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Drew Brees Loses Another Playoff Game Drew Brees Style

In his first playoff game, Drew Brees threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Antonio Gates with 11 seconds remaining to force overtime against the Jets. In overtime, Brees and the Chargers drove 48 yards down the field, and converted two third downs, to set up a game-winning 40-yard field goal. Unfortunately for Brees, Nate Kaeding missed the kick, and the Jets won in overtime.

In his second playoff game, Brees had an efficient performance in a win over the Eagles. The next week, New Orleans faced an excellent Bears team in frigid conditions in Chicago. Brees’ teammates lost two fumbles, rushed for a total of 48 yards, and allowed 37 points in an NFCCG loss.

Brees’ next three playoff games were all in 2009, when he threw 8 touchdowns and no interceptions as the Saints won the Super Bowl.

His next playoff game? That was the BeastQuake game when Marshawn Lynch rumbled for a 67-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter. The Saints lost 41-36, despite Brees throwing for 404 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions.  This would not be the last time Brees would lose a game despite his team scoring over 30 points.

The next playoff game of his career was his best, at least statistically.  Even with era and defensive adjustments, it ranked as one of the 10 best passing games in postseason history: He threw for 466 yards and 3 TDs on 43 attempts in a 45-28 win over the Lions.

The next week Brees lost in one of the classic games in modern postseason history. Take a look at the boxscore:

This was the first game in playoff history with four lead changes in the final five minutes. Brees had a monster game against a great 49ers pass defense, and gave his team the lead in the final two minutes. Alas, that was not enough. This would not be the last time that would happen, either.

Two years later, Brees and the Saints won in Philadelphia as underdogs. This was, statistically, the worst playoff game of his postseason career. On the other hand, he and the Saints were a dome team playing a night game in Philadelphia in freezing conditions, and after a rough first half, the Saints scored two touchdowns and two field goals in five second half possessions. On the final drive, he picked up two first downs to set up the game-winning field goal.

The next week wasn’t good: he was 24/43 for 309 yards and 1 TD which oh wait it was against the 2013 Seahawks. In Seattle. So yeah, that was a pretty good game in a losing effort.

That brings us to 2017. In the first round of the playoffs, Brees went 23/33 for 376 yards and 1 TDs in a 31-26 win over Carolina. And then yesterday against the Vikings? After a miserable first half, Brees and the Saints scored three touchdowns on the team’s first four drives of the second half. The final touchdown put New Orleans ahead by 1 point with 2:20 to go.

Minnesota answered with a 9-play, 40-yard drive that culminated with a 53-yard field goal. New Orleans got the ball back, down 2 with 89 seconds left and one timeout, and drove 50 yards for the field goal. The Saints took a 24-23 lead with 25 seconds remaining.

With 10 seconds remaining, the Vikings had the ball at their own 39 yard line with no timeouts left. And then this happened:

Well, this happened:

One of the greatest plays in playoff history. An instant classic. And yet, once again, Brees was left holding the short straw. Does this boxscore look familiar?

There have been two games in NFL postseason history with four lead changes1 in the final five minutes. And Brees was on the losing end in both of them.

As a reminder, in 13 playoff games:

  • The other team has scored 28+ points 6 times, and Brees is 2-4 in those games This includes the only two games in playoff history with four lead changes in the final five minutes and the BeastQuake game where the Saints scored 36 points.
  • Brees’ teams are 5-2 when the opponent scores under 28 points. The two losses include a game against one of the best pass defenses in NFL history and a game where his kicker missed a 40-yard field goal in overtime.
  • The average score of a Drew Brees playoff game is 28.8 to 26.8. While with the Saints, that jumps to 29.8 to 27.4.

In the last 10 postseasons, there have been 27 games with at least 56 points combined (i.e., an average of 28 points per team). Brees’s Saints have been involved in six of those 27 games. Keep in mind that there have been 214 playoff games over that stretch, and New Orleans has only been in 10 of them.

That means 60% of all Drew Brees playoff games see 56+ points scored, compared to 10% of all other games.

Brees is one of just four quarterbacks with a career passer rating in the playoffs over 100 and has averaged 324 passing yards per game in the playoffs, easily the most of all time. His stat line — 354/537, 4,209 yards, 29 TDs, 9 INTs, 100.7 passer rating, 22 sacks — looks like that of an MVP candidate, especially when you consider that’s in only 13 games. Pro-rated to 16 games, and it’s 5,180 yards with 36 TDs and 11 INTs on 661 attempts. Those are nearly identical to the numbers he put up in an MVP caliber 2013 season.

In other words, Drew Brees in the playoffs plays like the best version of Drew Brees in the regular season, which is pretty darn incredible. But what’s even more incredible is the string of events that have left him with just a 7-6 record. For that 7-6 record, he can thank Kaeding, Lynch, Vernon Davis, Stefon Diggs, and going up against two of the best defenses of the last 15 years.

  1. I am excluding ties, but if you include them, only one other game gets in there. []
  • Richie

    This is an example of why I hate when QB’s get so much credit for their playoff records. Brees got the job done a handful of times, but the rest of the team let him down. Each time a win gets “stolen” from Brees, it also takes away possible future wins by preventing him from even playing in the next game.

    Brady has been great, but it seems like his teammates also do a great job of bailing him out. (Though he also had a little bad luck in the Giants Super Bowls).

    As for the game yesterday, one thing that frustrated me a little is that the Saints seemed to only be playing for a field goal on their final possession. They were in Minnesota territory with a little under a minute to play, but they never tried a deep pass into the end zone. Maybe the Vikings coverage was too good on the deep routes, but on TV it didn’t look like anybody was going deep.

    I would have liked to see at least one shot to the end zone. If the Saints scored a touchdown, that Stefon Diggs touchdown would have been much less likely, because the Saints defense would have been playing to avoid a touchdown since a FG would have been meaningless.

    • Tom

      Regarding the QB and playoff records, couldn’t agree more. Especially when you hear talk about some QB’s being winners and some not, etc. Now, I don’t think there’s *anyone* in the media who says that Brees isn’t a “winner”, but there’s this thing (unspoken, whatever) where he will *always* be second tier because of his playoff “record”.

      By my WP numbers (yeah, there’s some wiggle room), Brees had a +0.81 WPA for this game and that’s including the two picks. That 4th-10 pass to Snead with 45 seconds left was HUGE, without it, game over.

      Just a bummer for that guy considering how well he actually plays in these playoff games when it matters…

      • Richie

        Yeah, that pass to Snead was clutch. That play will be forgotten because they lost the game. I wonder what some of the most clutch fourth down plays are in history. PFR says that play was a 30-point swing in win probability. But that seems low to me. They had a 15% win probability before the play, and the completion put them in game-winning field goal range with 40 seconds left (44% WP). How often does a team lose in that situation? Is it really 56% of the time?

        • Tom

          I’ve got that play as being much bigger, as you’re thinking:

          0.28 WP before the play, 0.71 after, +0.43 WPA.

          I’ve got this play about as big as Montana to Rice on 2nd-20 with 1:17 left in SB 23.

