Back on September 30, 2001, an unknown sixth round pick out of Michigan made his first start at quarterback for the Patriots. That quarterback was Tom Brady, and he would help the Patriots win their first Super Bowl by upsetting the Rams to finish the season. Since making his debut, the Patriots have had more success than any other NFL team, winning all but two AFC East championships.
Of those two seasons where New England didn’t clinch the title, the first came in 2002 when the team finished 9-7 and lost a three-way tie on tiebreakers to the Jets. The second came in 2008 when Brady missed almost the entire season after getting injured in Week 1. Outside of those two years, Brady has been absolutely dismantling AFC East opponents, and has a record of 77-20 against the Bills, Jets and Dolphins.
Fans of those teams can’t wait until the day that Brady and/or Bill Belichick retires, and they might not want to take this trip down memory lane. That’s because we are looking at the 10 best games that Brady has had against his divisional opponents, and we start with an old foe from Brady’s first season as a starting quarterback.
15 Indy Goes South
A lot of the younger football fans don’t remember which teams were in which division before the Houston Texans came along in 2002 (and let’s be honest, there’s a lot of young Patriots fans). In 2001 when Tom Brady made his first start, the Patriots shared the AFC East with the Indianapolis Colts before realignment put them in the AFC South.
In their final game as divisional rivals, Brady was still getting adjusted to life as a starting quarterback. At the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Brady managed to complete 16 of his 20 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. While he only had 202 yards, Brady was very efficient and the Patriots managed to pick up a 38-17 win on the road over Peyton Manning and the Colts.
14 Following Up
After winning the Super Bowl in his first season, Tom Brady and the Patriots were looking to avoid a Super Bowl hangover. Early in the season, they certainly didn’t seem to have one of those hangovers when they took on the Jets in Week 2. The Jets held tough in the first half, not surrendering any points until halfway through the second quarter, trailing 10-0 heading into the locker room.
Things would get ugly in the second half, however, as the Patriots scored 34 points. Brady would finish his day with 25 completions on 35 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The first touchdown came on a one yard pass to Cam Cleeland while the other came on a 49 yard pass to Deion Branch in the fourth quarter.
13 Ending on a High Note
The Patriots were going for their second Super Bowl win in three years in 2003, and they looked like they were well on their way toward the end of the regular season. Sitting at 13-2, the Patriots took on the Bills, who were just looking to end their season at 6-9. The home team would get off to a hot start, as Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, and then two more in the second.
By halftime, the Patriots were up 28-0 and Brady had thrown for four touchdowns, pumping the brakes in the second half. Even though he only threw for 204 yards, Brady was very efficient and even added 23 rushing yards. The game was in control from the beginning, and Damon Huard would even end up coming in for Brady as they prepared for the playoffs.
12 Another Finale
2003 was not the only time that the Patriots have finished out a regular season at home against a division opponent easily. In 2011, the Patriots wrapped up another solid season to improve to 14-2 as they dismantled the Dolphins 38-7. Like the Bills game from 2003, the game was already out of question at halftime as the Patriots took a 24-0 lead into the locker room.
Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski in the first quarter, and then Alge Crumpler in the third. Brady didn’t play much as their playoff spot had already been wrapped up, but he did finish with 10-for-16 passing on 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Even Brian Hoyer would have a decent performance as a reserve, throwing for 122 yards and a touchdown.
11 Back in Action
The Patriots found themselves in a hole at 3-4 heading into their November showdown at Buffalo. It’s odd to think about, but Brady and the Pats were underdogs against the Bills back in 2002. The Patriots would not be denied, as they opened the scoring very early with a connection between Tom Brady and Christian Fauria. New England would extend their lead on another pass, this time to Antowain Smith.
The second half wouldn’t be very competitive as the Patriots pulled away, winning by a final of 38-7. Brady would finish his day with 22-for-26 in passing for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was tough sledding for Drew Bledsoe, who was trying to keep up with his former teammate, but not having much success.
10 Christmas Eve Beatdown
You don’t have to go too far back in time for the next beatdown, as Tom Brady and the Patriots were able to cruise past the Jets on Christmas Eve 2016, winning by a score of 41-3. Brady did not need that many yards to be effective, but was still able to get the job done on 214 yards through the air, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady was able to hook up with Martellus Bennett, James White and Matt Lengel all in the first half.
That meant that Brady didn’t even have to air it out much in the second half, though with two rushing touchdowns by LeGarrette Blount from the one-yard line, Brady could have had an even bigger day. Despite being a massive 17 point favorite, they were still able to cover the spread.
9 Flight Path
In 2010, it looked like the Jets were finally going to be able to knock the Patriots from atop the AFC East and win their first divisional title since 1998. Heading into the early December match-up, both the Patriots and Jets carried records of 9-2, but Brady and the Patriots would not be surpassed at home on Monday Night Football, as the Patriots absolutely stymied New York.
The Patriots entered the game as just a four point favorite, but surpassed expectations by destroying Mark Sanchez’s Jets by a score of 45-3 in front of a national audience. Brady threw for 326 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as part of the win. Brady also didn’t miss much, completing 21 of his 29 passes.The Patriots would go on to win the division by three games.
8 Farewell Old Friend
Tom Brady opened up the 2016 season serving a four game suspension for “Deflategate” which caused him to miss the first match-up between the Patriots and Bills. Brady would take the 6-1 Patriots into Buffalo the day before Halloween to go against the Bills, who were feeling alright about themselves at 4-3. However, Brady would remind the Bills who the king of the AFC East is as New England rolled to a 41-25 win.
It would end up being the final time Brady faced a Rex Ryan team (for now), and he didn’t take it easy on the coach. Brady finished with 315 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 22 of 33 passes. This game is memorable because it not only was one of the reasons Ryan would eventually be fired, but it was also the game where someone threw a...phallic object...on the field.
7 Fins Down
In 2015, the Patriots were absolutely rolling through the first 10 weeks of the season after coming off of a Super Bowl win the previous season. New England got their first taste of the Dolphins during their hot start, as they held a 6-0 record when Miami made the trip north for a Thursday night game. It went just about as expected, as the Patriots pulled away early and never looked back en route to a 36-7 victory.
Brady would get the party started with a 47 yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski and added three more with two to Julian Edelman in the fourth quarter and one to Dion Lewis before halftime. Brady finished with 356 yards along with the touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception. The Dolphins would get their revenge in Week 17 in what equated to be a meaningless game.
6 Left For Dead
The beginning of the 2014 season was an interesting one for the Patriots. After losing to the Dolphins in Week 1 by 13 points, New England would rattle off two consecutive victories. However, they would get dismantled by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, leading to a lot of commentators to say that Brady’s days in New England were numbered and that the team was going nowhere.
The Patriots responded by thumping Cincinnati and then taking out their anger on division rival Buffalo the next week. Brady and the Patriots won at Buffalo by a score of 37-22 while Brady had a huge day. The quarterback would finish with 361 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as he reminded all of the talking heads that he was still a force to be reckoned with as New England eventually won the Super Bowl.
5 The Butt Fumble Game
In 2012, the New York Jets were fading fast with Mark Sanchez at the helm despite coming off of two good seasons. Heading into Thanksgiving, the Jets were 4-6 and were hosting the Patriots, who were 7-3. After no scoring in the first, the Patriots went ballistic in the second quarter to take a 35-3 lead into halftime. Even though it was a forgettable blowout, it became memorable because of Mark Sanchez’s infamous “Butt Fumble.”
What people forget about the game is just how good Tom Brady was. Brady would finish with 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. Not only that, but he had three rushing attempts for five yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker, Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman would all find the end zone on Brady passes, with Vereen’s being an 83 yarder.
4 Joining the Club
With all of the accomplishments that Tom Brady has had in his career, there was one milestone heading into the 2011 season that he never got to, and that’s the 500 yard club. In the opening week of the season, the Patriots would travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins, and Brady set his career high for passing yards with 517, while adding four touchdowns and one interception as New England started 1-0 with a 38-24 win.
It was actually a close game until late in the third quarter when Brady hit Aaron Hernandez (remember him?) from one yard out to make it a 28-17 game. Then, in the fourth quarter, Brady made history by connecting with Wes Welker for a 99 yard touchdown pass. That gave Brady the shortest possible touchdown pass as well as the longest possible one in the same game.
3 Wrecking Rex
After winning the Super Bowl the year before, the Patriots started off their 2015 season by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the Thursday night opener, giving them extra rest for their showdown with the Bills in Week 2. Buffalo was coming off a win of their own and looking to establish some momentum in the AFC East, but it wasn’t to be as the Patriots won on the road by a score of 40-32.
The score was actually a bit deceiving, as the Bills were down 37-13 in the fourth quarter before making it respectable. Tom Brady would have a huge game in the process, throwing for 466 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 59 passes. Brady hooked up with Julian Edelman in the first quarter, Rob Gronkowski in the second then Edelman again in the third.
2 Pursuit of Perfection Part I
2007 is the year that a lot of people first think of when it comes to Tom Brady’s greatest accomplishments. The Patriots spent the entire regular season undefeated and didn’t suffer their first loss until the worst possible time at the Super Bowl. Still, there were a lot of good memories for Pats fans along the way, including their match-up in November against the Bills where the Patriots walked with a 56-10 win.
The Patriots easily covered the 16 point spread as Brady threw for 373 yards (31-for-39 passing) with five touchdowns and no interceptions, even adding nine yards on the ground. It was an absolute massacre as Brady connected with Randy Moss on four different occasions before the teams even went into the locker room for halftime, with Ben Watson adding the fifth and final touchdown in the third quarter.
1 Pursuit of Perfection Part II
Despite those insane numbers against the Bills in the 2007 season, there was a game that was slightly more impressive against a division rival. This time, it came in October against the struggling Dolphins, who were 0-6 heading into their showdown with New England. Throughout the first three quarters, the Patriots made it look easy as they took a 42-7 lead into the final quarter. The Dolphins added three touchdowns to make it a 49-28 ending, but it was never in question.
Brady had one of his two career six touchdown games (the other coming against non-divisional team Tennessee) as he tossed for 354 yards and no interceptions. The bonanza of touchdown passes started with Donte Stallworth and Kyle Brady in the first, while Randy Moss added two in the second quarter. Wes Welker would get his first just before halftime and caught the sixth Brady touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter.