Tom Brady's knack for game-winning drives started against Chargers

Tom Brady led the Patriots to a comeback win over the Chargers in October 2011, the start of what has become a regular occurrence. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has engineered 52 game-winning performances to lead his team to a victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie, and it is timely to revisit No. 1 on the list this week.

The date was Oct. 14, 2001, and the Patriots were hosting the same team that will be coming to town this Sunday, the Chargers. It was Brady vs. Doug Flutie in old Foxboro Stadium.

The headlines from The Boston Globe read:

  • "Understudy Steals Show"

  • "Something Special: Brady-led Rally Erases Mates' Earlier Errors"

  • "Drive Time Is Prime Time: Patriot Offense In Possession of Confidence"

With 8:48 remaining in the game, the Patriots trailed 26-16 until Brady directed the Patriots to a field goal, touchdown and field goal over the next three drives to record a 29-26 overtime win.

"Tom Brady came in and played the game of his life," late Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau of the Chargers said that day. "We couldn't get them off the field. He just played an exceptional game and made the plays when he needed to."

Brady finished 33-of-54 for 364 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was only his third career start.

"He put himself on the map today," backup Patriots quarterback Damon Huard said. "He was calm, cool and collected. He wore the same face the whole game, regardless of the situation."

Brady, then 24, has since authored a terrific 17-year run that is well-documented and included nine games against the Chargers. The teams were more frequent foes and closer to rivals from 2005-2011, when they met seven times over that span (including playoffs), but the connection between the clubs has since faded.

Such background makes it fun to reminisce on where Brady's legendary knack for comeback victories was hatched.

The Patriots' punter during the 2001 season, Lee Johnson, set the stage for Brady's heroics against the Chargers by fumbling a punt snap deep in Patriots' territory that was turned into a Chargers touchdown. So the Patriots trailed by 10 points with 8:48 left.

Brady then helped lead a 15-play, 69-yard drive to set up Adam Vinatieri's 23-yard field goal with 3:31 left, and after a defensive stop in which LaDainian Tomlinson was stuffed on third-and-1, Brady led another clutch drive.

Long passes to Troy Brown and David Patten advanced the ball to the 3-yard line, with Brady hitting tight end Jermaine Wiggins for a game-tying 3-yard touchdown.

In overtime, Brady would throw in Patten’s direction, with the Chargers committing a 37-yard pass interference penalty. Soon enough, Vinatieri would knock home a 44-yard field goal for the victory.

At that time, few could have predicted where Brady's career would lead, with 51 more game-winning performances from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie to come.

"He's young and he wants to prove himself," receiver Terry Glenn said after Brady's first comeback win. "That's a definitive advantage because he is going to try to make plays."

He still is, 16 years later.

When it comes to Brady and comeback wins, it all started against the Chargers.