Tom Brady's 40 greatest moments: Nos. 20-11

Tom Brady has had one of the most storied careers in NFL history. With Brady set to turn 40 on Aug. 3, Shutdown Corner is counting down the 40 most memorable moments from Brady’s career, on and off the field.

Brady’s 40 greatest moments: 40-31 • 30-21

(Yahoo Sports graphic by Amber Matsumoto)

20. Brady’s infamously slow 40-yard dash at the scouting combine

Back in 2000, the NFL scouting combine wasn’t the made-for-TV spectacle it is now. It was just a few hundred players who’d entered the draft, being put through the paces. There were no apparel sponsors, no skintight track suits for the 40-yard dash, no armchair draftniks evaluating every pass attempt thrown against air.

So looking back at footage of Brady at his combine is like looking into a time capsule. He’s dressed in a baggy white T-shirt marked QB1 (players are numbered alphabetically), gray shorts, and relatively clunky Adidas sneakers as he runs the world’s slowest 40. At least, it looks like the world’s slowest. Remarkably, his shuttle seemed even slower.

And then there are the photos from his weigh-in…


We don’t expect quarterbacks to be the fastest, most muscular guys in the room, but those who saw Brady back then and didn’t see arguably the greatest QB ever – QB1 if you will – can be forgiven.

19. Two words: Baby. Goat.

The first instinct is to shout, “Why, Tom, why?!?” all over again, but it turns out a 2005 GQ photo shoot, which also featured Brady in a cowboy hat and chaps, was pretty damn prescient. He wasn’t really considered the GOAT (greatest of all time) back then, but to many he is now.


18. ‘My dad is my hero’

Brady has never shied away from the love he has for his parents, Tom Sr. and Galynn, and his three older sisters. But at the Super Bowl LI Media Day earlier this year, it was stunning to see Brady tear up when he was asked a simple question from a kid reporter: “Who’s your hero?”

Time and tribulations have seen Brady become more reserved in front of large media groups over the years, so his reaction was unexpected.

It came with good reason: not only did Brady Sr. bring his son to 49ers games when he was growing up and play baseball with him in their yard, he was fiercely protective of his son during the deflate-gate saga (at one point he slammed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell), and has been Galynn’s caregiver as she dealt with cancer.

17. The Giants get the best of Brady in a Super Bowl, again

This was not Brady’s best moment.

Meeting the New York Giants for a second time in the Super Bowl, this time in unseasonably warm Indianapolis for XLVI, the Patriots were down 9-0 with less than 12 minutes gone because of Brady: he was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, handing New York two points and possession, and Eli Manning led his team on a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive.

But Brady found his mojo, completing a Super Bowl record 17 consecutive passes over the second and third quarters. The two touchdown drives put New England ahead, 17-9, early in the third quarter.

The Giants didn’t go away, and in the fourth, on second-and-11, Brady threw for an open Wes Welker. The ball was a little high and Welker got his hands on it, but couldn’t make the catch. Many critics blamed Welker, saying if he got his hands on it he should have finished the play. (Gisele Bundchen delivered the hottest of takes after that Super Bowl.)

Patriots offensive coordinator at the time, Bill O’Brien (see No. 36 on this list), came to Welker’s defense a month later, and alluded to Brady’s throw being inaccurate. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said what O’Brien wouldn’t, declaring, “it wasn’t a great throw.”

 

The Giants would win, 21-17, with Brady unable to create a last-minute miracle after he got the ball back with just 57 seconds remaining. It’s impossible to recount Brady’s great career without reflecting on some of the high-profile failures he has bounced back from.

16. Brady tears his ACL, but his first game back the next season is vintage Brady

Brady has had a remarkable run of good health in his career. He has played through some injuries and illness, but he’s had only one injury significant enough to force him off the field. In the 2008 regular-season opener, any thoughts of avenging a loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII ended as Brady tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee.

He never saw the first-quarter hit coming: Brady was looking downfield for Randy Moss, and completed the 28-yard throw. But New England running back Sammy Morris didn’t do a good job picking up blitzing Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, and Pollard lunged at Brady’s lower leg as he released the ball. Brady immediately grabbed at his left knee, and all of the excitement for the season – the Patriots had most of the pieces back from a team that came tantalizingly close to the NFL’s first 19-0 season – vanished as he walked off the field with team medical staff. Matt Cassel was serviceable in Brady’s stead, winning 11 games, but New England did not make the playoffs.

