Tom Brady a Choke Artist?: A Deeper Glimpse Inside the Numbers

Scott BrownCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2009

A lot has been said and written here at B/R regarding the myth that the New England Patriots have been the gold standard of success in the playoffs because of the play of their QB, the terrific Tom Brady.  

Much has likewise been said that the Colts have continually come up short because of the sub-par play of their own franchise QB, Peyton Manning

This is certainly a hot topic between two very passionate fan bases, who respectively believe their guy has always gotten the short end of the stick when the two are compared.

I read a great article on the subject of choking in the playoffs by Ryan Michael the other day, and as a result of that article I did some digging of my own with regards to Tom Brady.

I expected to find a significant gap between the two players, given the reputation that each player has when it comes to playoff time. Below is a record of what I found, and quite frankly, I was just as surprised as anyone when I saw the numbers for myself.

In 17 career playoff games the follow facts are true:

In 11 of 17 playoff games, the New England defense held the opposition to less than 20 points.

In seven of 17 games, Tom Brady had a QB rating below 80 percent.

In five of the seven games that Tom Brady had a QB rating below 80 percent, New England won the game anyways.

Tom Brady has thrown the ball for more than 300 yards only three times in 17 playoff games.

In six of 17 games, Tom Brady has thrown as many or more interceptions as touchdowns.

While exploring the numbers, I also stumbled across something else that just didn't seem right. 

If you look at the three Super Bowl winning seasons of the Patriots, you would expect to find that Brady's numbers were the best in those years. However, closer examination proves just the opposite.

2001 Playoffs: Three games,  572 yards passing, one touchdown, and one interception. These numbers don't seem to indicate that the games were won or lost by the play of the QB.

2003 Playoffs: Three games, 792 yards passing, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Much better numbers, but Brady was very inconsistent in the playoffs. 

He had his best career playoff game in the Super Bowl, but two of his worst games in the two rounds prior.

2004 Playoffs: Three games, 587 yards passing, five touchdowns, zero interceptions.

A very excellent job of protecting the football, but by no means do these numbers indicate a dominating game changing performance from the QB.

In fact some of Tom Brady's best performances at the position of quarterback during the playoffs came in years where they didn't even win the big game. 

2008 vs Jacksonville: 26/28  for 262 yards and three touchdowns without a pick. New England put 31 points on the board in this one.

2007 vs New York Jets: 22/34 for 212 yards and two touchdowns without a pick, as the Pats scored 37.

2006 vs Jacksonville: 15/21 for 202 yards and three touchdowns without a pick, as the Pats scored 28.

I believe that an even closer look at the numbers would seem to indicate that Tom Brady is probably not a choke artist any more than Peyton Manning would be considered a choke artist. 

What the numbers presented here do indicate is that winning or losing isn't usually tied to the performance of just one player.  

To achieve the ultimate prize of winning a Super Bowl, it requires a total team effort.  It requires skilled players who are committed to winning, as well as crucial, timely plays that are often  made by the least suspecting players on the winning team. 

Nothing I can think of illustrates this point better than the 2007 playoffs. Indianapolis and New England both played against the San Diego Chargers, with the Colts losing and the Pats winning.

Peyton Manning: 33/48 for 402 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions 

Tom Brady:  22/33 for 209 yards two touchdowns and three interceptions 

It's not hard to see which QB had the better day, but in the end it didn't seem to affect the outcome at all. 

This article has not been meant as an attack against Tom Brady. 

The goal of the article has been to show that the Patriots success is down to the entire organization, from to bottom, and that there is absolutely nothing statistically that would prove or disprove that Tom Brady raises his game come playoff time.  

Patriots fans should be proud of their team and what it has accomplished. My only hope is that this article has helped shed some light on how those titles were won.  

While No. 12 was certainly an important piece of the puzzle, he was exactly that, one piece of the puzzle as his numbers would suggest.


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