FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When updating a ranking of Tom Brady’s top 10 playoff games, the first thought that comes to mind is an embarrassment of riches.
Brady’s clutch performance in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs -- in which he directed the New England Patriots to a victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie for the 57th time in his career -- has to be on the list.
The question is which game gets knocked off.
Is it the Jan. 14, 2012, divisional-round win over the Broncos, when he threw a career-high six touchdown passes, tying the NFL record for a playoff game?
Or is it the Jan. 12, 2008, divisional-round victory over the Jaguars, when his accuracy and decision-making was off the charts in finishing 26-of-28, producing a career-high 141.4 passer rating?
Or is it Super Bowl LII, in a losing effort against the Philadelphia Eagles? After all, he did throw for 505 yards.
This type of decision highlights how Brady, set to make his 40th career playoff start Feb. 3 in Super Bowl LIII, is truly in rare air.
Top 10 lists often spark debate, with some putting added emphasis on one area (level of competition), while others focus more on the final stat line or the response to the pressure of the highest stakes.
Here is my revised list for Brady, who is 29-10 in his playoff career:
10. Feb. 4, 2018: Super Bowl LII: Eagles 41, Patriots 33 -- Brady was strip-sacked while attempting to lead a final drive to possibly win the game, which led to disappointment, but he was brilliant throughout: 28-of-48 for 505 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. One of the plays he'd like to have back was an incompletion when he was open as the intended receiver, which hurt even more after the Eagles converted a similar play for a touchdown.
9. Feb. 6, 2005: Super Bowl XXXIX: Patriots 24, Eagles 21 -- Brady finished 23-of-33 for 236 yards with two touchdowns (one to linebacker-turned-tight end Mike Vrabel) as the Patriots’ defense ultimately held off the Eagles when it counted. Brady’s favorite target was receiver Deion Branch, who had 11 receptions for 133 yards to earn MVP honors.
8. Jan. 21, 2018: AFC Championship Game: Patriots 24, Jaguars 20 -- This wasn’t Brady’s best effort from start to finish, but he was magical in the fourth quarter in rallying the team from a 10-point deficit. Brady finished 26-of-38 for 290 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, a performance that was even more impressive considering he played with 12 stitches on his right hand as a result of a significant cut suffered five days prior at practice.
7. Jan. 20, 2019: AFC Championship Game: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 -- Converting three different third-and-10 plays on the winning touchdown drive in overtime was the definition of clutch, as Brady finished 30-of-46 for 348 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. One of the picks, from the Chiefs’ 1-yard line, could have been costly, but Brady’s mental toughness to put it behind him was a significant layer of his epic effort. That this game was played in Arrowhead Stadium, in front of a raucous Chiefs crowd, adds to why it was so impressive.
6. Feb. 3, 2002: Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17 -- From a bottom-line stats perspective, this game is closer to the bottom of the list (16-of-27 for 145 yards, one TD, no INTs), but it gets a bump from a clutch standpoint. While analyst John Madden was telling the TV audience the Patriots should take a knee and play for overtime, Brady -- then in his second NFL season and his first as a starter -- helped lead the Patriots to the winning field goal at the final gun.
5. Feb. 1, 2015: Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 -- It took Malcolm Butler's goal-line interception to seal the victory, but Brady was remarkable in the fourth quarter to help the Patriots storm back from a 10-point deficit. He was 37-of-50 for 328 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions, and earned MVP honors. Then he gave the truck he won as MVP to Butler.
4. Jan. 22, 2017: AFC Championship Game: Patriots 36, Steelers 17 -- The Steelers’ zone defense was no match for Brady, who was 32-of-42 for 384 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady masterfully manipulated the D before the snap, and his accuracy was pinpoint on almost every throw. Chris Hogan (nine catches, 180 yards, two TDs) and Julian Edelman (eight catches, 118 yards, TD) were the top targets.
3. Feb. 1, 2004: Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 -- A game that was scoreless with inside of four minutes left in the second quarter became a shootout the rest of the way, with Brady finishing 32-of-48 for 354 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Similar to his first Super Bowl, it required a winning drive in the final minute, with this one aided by a Carolina kickoff that went out of bounds and allowed the Patriots to start the drive on their 40.
2. Jan. 10, 2015: Divisional round: Patriots 35, Ravens 31 -- Brady was 33-of-50 for 367 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and led a furious second-half comeback from 14 points down aided by an unusual tactic in which the Patriots declared eligible receivers ineligible. Brady added a 4-yard touchdown run that he capped off with an emphatic spike, and then his fire transferred to the postgame interview room when he countered criticism from Ravens coach John Harbaugh by telling him to study the rulebook.
1. Feb. 5, 2017: Super Bowl LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 -- Trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, in part because Brady threw a pick-six, the Patriots needed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to pull this one off. Brady was sensational in the second half and overtime, ultimately finishing 43-of-62 for 466 yards, with two touchdowns and the one interception. He was sacked five times, which reflected his toughness to take a pounding and not relent. Making the victory even more emotional was the presence of his mother, Galynn, who was attending her first game of the season because she had been battling breast cancer.