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Heresy! Patriots Tom Brady Has Been Outplayed by his Opposing Super Bowl QBs More Often Than Not

By Chris Malumphy

On Sunday, New England Patriots Tom Brady will extend his record of Super Bowl starts at quarterback to seven, two more than his closest rival, the Denver Broncos' John Elway. Brady will also have the chance to become the winningest Super Bowl quarterback ever. Currently, he shares the record of four Super Bowl victories with Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers.

But despite all that success, Brady has actually been outplayed more often than not by his opposing Super Bowl quarterback, at least in common statistical terms. Of course, that is heresy. But it is also true.

In his six prior Super Bowls, Brady has squared off against the St. Louis Rams' Kurt Warner, the Carolina Panthers' Jack Delhomme, the Philadelphio Eagles' Donovan McNabb, the New York Giants' Eli Manning (twice) and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson. Only the New York Giants led by Eli Manning have been able to defeat Brady and the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl Game Passing Statistics--The Brady Years
Super Bowl for 2001 Season
Patriots 20 - Rams 17
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Tom BradyPatriots271659.31455.49.113.700.0173.686.25.93133
Kurt WarnerRams442863.63658.313.012.324.53286.478.36.3690
Super Bowl for 2003 Season
Patriots 32 - Panthers 29
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Jake DelhommePanthers331648.53239.820.239.100.042810.8113.610.4092
Tom BradyPatriots483266.73547.411.136.212.1000.0100.57.712127
Super Bowl for 2004 Season
Patriots 24 - Eagles 21
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Tom BradyPatriots332369.72367.210.326.100.02175.7110.27.9-1112
Donovan McNabbEagles513058.83577.011.935.935.94337.375.45.1045
Super Bowl for 2007 Season
Giants 17 - Patriots 14
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Eli ManningGiants341955.92557.513.425.912.9388.187.36.8491
Tom BradyPatriots482960.42665.59.212.100.05379.482.55.4045
Super Bowl for 2011 Season
Giants 21 - Patriots 17
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Eli ManningGiants403075.02967.49.912.500.03147.0103.77.3-1114
Tom BradyPatriots412765.92766.710.224.912.42104.791.16.3083
Super Bowl for 2014 Season
Patriots 28 - Seahawks 24
NameTeamAttCPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SacksYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/ARush
Yds
Team
Rush
Yds
Russell WilsonSeahawks211257.124711.820.629.514.831312.5110.610.139162
Tom BradyPatriots503774.03286.68.948.024.0182.0101.16.2-357

Take note that the largest margin of victory in any of these six championship games has been four points. The games have been tight. One Brady victory was decided by what many consider to be among the worst strategic blunders in Super Bowl history, the Seahawks ill-fated decision to pass at the goal line rather give the ball to their workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch. One Brady loss is attributable to perhaps the most fantastic and improbable catch of all time when Eli Manning miraculously escaped the Patriots rush to heave the ball downfield to receiver David Tyree who even more miraculously trapped the ball overhead against his helmet as he tumbled to the ground with Patriots safety Rodney Harrison flailing in vain to knock the ball away. Tyree never again caught a pass in another professional game. There can be little doubt that the ice cold brilliance of Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick have combined to make the Patriots a juggernaut during the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl alike. Yet statistically, Brady's opposing Super Bowl quarterbacks have more often done a little bit better. In terms of passing rating, Brady bested Kurt Warner (86.2-78.3) and Donovan McNabb (110.2-75.4), but was outplayed by Jake Delhomme (100.5-113.6), Eli Manning (82.5-87.3 and 91.1-103.7) and Russell Wilson (101.1-110.6).

The more “sophisticated” figure filberts who refer to “analytics” will let you know that passing ratings are flawed and that yards per attempt, and better yet, average net yards per attempt factoring in touchdown passes and interceptions, are more meaningful. (Heaven forbid with get into DVOA rankings which are beyond the bounds of this article.) By those measures, Brady was also outplayed by Kurt Warner (5.4-8.3 yds/att and 5.9-6.3 ANY/A). Nevertheless, Brady has won four and lost only two of his Super Bowl appearances. Take note again that in Brady's first three Super Bowl starts, all victories, the Patriots had the dominate rushing game, out gaining the Rams on the ground 133-90, the Panthers 127-92 and the Eagles 112-45. It has been a different story his last three Super Bowls including the two losses to the Giants and the game in which Seattle would have probably won if not for its lame-brained decision to pass rather than give the damn ball to Lynch. The Patriots were out gained on the ground by the Giants 45-91 and 83-114 and by the Seahawks 57-162. Without a decent ground game, Brady and the Patriots have been subject to the vagaries of luck. In his first Super Bowl victory, Brady was not much more than a game manager. Belichick was not yet quite sure of the talent he had and limited Brady to just 27 attempts, the fewest of any quarterback in these six games except for Russell Wilson's 21. In that initial appearance, Brady passed for a meager 145 yards. Warner passed for 365, more than 200 yards more than Brady. Brady had the full faith of Belichick by their second Super Bowl together and passed the ball 48 times and subsequently 33, 48, 41 and 50 in the following championships. Since that first Super Bowl, only Donovan McNabb has attempted more passes than Tom in Brady Bowls.