          Yeah, 44% seems way too low…you’re down by 2, in FG range (yes, a long one) and there’s 40 seconds left. Almost seems like a typical end of game scenario that we’ve seen a million times: team drains the clock almost to zero, kicks the game winner, etc.

          (And you’re right, that play will be long, long forgotten)

      • sacramento gold miners

        I wouldn’t be among those fans calling Brees second tier because of his playoff record, leading a franchise like the Saints to a SB win is a valuable accomplishment. It’s fair to say Brees has had some bad luck in some defeats, but like WR stated below, Brees did hurt the Saints in the first half of the Minnesota game with his poor play.

        Overall, I still have Brees as a first ballot HOF lock, and an inner circle QB. Could the postseason play been better? Sure, but the totality of the career carries the day. My feeling on the postseason and why it matters when evaluating the QB position remains the same.

        • Renan

          Your feelings on the postseason remains illogical.
          How many times Brady (including last year SB), Big Ben and others QBs hurt his team and still won? You still give credit to QBs by things that they have no control over.

          • sacramento gold miners

            As long as winning is the ultimate objective in team sports, and the QB position remains the most important on the field, regular season and postseason records do matter. Yes, sometimes a QB can struggle, but still make enough plays to win. A QB’s career isn’t based on the postseason, that’s why Jim Plunkett won’t be in the HOF, but it is part of the overall career.

            • Tom

              “Yes, sometimes a QB can struggle, but still make enough plays to win.”

              And this is why the situation with Brees is so frustrating: he DOES make those plays to win and yet doesn’t win. We can’t start with the Win, and then say “See, he made enough plays to win”. You *can* make those plays and still NOT win, and that’s what has happened to Brees…A LOT.

            • Renan

              You’re still missing the point. Saying winning is the ultimate objective in team sports, and QB is the most important position do not refute what I said.

              I care a lot about the postseason. But more important than winning in the postseason, is playing well in the postseason. QBs should be judged by how well they played, not by the outcome or by plays that don’t have any control over.

              Brees has clearly been one of the best QBs ever in the postseason even though he has a medicore 7-6 record.

              • Tom

                Not sure if we’re all agreeing or disagreeing on this, but I’m with you 10000% on the QB being judged on how well they played in the game, what their relationship is to the outcome, not just the outcome.

                My flagship example of this: our assessment of Brady’s performance in the SB against the Seahawks does not change if Butler doesn’t make the pick and the Hawks score and win the game. It literally has no bearing on his performance in that game. And yet, for a lot of people, that play decides whether he’s as good as Montana (or whoever) or not. It’s the dumbest thing in the world.

                • Renan

                  Tom, I agree 100% with what you said now and before. “still missing the point” was for gold miners.

              • sacramento gold miners

                No, the best QBs ever in the postseason have better than a 7-6 record and more than one Super Bowl victory. It’s not just about the numbers, Tony Romo is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The elite postseason QBs have to have the wins.

                • Tom

                  It is about the numbers in my opinion. I believe the numbers can show instances where a QB basically gave the game away and his defense bailed him out (Manning in 2015, etc.). Sure, over the long haul, the wins come with QB play. But there are cases – and Brees and Rodgers are those cases – where great play just hasn’t turned in to consistent wins and that’s because there’s all these other guys out there playing football along with the QB. They’re running around, tackling dudes, missing tackles, missing field goals, dropping passes, etc.

                  Your last sentence needs to read like this: “The elite postseason QB’s have to play well in the postseason”. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are elite postseason QB’s. I literally could not give a rip about the actual wins. When I’m looking at a game, like on Sunday, where Brees has a WPA of +0.81, and he makes one of the all-time clutch passes in postseason history (4th-10 pass to Snead) and his defense is at -0.95 WPA, there’s just no way that game is a “loss” for Brees.

                  Unless you think every football game should be Montana in the ’89 Super Bowl, where we can *almost* give him credit for the entire win, we can’t start with the Win and work backwards. We start with how the QB plays and see it’s relationship to the Win.

                  • sacramento gold miners

                    You still need better postseason results to make a claim as an elite QB when compared with others, I definitely understand there will be times when other players make a mistake, and Brees paid the price last Sunday.

                    Peyton Manning played a huge role in bailing out Denver in the 2015 playoff round versus a Steelers team minus Antonio Brown and Bell. The underdog Steelers led twice, including the fourth quarter, before Manning helped bring Denver back. Whether it was completing third down passes in that game, or checking down to a better running play, Manning played a significant role in the victory.

                    Numbers are a general framework, but Tony Romo and Ken Anderson are classic examples of QBs who had strong postseason games on paper, but that was deceiving. Whether Romo was fumbling a snap, or throwing to a wrong receiver, he couldn’t even get Dallas to a single conference title game. Anderson’s last two postseason games were underwhelming, with plenty of mistakes.

                    • WR

                      I’m with you, SGM. What I hate about the claim that this is purely another tough luck loss for Brees, is that that position overlooks how bad he was in the first half against Minnesota. If he’d played just a little bit better in the first half, it’s almost certain New Orleans wins that game. So in a way, the fact that he lost does reflect his performance. And if the Patriots had lost to the Falcons, I would have said exactly the same thing about Brady’s performance.

                      We know it’s possible to overcome a terrible first half, but it’s extremely difficult to do. And putting your team in a 3 score hole on the road isn’t a sustainable way to win playoff games in the long term.

                    • Renan

                      “if the Patriots had lost to the Falcons, I would have said exactly the same thing about Brady’s performance.”

                      But Brady didn’t lose the SB and you both use his playoff record as an argument to evaluate QBs. How can you both not see the contradiction?

                      If Brady and Brees performance were equal, it means they’re equal. The outcome is irrelevant. But one player got +1 in the W column while the other got +1 in the L column and lost the opportunity to win more games.

                    • Tom

                      “if the Patriots had lost to the Falcons, I would have said exactly the same thing about Brady’s performance.”

                      What’s screwed up about that statement is that YOU SHOULDN’T BE STARTING WITH WHETHER OR NOT THE PATRIOTS WON OR LOST THE GAME.

                      That’s the entire problem here. You’re starting with that and working backwards.

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      Renan, I’m with you — it’s truly baffling. The Seahawks / Patriots Super Bowl should perfectly illustrate how the QB isn’t the sole factor in wins and losses. If Malcolm Butler doesn’t make that interception and the Seahawks score, the game is lost.

                      But because of a play Brady had no control over, the narrative must change? Because Butler made that interception, Tom Brady overcame some early mistakes and “made enough plays in the clutch for his team to win” — but if they lost, the narrative must change to “Brady’s early mistakes are the reason the Pats lost the game”?

                      How is that an objective way to judge a quarterback’s performance? The mind boggles.

                    • Tom

                      YES, a million times yes. Brady’s performance in that game was brilliant and IT DOES NOT CHANGE if the Hawks win. It’s the perfect game to illustrate this point.

                      It’s Jake Delhomme in SB38, it’s Brees on Sunday, it’s a million other games where sometimes a QB makes the plays to win the game and guess what? There’s this other guy on the other side of the field, and he can *also* make plays to win the game. And he was fortunate enough to have the ball last, or maybe he was fortunate enough to have a guy catch the ball on his helmet, or have a guy snatch the ball as it goes to the ground after bouncing off of Fuqua/Tatum, or yeah, have the opposing teams DB whiff on a tackle.

