualifies as a classic. Down 1 late in the game, Nick Foles hit Zach Ertz on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 remaining to give the Eagles a 5-point lead. Just as Brady began to mount a final drive to potentially win the game, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Brady for the game’s only sack, and Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett recovered the ball. The Patriots would hold the Eagles to a field goal to remain within 8, and Brady would rally the offense and reach midfield with just 9 seconds remaining. But Brady’s last-second Hail Mary took several heart-stopping deflections before ultimately falling to the turf just out of the reach of three Patriots receivers.