Celebrating Tom Brady’s 45th

·11 min read

Happy birthday to Tom Brady, who turns 45 years young today, August 3rd.

However, this poses a problem.

Beyond the obvious — which is having to recognize that a 45-year-old man is still playing quarterback in the NFL at an elite level, which is doubly-difficult for man of the same age who is still breathing heavily after this morning’s weightlifting session — there is another problem with this day.

What do you get the man who has everything?

After pondering this question for a few…let’s say hours…we came up with this idea: A piece acknowledging the greatest throws, games, moments and more from this illustrious NFL career to date.

We’re sure it is exactly what he was hoping for.

Greatest Throw: Brady to Brandon LaFell, AFC Divisional Round

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

How in the world do you pick just one?

Brady’s long NFL career is replete with absurd throws. Plus, judging by what we saw from him last season, we can look forward to even more incredible passes from Brady. As we discussed in our analysis of the game’s top quarterbacks, the veteran QB can still spin it:

But out of all the throws I have seen from Brady’s career, this one comes out on top. The game-winner to Brandon LaFell in the Divisional Round of the 2014 season against the Baltimore Ravens:

Why this throw over all the other options? Such as any of his throws from the game-winning drive in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons, like this one to Danny Amendola:

Or this absurd throw to Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos:

One, because it capped off the second of two 14-point comebacks to beat the Ravens. And two, because it came as part of the 2014 season, when the Patriots faced all sorts of questions, particularly early in the season, about Brady and their roster. This was the “we’re on to Cincinnati” season, when the Patriots were blown out in a Monday Night Football debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs, and Bill Belichick faced questions from the media about a quarterback change.

There was talk of cliffs, and of retirement.

But on a frigid night in Foxborough, Brady said hell no to all of that. And you cannot put that throw in a better spot to LaFell if you walked downfield and handed him the ball.

Greatest Run: Brady jukes Brian Urlacher

(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

The other categories were pretty hard to decide, and you can certainly make a case for other selections.

This category, however, is pretty easy.

Brady’s career rushing statistics, over 22 NFL seasons, are as follows: 664 career rushing attempts for 1,124 yards and 27 touchdowns, for a stunning 1.7 yards per attempt, and 3.5 yards per game. While he did earn a reputation as perhaps the best at executing a quarterback sneak, ripping off big gains on the ground was never exactly his thing.

And while there are runs over the course of his career that gained more yards, this moment from the 2006 season represents in my view the best run of his career. Picture a late-November, late-afternoon game at home against the Chicago Bears, who entered the contest with a 9-1 record to take on the 7-3 Patriots. It was billed as perhaps a Super Bowl preview.

FOX sent their studio crew to Foxborough to cover the game on-site. It was a picturesque New England fall evening, in fact almost unseasonably warm. The daytime high in Foxborough on the Sunday after Thanksgiving was 58 degrees, ten degrees above average, and the temperature at Gillette Stadium as kickoff neared was still 57 degrees. It was a raucous environment in Foxborough that evening, both inside and outside the stadium, with a post-season feel.

It was a tight contest, with both teams relying on their talented defenses to generate turnovers and make life generally miserable for the opposing offenses. Brady would throw a pair of interceptions on the evening. But with the game knotted at ten early in the fourth quarter, New England was on the move, facing a third-down just outside the red zone.

Brady dropped to throw, but pulled the football down and raced upfield, but there was one problem in his way to a first down.

Brian Urlacher.

Problem solved.

Now, a personal anecdote. You might be wondering why I included all the details about the weather, the stadium, and more. That’s because I was there that night. The traditional first anniversary wedding gift is paper, and my wife thought a great gift idea for me to celebrate our first wedding anniversary was Patriots tickets.

Sitting in our row in the upper bowl of Gillette Stadium was a Bears fan. Wearing a pink Urlacher jersey. Throughout the first three quarters of the game he was not shy at all about letting the Patriots fans around him know just how good Urlacher and the Bears were.

So when this happened, well, Patriots fans were happy to offer their retorts. To his credit he took it all in stride…

Greatest Drive: Super Bowl XXXVI

Tom Brady - Super Bowl XXXVI
Tom Brady - Super Bowl XXXVI

(USA TODAY Sports photo)

“What Tom Brady just did gives me goosebumps.”

Before everything else that came during his career, the multiple MVP awards, the seven Super Bowl victories, the glamorous life away from the field, and everything else that has come his way, Brady was the backup quarterback thrust into the starting lineup for a plucky group of underdogs facing the Greatest Show on Turf.

The Patriots were 14-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams heading into Super Bowl XXXVI, and in the days leading up to the game, there were questions over whether Brady would even start. Due to an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Championship game — which saw Drew Bledsoe come back onto the field for New England and guide the Patriots to the Super Bowl — some wondered whether Bledsoe would be the better choice.