Brady rehabbed and was back on the field for the 2009 season opener. He made it a memorable return, bringing the Patriots back from an 11-point fourth-quarter hole against the Buffalo Bills for the win.

15. Brady’s maniacal diet, including never eating a strawberry

We hear stories about athletes who realize they need to take care of their bodies and swear off McDonald’s, but Brady takes his nutrition to a whole new level.

According to their personal chef, Brady and his family’s diet is roughly 80 percent organic vegetables and whole grains. The other 20 percent is lean protein. And while his children eat fruit, Brady doesn’t – the man claims he has never eaten a strawberry in his life and has no desire to start now.

He also considers non-dairy avocado ice cream to be a delicious treat.

It might not be how you nosh, but given that Brady’s about to play his 18th NFL season at age 40 and just led his team to another Super Bowl win, it’s hard to argue with the results.

14. Brady’s triumphant return from deflate-gate suspension

Few sporting sagas have dragged on as long as deflate-gate, and we don’t want to rehash all of the details. Please don’t make us rehash the details.

Brady returned from his four-game suspension on Oct. 9, 2016, and the poor Cleveland Browns happened to be the team he made his return against.

What a return it was: Brady completed 70 percent of his passes (on 40 attempts), with three touchdowns, all of them to Martellus Bennett, in a 33-13 win. In 12 regular-season games, Brady threw for 35 touchdowns and just two interceptions – two! – and while he didn’t win the Associated Press MVP award, with most voters holding his suspension against him, Brady was voted the top player in the league by his peers in the now-annual NFL Network “Top 100 Players.” And Brady ended up with one MVP award after his return … another Super Bowl MVP.

13. Patriots go back-to-back with Super Bowl win over Philadelphia

The Patriots’ Super Bowl wins have never been blowouts, though unlike their first two wins, Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t require a last-second field goal from Adam Vinatieri.

Backed by a strong, mostly veteran defense, Brady and the Patriots built a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over Philadelphia. Completing passes to seven receivers, including a touchdown to linebacker Mike Vrabel (Vrabel had 10 catches in his career, all of them for scores), Brady carved up the Eagles’ D, which was one of the best in the NFL that season. Brady was 23-for-33 with two touchdowns and was sacked just once.

In three playoff games that season, against the Colts, Steelers and Eagles, Brady was 55-of-81 (67.9 percent) with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His third Super Bowl win put him in a rare class historically, and he was just 27 years old.

12. Brady fakes out Brian Urlacher on a run

Remember the clip of Brady running the 40 at the combine? He’s not exactly the most athletic quarterback in the NFL. However, he had one great, memorable open-field move that completely faked out one of the best linebackers of his era.

Midway through the first quarter of a November 2006 home game against the Chicago Bears, the Patriots faced third-and-9 from the Chicago 25. Brady dropped back 5 yards, quickly lost his pocket, saw the middle of the field open and took off. Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was waiting at the 20 for Brady, but the quarterback put a little juke on him, leaving Urlacher behind. Brady gained enough for the first down before sliding to safety.

He jumped up and to the delight of fans and teammates, emphatically signaled for the first down. Five plays later, the Patriots broke a 10-10 tie with the go-ahead touchdown.

Even a decade later, it remains one of the most memorable plays of Brady’s career, mostly because Brady himself tell you that he is anything but fleet of foot. He looked pretty agile for one play, though.

11. Brady finishes a historic 2007 regular season in style

Brady’s 2007 performance remains one of the most prolific by an NFL quarterback, and certainly one of the most statistically impressive of his career. There were questions about how Randy Moss and Wes Welker, whom New England acquired that offseason, would fit into the offense; Moss was coming off some down seasons with the Raiders and thought by some to be done, and Welker was a relative unknown.

But Brady, Welker and Moss got along just fine, and Brady had a dream season as the Patriots fought to a 16-0 regular season. Brady’s jaw-dropping Week 7 game in Miami was incredible and illustrates how efficient the New England offense was that season: 21-for-25, 354 yards, six touchdowns, one of the two perfect-passer-rating games in his career. Seven receivers caught a pass, five caught a touchdown. New England was up 42-7 after three quarters.

In the regular-season finale, as everyone tuned in to see if the Patriots could finish the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, Brady became the first quarterback to record 50 touchdowns in a season. He broke Peyton Manning’s single-season record (since taken back by Manning) on a gorgeous 65-yard play to Moss, who also became the single-season TD reception king on the same play. And the Patriots finished the regular season undefeated.