Ranking the Patriots Super Bowl Teams (02/03/17)
This past Sunday, Tom Brady played in his seventh Super Bowl. While this year's team was certainly talented, was it the best he has ever played on? We went back through the Prediction Machine archives and team rankings to rank all of his Super Bowl teams from worst to best.
In 2001, Tom Brady would take over after Drew Bledsoe was hurt against the Jets in the regular season. However, he wasn't much of a factor in that Super Bowl as he threw for 145 yards and a touchdown. That season, the Pats defense was ranked fifth overall in total points allowed at just 17 per game, which played a major role in their success and getting to the Super Bowl.
The 2003 Super Bowl was likely the game in which Brady established himself as a top-tier quarterback. However, it helped that he had elite defenders Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison applying pressure on the defensive side of the ball. That defense finished seventh in total yards allowed in the regular season, but the offense was far from elite, averaging only 4.9 yards per play (18th in the league).
In 2004, the Patriots completed another 14-2 season and defeated Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. That year, Corey Dillon rushed for over 1,600 yards, which created perhaps the most balanced offense New England has had since 2000. New England's offensive yards per play improved to 5.5 (11th in the league) in the 2004 season, although the defense slightly regressed from the year prior.
A last minute play helped New England squeak past the Seattle Seahawks and win their first title in 11 years. Brady would throw for four touchdowns against the vaunted 'Legion of Boom'. It would also mark the emergence of Malcolm Butler from an unknown rookie to Pro Bowl corner, as he made one of the single biggest plays in Super Bowl history. Aside from quarterback play, this version of the Patriots wasn't truly great at anything, but their lack of exploitable weaknesses made them a force to be reckoned with.
This was the second Super Bowl that Brady and the Patriots would lose to the Giants. This game featured Wes Welker dropping a pass in the fourth quarter that could have helped them win what would have been their fourth title. Although the defense carried New England to the first three Super Bowls, it was all Tom Brady in 2011. The defense gave up a whopping 6.0 yards per play in 2011, which was the fourth-worst mark in the league.
This is one of the most balanced teams that New England has had since drafting Tom Brady. The Patriots allowed 15.6 points per game on defense, excelling in run defense and boasting a shutdown secondary. Brady threw for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns in only four games, and has produced arguably his greatest season ever, even after having lost tight end Rob Gronkowski for the season. New England entered the Super Bowl with the second-best yards per play differential in the league. Despite playing the league's easiest schedule, the Patriots have disposed of opponents in a manner that has been truly impressive, and capped off their season with an epic comeback victory over the Falcons.
The 2007 Patriots were the first to go 16-0 in the regular season. Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns that year, and 23 of them went to Randy Moss. However, that Super Bowl will be remembered for David Tyree's catch and for being the first time Brady lost in the big game. Despite that loss though, this was the most complete Patriots team ever. New England led the league in yards per play on offense, and also boasted a top ten defense; a deadly combination that put them one win away from perfection.