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      Just a question to WR and SGM — how much do you think the other players on the team matter? Do they contribute at all to a win? Or is the “clutchness” of the QB the only determining factor?

                      To take it to an absurd level — why not just save a bunch of money and cut any expensive player on the team? Just use most of that money on a QB. Just lure Tom Brady away from the Pats by offering to pay him 80% of your salary cap and then fill up the roster with UDFAs. He’ll just make the plays “when it counts” and you’ll be rolling in Super Bowls regardless.

                    • sacramento gold miners

                      Of course other players on the team matter, but we can’t divorce the fact the QB is the most important position on the field. And there’s reason why the great ones usually win Super Bowls. It’s not all luck, or good timing. Stats aren’t 100% foolproof, especially in the postseason.

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      I agree that the QB is the most important position on the field, of course — but I think football is a sport where even the most important player isn’t the only deciding factor between a win and a loss.

                      I agree it’s not all luck or good timing, but I do think those are factors, and the fact that several great QBs *haven’t* won Super Bowls is what makes me reject the idea that great QB play always equals championships.

                      There are only 21 Super Bowl era quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame and six don’t have a single championship — Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton. That’s roughly 25% of that group!

                      And of those 21, another five have only one championship title to their name — Steve Young, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Ken Stabler, and Joe Namath.

                      So basically half of all Super Bowl era QBs in the Hall of Fame have one or no Super Bowl titles to their credit — so if great QBs get multiple Super Bowls, they need to kick out half of the QBs in the HOF and make room for Eli Manning. Does that make sense to you?

                      I mean, is Phil Simms really better than Dan Marino? Is Mark Rypien really better than Dan Fouts? Was Tom Brady a better QB in 2001 than he was in 2007? Was Peyton Manning a better QB in 2015 than he was in 2004 or 2013?

                    • Tom

                      Well, we’ll probably go around in circles on this, but for me, yeah it IS another tough luck loss for Brees. If Diggs doesn’t make the catch, your argument is then upside down. You will have forgotten about the first half, and you’d be telling us all that Brees was clutch and deserves the win, etc. You and SGM are working backwards…you’re starting with the Win, and then looking at the performance.

                      Here’s the point you’d be making if Beast Mode runs the ball in in Pats/Hawks SB: “Well, if Brady had just performed better in the first half, the Pats probably win. He threw two interceptions and that really cost them, and it’s really hard to come back”, etc. Now think about why you and SGM would never say that. It’s because you’re starting with the Win. Since the Pats won, the discussion is over.

                      Me: Brady’s performance in Super Bowl 49 was great even if the Pats lost.
                      You: Brady’s performance in Super Bowl 49 was great because the Pats won.

                      Just doesn’t wash with me at all.

                    • Richie

                      I think you missed one part. WR starts with “was the QB Tom Brady”, then “Did the team win”, then work backward to evaluate performance.

                    • WR

                      If you’re going to just insult me and misstate my position, instead of actually contributing to the discussion, do the rest of us a favor and keep it to yourself next time.

                    • WR

                      Hey Tom, just wanted to clarify what I’m saying. I am absolutely NOT arguing that we should rate players purely on wins and losses, we agree on that. When I said “I’m with you, SGM” I was talking specifically about the following statement by sgm: “You still need better postseason results to make a claim as an elite QB when compared with others”

                      I agree with that, and I think Brees still needs to do more to be regarded at the Montana-Brady level, in terms of his postseason career. As for how we should judge QBs, I think we’re in agreement. I start by looking at their individual numbers, and then trying to apply relevant context (e.g. garbage time, etc.) in order to rate their performance. Since you brought up SB 49, I actually agree with you, that the win/loss outcome doesn’t affect how I rate Brady’s performance. If he lost that game, I would still rate his 4th quarter as impressive, just as I do now. To provide another example from his career, look at SB 42 against the Giants. The helmet catch and final outcome don’t alter how I would rate Brady’s performance: I think we should credit him for putting his team ahead late in the game, but we should also acknowledge that over the course of four quarters, his output was subpar, and had he played better overall, the Patriots probably win.

                      That’s exactly how I feel about Brees against the Vikings. He deserves credit for a great comeback, but I can’t overlook what he did in the first half, so I don’t agree with the people who say it’s just another great performance by Brees torpedoed by his teammates. Brees’ overall numbers against Minnesota just weren’t that impressive: an 89 rating and 5.90 adjusted net yards per attempt. I think that reflects how much he hurt his team’s chances in the first half.

                    • Renan

                      “I actually agree with you, that the win/loss outcome doesn’t affect how I rate Brady’s performance.”

                      Yes, it does. When you compare Brady to Brees, you look at 26-9 x 7-6. Again, how can you not see the contradiction in your argument?

                      Those numbers are clearly not a result by how well Brady and Brees performed in the postseason.

                    • WR

                      When I said “the win/loss outcome doesn’t affect how I rate Brady’s performance” I meant in individual games. I wasn’t talking about their full careers when I said that. I also do not use 26-9 and 7-6 as the basis for rating their careers, and I never said I did.

                      When you base your argument on Brees’ better playoff rate stats, you’re missing the point that Brady’s postseason sample is much larger than that of Brees, and that Brady’s sample is affected by factors that aren’t impacting the numbers for Brees, or not to the same degree. You’re also disregarding the fact that Brady has done far more in the Super Bowl than Brees, and that part of why guys like Montana and Starr are considered the best playoff QBs in history is because of how they played in Super Bowls (and NFL championships pre-1966).

                    • Renan

                      13 games is almost a full season. What’s the minimum number for you to consider a decent sample? You compare him to M. Sanchez and T. Romo which played only 6 games each. Less than half.

                      Brady playing more games does not mean his numbers will be low. It means his numbers are “stabilized”.

                      “You’re also disregarding the fact that Brady has done far more in the Super Bowl than Brees,”
                      You complain about sample size, but want to focus on a few games? It seems contradictory to me. Brees played 1 SB and it was one the best SB performances ever. And in 13 games, he has been one the best playoffs QBs ever. He has CLEARLY performed better than Brady in the playoffs.

                      But if sample size is still a issue, it makes NO sense to compare Brady to Montana. Montana has played much better in 23 games.

                    • WR

                      The major difference between us on this is that I’m putting more emphasis on Brady’s volume advantage in the playoffs, and you’re putting more emphasis on Brees’ advantage in rate stats. The point is that because Brady’s sample is so much bigger, it’s obvious to me that Brady has provided more value to his teams. I’m also inclined to reward a guy for playing, and playing well, in a lot of Super Bowl games. I think it mattes when a player helps his team win on the big stage.

                      I agree with you that Brees was impressive in the Super Bowl he played in. But if you measure performance by passing expected points, Brady’s 3 best Super Bowls all rate as better than the game Brees had against the Colts. When you say “He has CLEARLY performed better than Brady in the playoffs”, I think you’re making a mistake by ignoring sample size. Your argument reminds me of the people who came on this site after SB 51 and said that Ryan outplayed Brady because of his rate stats. They ignored the fact that Brady had 67 drop backs in that game, Ryan just 28. If you look at expected points-and we’ve been discussing elsewhere in this thread why that metric is useful-you can see that New England’s passing offense was worth 16.46 expected points, Atlanta’s just 6.30. So I think you can show that Brady WAS demonstrably more valuable than Ryan in the Super Bowl.

                      I’m pretty sure you’ve said in the past that Brees is the best QB in the playoffs since Montana. But what about Troy Aikman? It’s not clear that he’s been any less valuable than Brees, especially if you make an era adjustment. What about Kurt Warner, who has a better passer rating than Brees in the postseason, and played well in 3 Super Bowls? I don’t think Brees has necessarily been as valuable as those guys, never mind Brady.

                      This has been covered on this site before, but I also don’t agree that Montana has been much better than Brady in the playoffs. He’s certainly been better, and I think Montana’s the best postseason QB ever, but it’s closer between them than many people realize.

                    • Tom

                      I’ve just been plastering this comments section with my tables, why stop now? Since you bring up the New England/Atlanta Super Bowl and expected points, below is my table. I’m pretty far off from PFR’s numbers, but I’ve still got the Patriots passing attack as providing twice as much value as the Falcons. That 10.2 EPA number for Brady (Pats passing) includes the pick-six which cost them 9.3 EP.


                    • Tom

                      I agree that Brady is probably closer to Montana than people think, but the jury is out for me on that…and probably always will be until I can run the numbers for every Montana game, which will most likely never happen since the play-by-play isn’t readily available for all of them.

                      The only knock on Brady that I can think of off the top of my head – at least as far as Super Bowls go – is that he doesn’t have that ridiculously dominant performance that Montana had. What I love about Montana’s four Super Bowls is that he’s got a nice arc where he’s got his “clutch” game – 1988 against the Bengals – and also his “I’m putting on a clinic”, the 1989 game against Denver.

                    • Renan

                      Based on your logic, Eli Manning has been more valuable to the Giants than Montana was to the 49ers, because Eli’s sample is so much bigger. It makes no sense.

                      The major difference between us is that you want to reward Total EPA in the playoffs and I want to reward EPA per game. The latter makes much more sense. Before you say anything, yes, sample size is important. M. Sanchez, C. Kaep are not one of the the greatest playoffs QBs. But 13 games is a significant sample size.

                      I didn’t affirm Brees is the best QB since Montana. I made a question which I think is valid one.

                      I would love to see Brees and Brady EPA/G, WPA/G. If you have it, please share with us.

                      We do have FO DVOA and DYAR numbers from the playoffs. If you’re not familiar, DVOA is value per play while DYAR is total value based on situation (down, distance, position etc) and opponent. You can Google and see a more detailed explanation.

                      So using your example, from last year super bow, M. Ryan had a higher DVOA, but Brady had a higher DYAR.

                      Here are the QBs numbers not including this year.

                      Brees is considerably better than Brady in DVOA (efficiency) and DYAR/G (total value per game). Montana is also considerably better than Brady.




                    • WR

                      By posting the DYAR numbers, you’re making my case for me. The chart shows that Brady has 2996 pass DYAR in the playoffs, Brees just 1430. That’s more than twice as much, and a difference of 1566 is huge-it’s a full 16-game season worth of DYAR. You’re saying that when we rate players in the playoffs, we should look strictly at performance per game. And I’m saying we should consider both efficiency and volume, which is what DYAR does. So for me, Brees just hasn’t produced enough value yet to be ahead of Brady in the postseason. Perhaps that will change one day, but not yet. And I know that at least Sacramento Gold Miners agrees with me on that, and given his vast and impressive knowledge of pro football history, that suggests to me that my position is a sound one.

                      As for the tough losses, we’re using different definitions of what constitutes a tough loss for a QB. You’re using a very narrow definition that only counts it as a tough loss if the QB leaves the field with less than a minute on the clock, and/or suffers a miss FG by his kicker. I think that’s a bad definition, that not only excludes the SB losses for Brady, but also other games that unfolded similarly, like the Cardinals Super Bowl loss to the Steelers. I think those games should all be included as tough losses, and I’m confident that that is a sound position as well. That’s because I’ve talked to or heard from many, many people since those games were played, all of whom agree those games rank among the toughest postseason losses we’ve seen. So you’re not just disagreeing with me, you’re disagreeing with a huge number of people who see it my way.

                    • Renan

                      No, I’m not making a case for you. You either didn’t understand or are pretending that you didn’t.
                      “The major difference between us is that you want to reward Total EPA in the playoffs and I want to reward EPA per game.”
                      The same sentence is true for total DYAR and DYAR/G.

                      “And I’m saying we should consider both efficiency and volume, which is what DYAR does”

                      You used last year SB example to differentiate between efficiency and value. And I agreed with you and showed the numbers that confirmed our opinion. Bur for one game. Comparing DYAR when one QB has played many more games is simply a dumb thing to do. It makes no sense.

                      It has been be proven by this article and by other people’s comments in this conversation that the difference between the number of games in the playoffs between Brady and Brees has NOTHING to do by how well they performed in the playoffs, but because one QB has had more support than the other. Brady should not be rewarded for that. He should be evaluated by how well he played in those games. And clearly he has been less efficient and has created less value per game than Brees.

                      By the end of 2013, Manning had 2,641 DYAR in 23 games while Brady 2,147 in 26 games. I don’t have to look back at your comments at that time to know that you thought Brady was a much better than Manning in the postseason. You would come with another arbitrary way to evaluate QBs.

                      Using other’s people opinions to validate your arguments is really lame. You and SGM are clearly the minority here and I don’t use this against you. The level of discussion here is much higher than in the ESPN comments section where you’d probably find more people that agree with you.

                      By saying I use a very narrow definition for tough losses you’re making my case for me. It means the win probability was a lot higher and something really rare and unexpected happened. Like I said before, people that compare any Brady SB loss to NO x MIN, NO x SF have no sense of proportion.

                    • WR

                      Renan likes to misrepresent the views of people who disagree with him, and then attack them for things they never said. I never said Eli Manning was better than Joe Montana in the playoffs. I also never denied that Brady and Peyton Manning have similar career statistics in the playoffs. The reason we disagree is because, as I’ve already explained in other posts, he believes when comparing Brees and Brady, we should look only at rate stats. I think we should consider volume and rate stats. We’re just considering different things when evaluating the same players. He doesn’t have an answer for that, so he has to attribute claims to me that I never made, and then attack me for things I never said. It’s a straw man debating technique that is as old as the hills.

                      He’s also been caught in other forums of accusing people of “lying” about things they never lied about. There are several intelligent people on this site that I have had rewarding discussions with, but this guy Renan isn’t one of them.

                    • Renan

                      When did I attack you? It’s nice that we have the chat history and we can see that it was you that used arguments such as “The problem with people like Renan”.

                      I never compared Eli and Montana in the postseason. I compared in the regular season because Eli has a bigger sample size. In the postseason, Montana has a bigger sample size. It’s not my fault that you didn’t understand it.
                      I used as a counter example for your argument that we can’t compare QBs because of sample size. Eli has more than 10k yards than Montana in the regular season. So based on your logic, Montana can’t be compared to Eli in the regular season. It makes no sense.