But Bill Belichick stuck with Brady for the game, and the Patriots — thanks to an aggressive defensive gameplan — had a 14-point lead of their own as the fourth quarter began.

However, you can only keep the Greatest Show on Turf out of the end zone for so long, and a pair of Rams touchdowns in the fourth quarter saw the game knotted at 17 with under two minutes to go. In the booth calling the game alongside Pat Summerall, legendary head coach and announcer John Madden wondered if the Patriots would be better served playing for overtime.

Instead, Belichick put the game in his young quarterback’s hands.

With the guidance from Bledsoe ringing in his mind — “just go out there and sling it” — Brady put New England on the path to their first Super Bowl win. The drive had some moments from Brady that we would come to see as staples of his game over the next two decades, such as pocket movement, smart decision-making, and a big throw in a huge moment, as Brady hit Troy Brown with a dart to get into St. Louis territory.

And then a moment later, the spike. The image of Brady driving the ball into the turf to stop the clock at the end of the drive, then calmly catching the football as it rebounded off the Superdome surface and handing it to the referee, is seared into the minds of Patriots fans for eternity:

He would go on to have other incredible drives. Game-winners that ended in touchdowns, and more. But this is the one that started it all, before Brady was, well, Brady.

And it gave Madden goosebumps.

(You can watch the full drive on YouTube, if you have five minutes or so to spare).

Greatest Game: Super Bowl XLIX

Tom Brady - Super Bowl XLIX
Tom Brady - Super Bowl XLIX

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

At the outset I know what you are thinking.

If Russell Wilson turns and hands the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, we probably are not discussing this game as Brady’s greatest.

But that’s football.

This game stands out among Brady’s entire career in part because of what he was up against. Perhaps the best defense he faced in a Super Bowl, and among one of the best defenses he had ever faced in the post-season. (The 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2004 Ravens and the 2010 New York Jets are up there as well).

It also stands out because Brady needed another comeback to pull out the win. The Patriots entered the fourth quarter trailing by ten, after Brady threw his second interception of the game and the Seahawks responded with a touchdown to go up 24-14.

Brady and the Patriots offense started to click early in the fourth, and a huge completion from Brady to Julian Edelman to move the chains on 3rd and 14 gave Patriots fans hope. New England finished that drive with a touchdown to pull within three, and following a Seattle three-and-out, the Patriots got into the end zone again to take the lead.

Yes, they would need heroics from Malcolm Butler, but Brady finished the night against the top-ranked defense in the league having completed 37 of 50 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns, along with the two interceptions, en route to another Super Bowl MVP.

He might have enjoyed better statistical games, but on this stage, against this defense? This game stands out above them all.

Greatest Social Media Moment: The Madden Glowup

Believe it or not, one of the more painful aspects to Brady’s time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Patriots fans is his increased presence on social media. The quarterback has opened up a lot more, showing more of a personality than he did during his time in New England. Gone are the days of the “TB Times,” the mock newspaper covers he would post after games. And it is true that in his final few seasons in New England Brady started opening up more on social media. Few can forget this video he posted after the Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to Super Bowl LIII:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs4uDt9nMKH/

But during his time in Tampa Bay, Brady has shown more of himself on social media. Literally, in fact, as he has recently begun promoting the new line of underwear from Brady Brand.

And perhaps his best moment? This bit of self-deprecation in response to The Sporting News illustrating the difference in graphics on Madden from the first version of Brady, to the most recent:

Greatest Moment: Super Bowl LI

Tom Brady - Super Bowl LI
Tom Brady - Super Bowl LI

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

This one had everything.

It had perhaps some of Brady’s best throws, particularly on the game-winning drive in overtime. It had perhaps Brady’s best comeback, as the Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to win the game in overtime. It had perhaps his best game, as Brady set three Super Bowl records in the comeback, attempting the most passes with 62, completing the most passes (43), and throwing for the most yards (466).

He also earned another Super Bowl MVP award, and with the victory over the Atlanta Falcons Brady became the quarterback with the most Super Bowl wins, and the most Super Bowl trophies.

It also came at the end of a year where Brady missed the first four games while suspended due to Deflategate.

Yes, there are other moments to consider. The Patriots’ first Super Bowl win against the Rams, when they were the lovable underdogs facing the Greatest Show on Turf. The 2014 season that culminated with the victory over the Seahawks. His duels with quarterbacks from Peyton Manning to Patrick Mahomes, and of course his most recent Super Bowl, won during his first year in Tampa Bay.

(Something some of us saw coming).

But for my money, this was his greatest moment.

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Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire