Welcome back to the third installment of the ranking Tom Brady’s seasons series. We’ve officially ranked the bottom half of his career, and we’re now entering the better half of Brady’s career. His 9th – 16th best seasons were good in their own right, but these are the years that made Tom Brady the legend he is.

Ranking Tom Brady’s Seasons: 5-8

Number 8: The 2004 Season

Stats: 60.8% completion percentage, 3,692 yards, 28 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

Season Results: 14-2, won Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia Eagles

As was the trend in the early days of the Pats dynasty, Brady’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page. Some of that was due to the era of football, as passing number around the league were lower than they are today. However, most of it had to do with the team around him.

Those early Patriot teams were built around a tough running game and a dominating defense. Corey Dillon was in his first season with the Patriots, and the longtime Bengal ran for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns. With a run game like that and a defense with too many stars to name, throwing the ball a lot would actually be detrimental to the team.

However, Brady always rose up to the occasion when the Patriots needed him. For the third time in his career, Brady needed to give his team a lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. And for the third time, Brady succeeded.

With the score tied 14-14, Brady led two scoring drives, putting up 10 unanswered points. The Eagles would score a late touchdown, but it was too little, too late for Philadelphia. While it was the only Patriots Super Bowl win in which Brady didn’t win MVP, the quarterback still had a great game, and a great season.

Number 7: The 2014 Season

Stats: 64.1 completion percentage, 4,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, nine interceptions

Season Results: 12-4, won Super Bowl XLIX against Seattle Seahawks

Brady and the Patriots finally broke their ten-year championship drought in an absolutely wild season to remember. From being “On to Cincinnati” to the Ravens playoff game to Malcolm Butler, this season was arguably the most entertaining of the Brady-Belichick Era. The 2014 Patriots started another dynasty, yet this iteration of the team was clearly led by the right arm of its quarterback.

Of course, the 2014 Patriots didn’t look like a team of destiny for the first month of the season. After losing the season opener against the Miami Dolphins and two ugly wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, the Patriots limped into Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs.

Everyone knows what happened next. The Chiefs crushed the Patriots and it looked like New England’s era of dominance was over. Brady threw two ugly interceptions that day, including a pick-six. Coming off a poor 2013, Brady had been completely mediocre through the first four games, and New England had just invested a high draft pick in Jimmy Garoppolo. It looked like it was finally the end of the road for the 37-year old quarterback.

Why It’s Ranked This High

After the Chiefs game, the Patriots were famously “On To Cincinnati,” and Brady played some of the best football of his storied career. Brady threw 18 touchdowns to just one interception over the next five games. He kept up his torrid pace through most of the season. After throwing just four touchdown passes in the first four games, Brady went on to throw 29 over the next 11.

His regular season was great, but his playoff performance was one for the ages. The Patriots held home field advantage, and had to face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round. Baltimore had historically given the Patriots fits, and this game was no exception. Fortunately for the Patriots, Brady was on the top of his game. Brady erased not one, but two 14-point deficits en route to pulling off a nail-biting 35-31 victory.

After stomping the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots had the unenviable task of going up against the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks. Entering the fourth quarter, the Patriots found themselves down ten points to the Legion of Boom.

No team in Super Bowl history had erased a ten-point fourth quarter deficit in the Super Bowl. No team, that is, until the 2014 Patriots. Brady got the ball twice in the fourth quarter, and both drives ended in touchdown passes. Of course, this was the same Super Bowl as Malcolm Butler’s interception, so Brady’s performance tends to get overlooked. However, Butler’s interception doesn’t happen if Brady doesn’t put up 14 points in a quarter against a defense that averaged 15 points allowed a game.

While Brady’s high points were as high as ever, there were just a few too many low points. His slow start to the season along with a relatively underwhelming regular season finish puts his 2014 season at the number seven spot.

Number 6: The 2011 Season

Stats: 63 completion percentage, 5,235 yards, 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

Season Results: 13-3, lost Super Bowl XLVI to New York Giants

The fact that this team made it to the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl, speaks to how great Brady was this season. With no running game to speak of and one of the worst defenses of all time, the 2011 Patriots relied on Brady more than any other team, save for maybe the 2006 Patriots.

Unlike in 2006, Brady was able to drag this team to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance. Brady did have Welker, Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez in the passing game, but he needed to be nearly perfect every week to make up for the defense. There’s truly no overstating how bad this defense was. They got lit up by Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Vince Young, and started special team Matthew Slater at safety and Julian Edelman at cornerback.

Brady entered every game knowing he’d need to put up at least 30 points to have a chance at winning, and just about every week, he did. Brady threw the second most passing yards in NFL history, only to Drew Brees, who set the record that very same year. His 39 touchdowns remain the second most he’s ever thrown in a season, and it was altogether a phenomenal season.

Why 2011 Isn’t Higher

2011 was an improvement from Brady’s 2010 MVP campaign in several ways. He drastically increased his yards and threw three extra touchdown passes. However, Brady did throw 12 interceptions in the campaign. While that’s not a high number for the average quarterback, it’s far more than Brady normally throws. Brady has thrown double digit interceptions just once since 2011, so this uncharacteristic lack of ball security does knock him a bit.

While his regular season was great, Brady didn’t have his best postseason. Brady was amazing in his first playoff game, throwing six touchdown passes against the Broncos to destroy Tebow Mania. The next two, however, didn’t go so well.

New England pulled off a victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, but Brady didn’t have much to do with that. Brady threw two interceptions without a touchdown and finished the game with a 57 passer rating. He did score the game winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak, but the Patriots owe this win to Sterling Moore breaking up a touchdown and Billy Cundiff missing an easy kick.

Brady’s Super Bowl performance wasn’t as bad as the Ravens game, but it wasn’t great either. Brady was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone on the offenses first play, and the rest of the game didn’t go much better. He went on a hot streak in the second quarter, but his performance was still inconsistent. 2011 was a vintage Brady season, but its ending keeps it from climbing any higher on this list.

Number 5: The 2015 Season

Stats: 64.4 completion percentage, 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns, seven interceptions

Season Result: 12-4, lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Championship Game

Oh, what could have been. The Patriots have been to three of the past four Super Bowls, but the most talented team might have been the one that didn’t make it to the big stage. When this team was had all its pieces, Brady and the Patriots were absolutely unstoppable.

Through the first nine games of the season, Brady threw 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Brady threw for over 300 yards in five of those games, and New England looked like an unstoppable juggernaut. This was in the wake of the DeflateGate suspension being overturned, and New England would leave no survivors in its revenge tour.

Unfortunately, an almost unfathomable amount of injuries struck the 2015 Patriots. The Patriots lost running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and literally every single offensive lineman for most or all of the season.

While injuries affected every part of the offense, Edelman’s injury was the final straw. Brady’s most reliable weapon broke his foot in Week 10 against the New York Giants, and the Patriots offense wasn’t the same the rest of the season. The offense couldn’t consistently move the football, so they relied more on deep passes. Unfortunately, their best deep option was Brandon LaFell. The Patriots lost four of their last six games, and Brady couldn’t get the offense to do much of anything.

The fact that this season is only number five is a true shame. This season could have been the best of them all had the team around Brady remained healthy. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and Brady wasn’t able to make up for it. In previous years, he’s overcome surrounding injuries and still picked up wins. In 2015, he couldn’t, as evidenced by the 2-4 record and pedestrian numbers.

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