                      “He’s also been caught in other forums of accusing people of “lying” about things they never lied about.””

                      This is a new low. I don’t hide behind fake names. How much time did you spend looking for posts with my name? Your life must be very exciting. I challenge you to prove me as I wrong when I accused someone of lying.

                      It’s funny, that just on this article, I’ve noticed that you’re the only person with personal issues with other people. Not just me. You’re too insecure. I was just trying to have a football conversation.

                    • WR

                      You said that based on my logic, Eli is better than Montana. And I NEVER said anything remotely like that. You’re misrepresenting my views, in an effort to discredit the legitimate arguments I am making. That’s dishonest, and you’re making yourself look like a fool whenever you do that stuff.

                      And the reason why I know you’ve previously falsely accused people of “lying” is not because I searched your name, but because I was part of the conversation in which you did it.

                    • Renan

                      No! You didn’t say it but it’s the logical conclusion from your argument. If you discredit Brees postseason career when you compare to Brady, you HAVE to do the same for Montana x Eli in the regular season. Otherwise you’re contradicting yourself. It’s not my problem that you can’t see it. It’s the typical behavior for people that use illogical reasoning.

                      Please tell me you’re either nat or ramirez from FO. That would make so much sense. You would be the liar or the guy that defended the liar.

                    • WR

                      But Eli over Montana ISN”T the logical conclusion from my argument. Saying Eli is better than Montana has NOTHING to do with what I’m saying about Brady and Brees. And if you think that it does have to do with what I said, then you have completely misunderstood my position.

                      You’re using the straw man debating technique, which is to attribute a false or ridiculous claim to your opponent, in order to say “don’t listen to this guy, he thinks this ridiculous thing is true!” I never said Eli is better than Montana in the regular season, and NOTHING I said about other players suggests that is an argument I would support.

                    • Renan

                      Of course it is.

                      Your whole argument to say Brees can’t be as good as Brady in the postseason is based on sample size.

                      If Brees is not on Brady level in the postseason because of sample size, then Montana is not on Eli Manning level in the regular season because of sample size.

                      How is this even hard to understand? This is logic 101. It has nothing to do with straw man or any other named fallacy. It’s basic logic inference.

                    • Dingo Baby

                      Who has the higher regular season DYAR between Eli Manning and Joe Montana?

                    • Tom

                      OK, for starters, I appreciate the extended conversation. I could talk about this crap all day.

                      So, here’s where I think we’re at:

                      1. When you say “Brees still needs to do more to be regarded at the Montana-Brady level”, I think you’re meaning some combination of just *being* in more playoff games and playing better in them. I get the vibe that for you, he just hasn’t been there enough to even qualify (with those other two QB’s specifically), and perhaps you think he hasn’t been as great as some guys are saying. I am definitely in agreement as far as the number of playoff games…we just can’t put him in the same basket with guys who have played almost twice as many playoff games (and in Brady’s case, almost three times as many). Now, we can talk about *why* he hasn’t gotten to the playoffs more – and I agree almost 100% with others that his team around him just hasn’t been good, and Brady’s teams have been better, comparatively – but let’s leave that out…that’s a whole other thing that’s been raked over a million times. So we’re good with this part of it…he just hasn’t been there enough (again, to be on the Montana-Brady level of discussion)

                      2. Where we probably differ is that I believe Brees has played *enough* playoff games to demonstrate that he is very good in them, and because of his great play, his teams *should* have more wins, and his record should be better. So I do say that he is an elite playoff QB, same as Rodgers…they’ve played about as many playoff games as Kurt Warner and Troy Aikman, so I’m comfortable with the number of games. And I’ve seen enough games where they played “well enough” to win, and sometimes you need to just play well enough. Brady has a lot of games where he plays “well enough” and actually gets the win. It’s not a matter of Brady not “deserving” his wins, it’s that the other guys “deserve” more, based on how they’ve actually played in the games. So we’re in some disagreement here, and that’s alright. Heck, I know you don’t think Brees sucks or anything.

                      Finally, I should note how I view these playoff games. For all my “anti-win/record” talk, my main concern is “how did Team A win the game? What did the QB do to help his team win the game? What did the defense do to win the game?” And that’s why I lean so heavily on Win Probability. It catches those “key” plays we always talk about, those plays that had to be made. Yes, Brees played poorly earlier on. But his defense also gave up points…keep that in mind. The team was down 17-0 because of two things, not one: poor offense, poor defense. His play in the second half completely wipes out the poor play in the first, which I know is a view probably not shared by most readers here!

                      Super Bowl 42 is a good example of this. I’m actually alright with Brady’s performance in that game…sure, he wasn’t great, but when his team NEEDED him to be great, and needed him to lead them on a drive to win the game, he did it. But the Giants got the ball and Eli played out of his mind and that’s that.

                      OK, that’s enough for now…I could go on (obviously).

                    • WR

                      I’d like to take a look at some of your Win Probability numbers, because I think that’s an effective way to do it. One quick and dirty way to measure a QBs impact on a game is to look at the Expected Points figures, because they’re broken down by different parts of the team. So you can see how many Expected Points were contributed by the passing offense, as opposed to the defense, the running game, etc.

                      It’s imperfect, because some of the credit should go to the receivers, etc. but it works pretty well as a general estimator.

                    • Tom

                      Agreed. Literally the reason I started looking at all this stuff, definitely not for fantasy reasons or even to say “this guy is clutch” (although I do that occasionally). Just wanted see where the points came from (EP), and what plays (or players, or team units, etc.) had the biggest impact (WP). I’ve got numbers for every SB since 1970…there’s a lot of wiggle room here because of the various models that are out there, etc. I use the Wayne Winston/PFR formula, but I’ve tweaked it to account for scoring dynamics in each quarter, made EP adjustments for era, and I also look at every end of half, end of game situation, onside kicks, etc. Basically, I spend A LOT of time on it, I don’t just throw the play-by-play into a formula and use what pops out.

                      One of these days, going to write a post for this site, detailing the whole freaking thing and then laying out the numbers. They won’t be the final word (I’d trust Brian Burke’s stuff more, for obvious reasons), but a good place to start discussions. Below is a WP summary of Super Bowl 42: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cd4a69b84b538f7e52a8c26e3c697d6ef7a2970154d13dffc38dd25fc4521ffc.png

                    • Tom

                      WP definitely isn’t the “One Ring”…single plays (as we saw on Sunday) can carry a HUGE weight, and a lot of fans, rightfully, don’t think that’s right. But for me, that’s the whole point of it…yes, a QB can play crappy an entire game and, if his defense, special teams, running attack, fluky plays, can somehow keep him in the game, he can make that one play to win the game. Or, as in the case of Manning in 2015 SB, he may never need to make any great plays and win anyway.

                    • WR

                      Would you be willing to share some of your WP data with me off site? I’d like to see what you have for the pre-90s stuff.

                    • Tom

                      Sure, is there a way to private message? Or do you want to give me your email?

                    • WR

                      Where did you get the numbers for the 1970s Super Bowls? PFR only has SB EPA back to the early 90s.

                    • Tom

                      As I noted (or maybe I didn’t), I don’t use PFR’s numbers for either WP or EP. It’s a long story, but I use an expected points table I obtained from Brian Burke’s site years ago (and double checked using his now long gone WP Calculator). That table is then used in conjunction with the same formula that PFR uses for their WP numbers (which comes from a formula Wayne Winston introduced in his book “Mathletics”), except that my formula has a slight adjustment for different quarters, based on actual results. Finally, I adjust my EP numbers for era based on drive stats and points per game stats.

                      It’s taken me a few years to actually get this thing to where I’m comfortable with it, and I’m constantly tweaking it to make it better.

                      Below is a WP Summary of SB 14, Steelers/Rams. Bradshaw has a +0.51 WPA, 0.38 of which comes from a 73-yard bomb to Stalworth on a 3rd-8 in the 4th quarter when Pittsburgh was down by 2. Clutch.


                    • Tom

                      As I noted (or maybe I didn’t), I don’t use PFR’s numbers for either WP or EP. It’s a long story, but I use an expected points table I obtained from Brian Burke’s site years ago (and double checked using his now long gone WP Calculator). That table is then used in conjunction with the same formula that PFR uses for their WP numbers (which comes from a formula Wayne Winston introduced in his book “Mathletics”), except that my formula has a slight adjustment for different quarters, based on actual results. Finally, I adjust my EP numbers for era based on drive stats and points per game stats.

                      It’s taken me a few years to actually get this thing to where I’m comfortable with it, and I’m constantly tweaking it to make it better.

                      Below is a WP Summary of SB 14, Steelers/Rams. Bradshaw has a +0.51 WPA, 0.38 of which comes from a 73-yard bomb to Stalworth on a 3rd-8 in the 4th quarter when Pittsburgh was down by 2. Clutch.

                      (EDIT: Not clutch is Bradshaw throwing 3 picks in that game, costing his team -0.30 WPA. But the dude made it up).


                    • Renan

                      Looking forward for this post. I would love to see EPA/G and WPA/G for QBs in the playoffs.

                    • Tom

                      Expected Points Summary of SB 42. In a game decided by 3 points, not too much too look at, but we can see the Giants offense is responsible for gaining most of the net point differential, while the special teams played an important role. Here’s something I never noticed before – look at the penalties EPA in favor of the Patriots offense! That’s kind of a lot…big plays there were:

                      3rd-10 on NYG 17: Brady incomplete pass, but PI is called on Antonio Pierce. +2.93 EPA.
                      4th-2 on NYG 44: Penalty on Giants, 12 men on the field. +2.71 EPA.

                      Pretty big impact in a tight game like this…
                      (Sorry all, I’m way off the original topic here. No more hijacking from me I promise)

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      WR, you can look at WP numbers for any game in the box score for individual games on PFR.

                    • Tom

                      Yes, and they’re definitely useful for most of a game. In the 4th quarter, when the game is close, etc., the formula falls apart. And occasionally (or maybe more than occasionally) you get this (Steelers/Jags game):

                    • Richie

                      That is clearly some kind of coding error.

                      The play that caused that spike is the fumble return TD by Telvin Smith. The chart (and the play by play) says that the Steelers (yes, Steelers) win probability jumped from 20% to 99% when Telvin Smith returned that fumble. Then after Jacksonville kicked the extra point, Pittsburgh’s win probability fell to 4%.

                    • Tom

                      Well, whatever it is, it’s one of the reasons I don’t use their numbers at all (besides the fact that I run my own anyway). If I’m going to make bold statements like I do occasionally on here or twitter, I need to have my ducks in a row.

                      That being said, I’m not faulting PFR for stuff like that, or that the model falls apart at the end of the game (depending on situation). They’re providing a great service even posting those numbers, especially considering ESPN just gives us this funky little picture and not the actual numbers (unless you jot them down as you’re following the game…otherwise, you’re at the mercy of whatever your huge mouse pointer can pick up). And as stated, for most of the game, it works fine.

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      FWIW, Pro Football Reference’s box score has the Saints’ passing game at +8.76 EPA, the offense overall at +5.49 EPA, special teams at +2.99 EPA, and the defense at -12.63 EPA.

                      So can we admit that the Saints’ defense is to blame for this loss? Yes, Brees had some negative plays but the Saints defense had far more.


                    • Tom

                      Preaching to the choir I know, but yes we can admit that. And as far as WP goes, I’ve got:

                      Offense: +0.62
                      Defense: -0.95
                      Special Teams: -0.01

                      Yes, a HUGE chunk of that -0.95 comes from Keenum-to-Diggs, but that’s the point of the whole thing. That game was lost on that play and Brees wasn’t out there. If we remove that play, the Saints defense is at a respectable (but basically neutral) +0.05, but STILL the heavy lifting in that game comes from the Saints offense. Brees and that offense did more than enough to win, end of story (for me anyway).

                    • Four Touchdowns

                      Why are your results so different from PFR?

                    • Tom

                      We’ll for starters, I’m showing Win Probability numbers in my comment, not Expected Points as you are. I was trying to piggy-back on your comment with some additional stuff, probably just made things more confusing.

                      If you’re asking why my EP or WP numbers are different than PFR’s, the short answer is that I use EP numbers I obtained from Brian Burke’s site years ago. Those EP numbers are the basis of the WP formula, so those numbers are going to be different as well.

                      There’s more, but that’s the short answer.

                    • Richie

                      Well, he did put up 5.9 ANY/A against a team that averaged giving up 4.6 ANY/A in the regular season.

                      But, his stats weren’t as good as they were the first time he played Minnesota this year.

                • Tom

                  Here’s the best way I can explain my point. I’ve got the WP numbers for Brady’s last 34 playoff games. Over all of those games, his defense has a WPA of -4.13. That’s -0.12 per game.

                  Rodgers has played in less than half the number of playoff games, 16. The Packers defense in those games is already at -4.29 WPA, which is -0.27 per game.

                  The point isn’t that Rodgers is better than Brady, or to knock Brady, blah, blah, blah. It’s to show the other guys matter. If Rodgers has just a little more help, he’s at probably 11 or 12 wins instead of 9…and since those losses turned to wins mean another shot at the SB, he might have another ring. And then you’d think he was better than he is, and his actual performance REMAINS THE SAME.

                  In simple terms: Butler’s interception in the Seattle/Pats SB game has absolutely no bearing on Brady’s impact in that game. None. Keenum’s miracle throw to Diggs has no bearing on how I think Brees played in that game. None. And yet those two single plays determined the W or the L at the very end.

                • Adam

                  So Brees is a lesser player because his defense gave up a Hail Mary? That makes no sense.

                  • Tom

                    And if Williams makes the tackle, then Brees is the bomb…”he made juuuuuust enough plays to get the Win!”

                  • sacramento gold miners

                    Never suggested that, the Minnesota game was lost because of a moronic play by a Saints defensive back. That game was a rarity.

                    • Tom

                      You’re right that it’s rare, but the principle, the idea stands: there are things that happen in a game that can give a QB a “win” or a “loss” when he may not have anything to do with either. And that’s why pointing to Brees’ 7-6 postseason record and one Super Bowl – 13 games we’re talking about – and just casually stating that he isn’t one of the best postseason QB’s gets under people’s skin. Should we bother looking at how he played in those games? I’m thinking your answer is “no” because you have his record.