Take a look at Brady's aggregate passing totals compared to his individual opponents for these six games. Overall, Brady has just the fourth best passing rating of the six quarterbacks and the fourth best average net yards per attempt including factors for touchdowns and interceptions.

Super Bowl Passing Statistics -- The Tom Brady Super Bowls
NameTeamAttCompPctYdsAvg
Att
Avg
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SackedYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/APct
Sack + Int
Rush
Yds
Jake DelhommePanthers331648.53239.820.239.100.042810.8113.69.5910.80
Russell WilsonSeahawks211257.124711.820.629.514.831312.5110.69.5416.739
Eli ManningGiants744966.25517.411.234.111.46227.596.26.808.83
Tom BradyPatriots24716466.416056.59.8135.341.611794.395.36.225.811
Kurt WarnerRams442863.63658.313.012.324.53286.478.35.6810.66
Donovan McNabbEagles513058.83577.011.935.935.94337.375.44.5312.70

So how in fact has he won? Or is it just luck. After all, albeit for the Seahawks' brain fart, Brady would likely be just 3-3 in his Super Bowl games.

Well if it is talent rather than mere luck (and you don't get to the Super Bowl seven times by just being lucky), take note that Brady is tops overall in percentage completed at 66.4%. His closest competitor, to whom he has lost twice, is Eli Manning at 66.2%. But those steeped in analytics will tell you that completion percentage is much too pedestrian of a statistic to have meaning. Let's go further then. How about the simple facts that Brady has protected the ball and has avoided sacks. Brady's overall interception percentage of 1.6% has only been bettered by Eli Manning (the man who beat him twice) at 1.4% and Jake Delhomme who didn't throw an interception. Brady was also sacked far less frequently overall per pass attempt than his competitors. Brady was only sacked 4.3% of the time on pass plays. No one else was within two percent of that figure. Warner was next with 6.4%. McNabb went down 7.3% of the time. Arch-nemesis Manning was sacked 7.5% of his pass plays. Delhomme (10.8%) and Wilson (12.5%) faired much, much worse.

Calculate the rate at which the quarterback is either sacked or throws an interception per pass attempt and Brady's dominance is even more evident: Brady 5.8%, Manning 8.8%, Warner 10.6%, Delhomme 10.8% and Wilson 16.7%.

But truth be told, statistics and history matter little on Super Bowl Sunday. Former Dallas Cowboys legend Gil Brandt recently tweeted that quarterbacks with Super Bowl experience playing against those who have none are 9-10. Their are a lot of other players out on the field, some of whom may unexpectedly rise to the occasion while others give in to the pressures of the game. Coaches have sizable input, including the opportunity to make bone-headed strategic calls. The ball can take funny bounces. The referees may see an important play differently than players and fans. Anything can happen. That's why millions of us will watch. Yet here is one more set of quarterback statistics for you. Compare the seasons of Tom Brady and the Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan.

Passing Statistics for Super Bowl Starting Quarterbacks
Matt Ryan - Falcons
SeasonAttCompPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SackedYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/APct
Sack + Int
Rush
Yds
Games
100+
Rating
Total60942670.056749.313.3457.471.1402506.2119.09.67.213714
Regular53437369.949449.313.3387.171.3372356.5117.19.47.711712
Playoffs755370.77309.713.879.300.03153.8132.611.23.8202
Tom Brady - Patriots
SeasonAttCompPctYdsYds
Att
Yds
Comp
TDPct
TD
IntPct
Int
SackedYds
Lost
Pct
Sacked
RatingANY/APct
Sack + Int
Rush
Yds
Games
100+
Rating
Total51234166.642258.312.4336.440.8191053.6110.28.94.3629
Regular43229167.435548.212.2286.520.515873.4112.29.03.8648
Playoffs805062.56718.413.456.322.54184.899.58.17.1-21

Brady was fantastic. One of his best years ever. Ryan was even better, leading the league in passing rating. A quick check shows:

Both Brady and Ryan put up numerous games with passing ratings exceeding 100.0, which is usually a regular season game winning effort.

Ryan has upped his game in the playoffs, improving his numbers in every category. Brady has played well this post-season, but not as good as he did in the regular season. Who will you be betting on?

On Super Bowl Sunday, the numbers be damned. Tom Brady, his teammates, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, the Patriots' organization and its many fans will only care about one thing. Same for Matt Ryan and his other Atlanta Falcons counterparts. Whether their team's efforts lead to victory or defeat.

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