At the age of 24 years and six months, Tom Brady became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl. The sophomore surpassed Joe Namath and his idol, Joe Montana in the process.
This victory was a turning point for the Patriots, who had never won a Super Bowl. It also represented an official changing of the guard under center, as the team traded Drew Bledsoe to the Bills in the off-season.
2002 saw the Patriots fall victim to the classic Super Bowl hangover. Brady continued to be a solid starter, but was prone to mistakes you didn’t see in his first year at the helm. While he led the league with 28 passing touchdowns, he also posted 14 interceptions. New England ended up missing out on the playoffs altogether due to a wild card tiebreaker. This led many to question whether the Patriots’ 2001 success was a fluke.
Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.
Brady, Belichick and company came back with a vengeance. After a slow start to the 2003 campaign, New England rattled off 12 straight wins to secure the AFC East title at 14-2.
The Patriots cruised to the Super Bowl where they defeated Jake Delhomme and the Panthers in a thriller, capped off by a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri (this was a theme for New England’s Super Bowl wins). Brady led his team to the 32-29 victory with 354 passing yards and three touchdowns, earning the second Super Bowl MVP of his career.
In the 2004 season, Brady and New England extended their win streak from 2003 to 21 total victories, breaking the 1972-73 Dolphins’ record. The Patriots breezed to another AFC title with a 14-2 record, taking care of the Colts and Steelers in the AFC Divisional and Conference Championship rounds.
Brady and company defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, capping off a dominant back-to-back campaign. As it currently stands, they are the last team to win two-straight championships.
After winning three titles in four years, the Patriots went on a bit of a Super Bowl drought. However, that didn’t stop Brady from cementing his spot among the greatest to ever play the game.
In 2007, he was the definition of dominant. With the help of a revamped receiving corps (which included an incredible career revival from Randy Moss), he threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns, which set an NFL record at the time.
Brady’s incredible season translated to team success, as the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season for the first time in NFL history. Unfortunately, their hopes for a perfect season were dashed by Eli Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl.
New England’s championship aspirations were prematurely crushed in Week 1 of the 2008 campaign, as Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury.
That being said, if you tuned into a Patriots game in 2009, you wouldn’t have ever suspected that Brady was coming off a brutal injury. He looked polished as ever, finishing the season with 4,398 passing yards and 28 touchdowns despite suffering a broken finger in his throwing hand and three fractured ribs throughout the year. To no one’s surprise, he was named the 2009 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Brady continued his elite play in 2010, becoming the first-ever unanimous MVP with 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
In 2011, Brady finished with an incredible 5,235 passing yards, becoming one of two players to break Dan Marino’s single-season record at the time (Drew Brees broke it in the same season, finishing with 5,476 yards). The Patriots met the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI for a rematch, but it was Eli Manning who emerged victorious once again, becoming the only man to beat Brady twice in the Super Bowl.
2012 and 2013 saw more of the same from Brady, but also more of the same from New England in terms of disappointing playoff losses, as the team fell two straight times in the AFC Championship.
The ‘13 loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos marked the ninth season since New England’s last Super Bowl victory. Brady was determined to make sure that mark didn’t hit double digits.