                      That kind of thinking works for tennis, bowling, ping pong, thumb wars and Mortal Kombat, but not football. It’s an attempt to pretend the QB is playing one of those other games, which he’s not.

                    • Adam

                      Then why should the loss count against Brees?

                    • Renan

                      SGM, but it’s not a rarity for Brees. It’s exactly the point of this article.

                      2004: Kaeding missed a 40-yard FG in OT.
                      2010: Lost 41-36 with absurd efficiency and production.
                      2011: Lost 32-36 with another monster game and scoring 2 go-ahead TDs in last 4 min of the game.
                      2017: What you call a rarity.

                      Those are 4 out 6 games that any QBs would won in most cases, but Brees lost ALL 4 games! It’s absurd. It’s complete out of Brees hands. It’s pure bad luck. If he won those 4 games, his playoff record would be at the WORST case 11-6, which means he lost following game. But it could’ve be even better. Maybe another SB appearance, maybe another ring. Who knows?

                      Brady has NEVER lost a game on FG. On the contrary. Brady has NEVER lost with a defender blowing a TD. On the contrary. If you change the outcome of plays that Brady has NO control over, like Vinateri FGs againts OAK and TEN, Brady might start 0-2 instead of 6-0. You see how a bad luck in a early round may hurt a QB playoff record.
                      Then there’s Sterling Moore saving the game winning TD in 11 AFFCG. There’s M. Butler INT in 15 SB.

                      There are other plays, but I’ll leave at 4 to match the same number of Brees. Brady record becomes 18-12 instead of 26-9, with one less SB appearance and 1 less ring.

                      I’m waiting for a reply like “playing what if games is silly”.

                    • sacramento gold miners

                      I’m willing to give Brees two of those four games you mentioned, but whether or not he could have led the Saints to another SB is pure speculation. My point still stands, the postseason is a valid part of QB evaluation, and Brees isn’t on Brady or Montana’s level in this area.

                    • Adam

                      Postseason PLAY is a valid part of QB evaluation. Postseason TEAM RECORD is not valid.

                    • Renan

                      “I’m willing to give Brees two of those four.” For real? Brady has ZERO losses like those 4. None.

                      I never said Brees would have won another SB. I specifically said “who knows?”. But there’s no speculation about the 11-6 record, which is the worst case scenario. Just like there’s no speculation if Vinatieri misses the FG against OAK, Brady is 0-1 instead of 3-0. Btw, I would like to correct a previous statement.

                      “Brady record becomes 18-12 instead of 26-9, with THREE less SB appearance and THREE less rings”.

                      “postseason is a valid part of QB evaluation” I never disagreed with this. We only disagree with how evaluate QBs in the postseason. I evaluate by how well a QB played, you evaluate by their playoff record.
                      Anyone who thinks J. Flacco (10-5) is better than Brees (7-6) in the playoffs knows nothing about football.
                      Anyone who thinks the difference between Brady and Brees playoffs record is an indication of well they played in those games knows nothing about football.
                      Brady is not on Montana level on the playoffs.

                    • WR

                      The problem with people like Renan is that he’s willing to discuss the cases where guys like Brees and Manning suffered bad luck, but he won’t talk about any of the instances where Brady has had bad losses too. Examples would be both of his SB losses, and the 2006 AFC championship loss to the Colts, all of which involved his defenses blowing late leads. He’s also had other cases, like his first two Super Bowls, where his defense blew a late lead, and he had to save the game with a last second scoring drive.

                      If you’re trying to argue that some guys suffer bad losses and others don’t, but you simply ignore the cases where Brady has had bad losses, then you’re undermining your own argument by excluding data.

                    • Renan

                      The problem with people like WR is that he doesn’t have any sense of proportion.

                      Saints took the lead against the Vikings with 25s left. All those comebacks against NE, the opponent had more than 2 min with multiple timeouts plus 2 minute warning.

                      Blaming the defense for allowing 14 points against one of the greatest offenses in ludicrous. Brady had less than 100 yards and the game was 14-14 against a 14 point favorite juggernaut. That’s all the help a QB can ask for.

                      Brady has 0 losses when his kicker missed a FG, or when he left the field with a lead with less than 1 min left. Manning and Brees have multiple.

                    • Richie

                      PFR has 4QC and GWD stats. Maybe they need to add a “Come From Ahead Loss” stat for QB’s. Times when a QB got his team a lead or tied with less than a minute left, only to lose the game while he’s sitting on the bench.

                    • Adam

                      Scott Kacsmar keeps track of “lost comebacks”. I’ll hit him up and see if he’ll share the data with us.

                    • Richie

                      Both SB losses are not examples. In both SB losses, Brady had the ball with a chance to tie or win. In both cases, the chances of succeeding were very small because there was less than a minute in the game.

          • Four Touchdowns

            Unfortunately, it seems to be the mainstream thought process on evaluating QBs. Brady may very well be the best QB of the modern era, but the mainstream sports media and fans have elevated him to that level for simply one reason — RINGZ. You very rarely hear anyone make a case where that isn’t the focal point of their argument — WINZ and RINGZ.

    • I dunno, I have a hard time criticizing a team for playing for FG to take the lead with under 30 seconds when an opponent only has a single timeout. You can be too aggressive and turn the ball over there too. (Remember Brees in ATL earlier this year.) The only things I think the Saints did “wrong” on their last drive was throwing a four-yard-and-immediately-out-of-bounds play to Ginn immediately following the 4th-and-10 conversion (didn’t get much yardage, allowed the Vikings to save the timeout), and running directly up the gut on the final 3rd-and-1. Would’ve like to see something more creative there — bootleg or something.

      But that’s just picking nits. The offense got it done and *almost* guaranteed victory.

    • Adam

      “Each time a win gets stolen from Brees, it also takes away possible future wins by preventing him from even playing in the next game.”

      This is critical failure of the playoff wins fallacy. Bad luck in the early rounds disproportionately hurts a QB’s legacy because it prevents him from the chance at evening his record the following week. In Brees’ case, given his elite level of play, there’s a very good chance he would’ve won some of the playoff games directly after his tough luck losses, had he been given the opportunity to play them.

      • Richie

        It’s kind of like “make it, take it” in basketball.

  • Great article! Long have thought Brees is underrated even though everybody thinks he’s great. You can make a case he’s on the Manning, Brady echelon, even though I think he’s usually grouped below that with guys like Roethlisberger.

    With that said, his numbers against the 2013 Seahawks are very deceptive. Almost all of it came at the end of the game when the Saints win-probability was under 1% (and he got 52 yards of it on a dead-to-rights interception that Earl Thomas batted into the receiver’s hands). If Lynch goes down on the 1-yard-line, instead of scoring, with 2:40 left, the Saints don’t even get the ball back, and Brees’ numbers are like 150 yards and no TD. He really struggled that game.

    But obviously that’s not the point of article. I just like to relive great Seahawks victories whenever I can…

  • WR

    The lesson I take from Brees’ performance yesterday is that if a QB plays poorly enough in the first half, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to overcome a deficit like 17-0, even if things go right later on. The margin for error is just so thin. If Brees had played just a little bit better before halftime, I think it’s hugely likely that New Orleans wins that game.

