Tom Brady is going to Green Bay on Sunday to play in his 14th conference championship game. This will be his first NFC title joust. Brady’s original 13 were played when he was a New England Patriot, and he won nine. Here’s a thumbnail history of Brady’s conference championship games with the Patriots:
▪ 2002 at Pittsburgh. W, 24-17. Brady’s first, and the only one he didn’t complete. The Patriots were underdogs on the road, and Brady came out of the game early with a sprained ankle after he was was taken down by Steelers defensive back Lee Flowers.
Drew Bledsoe, who had been The Franchise, threw a touchdown pass to David Patten almost immediately and managed the game the rest of the way.
There was no week off before the Super Bowl, and Bill Belichick didn’t name his starting quarterback for Super Bowl XXXVI until late in the week. Brady got the nod and the rest is history.
▪ 2004 vs. Indianapolis. W, 24-14. While Colts president Bill Polian fumed upstairs, Ty Law beat the snot out of Indianapolis receivers and intercepted three Peyton Manning passes in the easy win. It wasn’t a big day for Brady, but Law’s ragdolling on Colts wideouts resulted in stricter rule enforcement that benefits Brady to this day.
▪ 2005 at Pittsburgh. W, 41-27. An underdog against rookie Ben Roethlisberger and the 15-1 Steelers, Brady warmed up in shorts and a T-shirt on the coldest day in Steeler history.
Brady’s 60-yard TD pass to Deion Branch opened up an early 10-0 lead. When a pick-6 by Rodney Harrison made it 24-3, Steeler fans put down their Terrible Towels and started to empty Heinz Field.
▪ 2007 at Indianapolis. L, 38-34. This is a game that can be identified by the final score. Every Patriot fan knows what 38-34 means, and it isn’t good.
The Brady-Manning debate (seems silly now) was a national rage, and Manning finally got the better of Tom, bringing the Colts back from a 21-3 first-half deficit.
The game inspired Belichick to load up for the following season, bringing in Wes Welker and Randy Moss. This also was the period when young Tom started dating supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
▪ 2008 vs. San Diego. W, 21-12. In the scorched-earth season of “Spygate” and 18-0, the AFC Championship game was a layup: San Diego’s two best players — LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers — were hurt, and there was no way New England’s perfect season was going to end against the Chargers.
At the Globe, we already had our instant book on “Perfection” ready to go to press.
▪ 2012 vs. Baltimore. W, 23-20. Brady injured his throwing shoulder late in the regular season and was not in top form for this one. Rob Gronkowski got knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain, but Aaron Hernandez made up for his absence. That Patriots won it when Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal at the end.
▪ 2013 vs. Baltimore. L, 28-13. Brady took the weaponless Patriots to a 13-7 lead at the half, then watched Joe Flacco tear through New England’s defense for three touchdowns. Brady and New England had no answer. Gronkowski had a broken arm, and Hernandez played his last game of professional football on this day.
▪ 2014 at Denver. L, 26-16. Manning threw for 400 yards and built a 23-3 lead.
“I wish we could have done a better job today ― especially me,” said Belichick.
Seizing the moment, I declared, “Sunday’s annihilation at Mile High was merely the latest demonstration that the Super Bowl championship days are long gone in Foxborough . . . And the proverbial window is closing for Brady.’'
▪ 2015 vs. Indianapolis. W, 45-7. This is the game that gave birth to The Wells Report, The Wells Report in Context, Jimmy “Hotfingers” McNally, fanboy judge Richard Berman, the Ideal Gas Law, and Belichick quoting Mona Lisa Vito.
Soon after the Patriots slaughtered the Colts, it was reported that New England had a system of tampering with game-day footballs. “Deflategate” wound up costing Brady the first four games of the 2016 season.
▪ 2016 at Denver. L, 20-18. This game actually was lost at Miami when the Patriots gave away their regular-season finale by not trying against the Dolphins. That loss put them in Denver, where Brady’s audibles could not be heard over the crowd noise and cost the Patriots a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots never led in this game and failed on a 2-point conversion after their final score.
▪ 2017 vs. Pittsburgh. W, 36-17. This was an easy win best remembered for LeGarrette Blount (who had quit the Steelers a year earlier) carrying six Pittsburgh defenders toward the goal line. A Brady touchdown pass to Julian Edelman made it 33-9 late in the game. Jon Bon Jovi sat in Bob Kraft’s box as “Livin’ on a Prayer” played over and over.
▪ 2018 vs. Jacksonville. W, 24-20. Brady badly cut his throwing hand in practice a few days before the game and wore a glove in the game.
The Patriots were dominated for three quarters and trailed, 20-10, with 12 minutes remaining before Brady took over, leading New England on two touchdown drives, both capped on passes to Danny Amendola.
When Belichick was asked about Brady’s toughness, the coach said, “It’s not like he had open-heart surgery.”
▪ 2019 at Kansas City. W, 37-31 (overtime). On a frigid day at Arrowhead Stadium (a disheveled Kraft got to the stadium just before kickoff), Brady marched the Patriots to a 14-0 lead before Patrick Mahomes answered and pushed the Chiefs ahead, 21-17.
Neither team could stop the other down the stretch. Down, 28-24, with 1:57 left, Brady drove the Patriots 65 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, only to watch Kansas City tie it with eight seconds left.
Matthew Slater called heads before overtime, and it took Brady less than five minutes to go 75 yards in 13 plays.
Now he’s on to Green Bay.