For a player with a reputation for being great in the clutch, Tom Brady sure has gone a long time without a good playoff game.
The New England Patriots’ stunning 28-21 loss to the New York Jets today makes Brady 0-3 in his last three games as a playoff starter. He hasn’t been on the winning side in the postseason in three years, and he hasn’t played well in defeat in any of the three losses since then.
The Patriots’ last three playoff losses — today against the Jets, last year against the Ravens and the Super Bowl against the Giants — haven’t been entirely Brady’s fault, by any stretch of the imagination. But they’ve certainly been partially Brady’s fault.
In those three playoff games, Brady has completed 81 of 135 passes for 719 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Terrible numbers? No. But don’t you want a future Hall of Famer, all-time great player to do better than 240 yards a game, with almost as many picks as touchdowns, in three straight losses?
And for all the talk that Brady is at his best when the chips are down, Brady turned in an ugly fourth quarter on Sunday against the Jets. Brady’s clock management was terrible: When the Patriots got the ball down 21-11 with 13 minutes to play, that should have been the time for Brady to show off his mastery of the hurry-up offense. Instead, Brady took his sweet old time, and the Patriots’ offense took almost eight minutes off the clock on a drive that ended on a fourth-down incomplete pass from Brady to Deion Branch.
Brady’s career is often measured against that of Peyton Manning: Part of the fun of being a sports fan is arguing about who the best is, and we want to state definitively which one of them is the best quarterback of his generation. Those who side with Manning cite his superior statistics, while those who pick Brady point out his better postseason record.
But if you think Brady is the best quarterback of this era because of what he’s done in the playoffs, then you have to grapple with the fact that what he’s done in the playoffs hasn’t been all that good lately.
No one can ever take away Tom Brady’s three Super Bowl rings, the regular-season MVP award he received following the 2007 season or the second MVP award he’ll surely receive in three weeks. But make no mistake: The Patriots’ three-game postseason losing streak means that Brady’s clutch reputation has been tarnished.