    The problem with this article is that postseason stats over small sample sizes can be hugely misleading. Brees does have superficially strong rate stats, but it’s only 13 games, and like in the example provided in JImZormsLemma’s post here, box score stats don’t always reflect the impact of the numbers that a guy is putting up. Look at Roethlisberger yesterday. If I told you that he threw for 469 yards and 5 TDs and lost 45-42, you would assume that he played amazing and was victimized by his defense. And while that’s true to a certain extent, that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Ben made some critical mistakes early in the game that really hurt his team, and part of the reason why his passing stats look so good is because Pittsburgh had to play catch-up the entire game.

    By their last 3 drives, the Steelers had abandoned the run completely, and Ben padded his stats with a late touchdown drive that had no impact on the final outcome. So in fact, in Roethlisberger’s case, his numbers weren’t as valuable as they appear at first glance.

    I’ve seen people on the web now arguing that Brees is the best postseason QB since Montana, because of his rate stats. But I don’t see that at all. Never mind Brady, I’m not convinced that Brees has done more than Rodgers in the playoffs, and I’ve been quite critical of Rodgers in the past. If you study Brees’ regular season numbers, you’ll see that he has huge home/road and indoor/outdoor splits. I think it’s reasonable to assume that his postseason stats would not be nearly as good if he played more playoff games, and had to play in the cold as often as guys like Brady, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger.

    I’m a huge fan of Brees and I think he’s generally underrated, but let’s pump the brakes a little on the “He’s a postseason hero!” narrative.

    • Renan

      So you’re saying the Pats won the SB last year in spite of Brady mistakes, right?

    • Tom

      I agree with you on this, for the most part. It is hard to come back being down 17-0, and it’s true, better play by Brees in the first half would have improved their chances of winning….the margin for error is thin.

      What is most important, to me anyway (and I think it’s an even split on how fans feel about this) is how you play when it matters most, when your team absolutely needs you to come through. It’s true – the Saints would be in better shape if Brees played better in the first half. But it’s also true that the Saints defense allowed a lot of points in the first half as well. When Brees had to play well, when he had to make plays to win the game, he did. He MORE than made up for that lackluster first half…think about it: if the Saints had scored 13 in the first half and then 10 in the second, what would we be saying?

      I’ve looked at enough numbers for Brees to think that – as far as the playoffs are concerned – he is every bit as good as Brady when the game was on the line.

      • WR

        I think we generally agree, Tom, in that we’re both impressed by what Brees did in the 2nd half. But to address what was said elsewhere in this forum, I don’t understand this narrative that Brees is suddenly the best postseason guy since Montana, just because of his rate stats. What’s weird is that stat people will often say that we should be wary of small sample sizes, but then when they find an answer they like that involves a small sample size, they suddenly embrace a small sample.

        I don’t think Joe Montana would be JOE MONTANA if hadn’t played in 4 Super Bowls. If he had the same rate stats he does now, but like Brees, had only played in 1 Super Bowl and in 13 playoff games, he wouldn’t be talked about the same way. And yet when you compare Brees to Brady, who has a very strong record in the Super Bowl, suddenly that factor doesn’t matter. It’s strange, and not consistent with what I understand about what made guys like Montana and Starr into the great playoff QBs they’re considered to be today.

        For anyone reading this who puts Brees ahead of Brady in the playoffs, despite just 13 games for Brees, would you also consider Mark Sanchez to be a better playoff QB than Brady? Because although he only played 6 games, Sanchez has better rate stats than Brady, and beat him head-to-head that one time. But I think it would be crazy to say Sanchez has been better, both because of the tiny sample size, and the fact that a couple of his playoff wins came with weak stats.

        Now Brees has a better case than Sanchez, obviously, but it’s still just 13 games. I just don’t see how he’s been more valuable in the postseason than guys like Brady and Manning, especially when we factor in that Brady and Manning have had their numbers dragged down by playing more games, more cold weather games, more often against tough defenses, etc. Speaking more generally, I think it’s very difficult to draw any definitive answers from anyone’s postseason stats, because the samples are just too small and unreliable. Perhaps that explains why I feel very far away, on this issue, from the people who are suddenly treating Brees like he’s the modern Montana.

        • Tom

          To be clear about my Brady/Brees comments, I’m talking specifically about how they do in “clutch” situations…Win Probability and my “Clutch” ANY/A stat (which is simply looking at a guy’s numbers when he’s in the same situation as Game Winning Drive/4th Quarter Comeback).

          So, under that umbrella, I really do think that Brees is as good as Brady when the “game is on the line” in the playoffs, per my earlier comment, but you have a good point about the number of playoff games played in. Brady has almost three times as many as Brees, and so perhaps my comparison isn’t justified. I doubt Brees will ever get to as many playoff games as Brady, but it’s safe to assume his numbers would regress. That being said, all we have is what we have, so I’m alright throwing some numbers around to get a feel for this. But it’s true, we have to be careful when we go into Sanchez/Tebow/Keenum (?) land.

          My final take is that I think Brees is as “good” (however we want that to mean) as Brady and perhaps given other circumstances, he might have more playoff success. But I acknowledge that it’s hard to tell with such differing numbers of playoff games. Phew.

          Now, as far as “value” goes, I generally go with Chase’s methodology posted here:


          …in which Brees is ahead of Brady in value, but this was done in 2013, so we’re missing A LOT of Brady playoffs (and 2 Super Bowls, which carry a lot of leverage in the methodology). In terms of value, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Brady is tops since Montana, and if Chase ran the numbers again, Brady might beat out Bradshaw.

          In any event, I’m in general agreement with you (unless you’re specifically saying that you don’t think Brees is as “good” as Brady in the playoffs, then I disagree, but understand why you’re saying that!)

        • Four Touchdowns

          I agree that rate stats can’t be the sole determining factor and that Brady has had his numbers dropped by playing in so many more games — but on a site that basically focuses in on rate stats, it makes sense to use them as the determining factor, no?

          In a general sense, Tom Brady is the modern Montana — as good as his stats are, people remember Montana for winning a lot of Super Bowls, which is how Brady will likely be remembered.

          But from a statistical and metrics point of view, which is the focal point of this site, you wouldn’t compare QBs based on wins or rings — you would stand back and let the numbers do the talking.

    • Four Touchdowns

      I think there’s a difference between saying a QB played perfectly and saying that he played well enough to win.

      To your example, I would say that Ben Roethlisberger made a few mistakes that hurt his team but he absolutely played well enough for his team to win — especially considering his opponent.

      The Jaguars have the number one pass defense this year, allowing a league-low 17.4 points per game, 170 passing yards a game, 1.1 passing TDs a game, 56.7 completion percentage, get 1.1 interceptions a game, allowing an overall passer rating of 68.5 according to the WP, and are ranked #1 in defensive DVOA.

      Ben’s stats compared to that average? 30 points from passing TDs, 469 yards, 5 passing TDs, 63.8 completion percentage, 1 interception, and a 110.5 passer rating. That’s phenomenal considering how far above the average it is. To win, the Steelers needed Ben to have a great game and he did by any standard of the term.

      Meanwhile, the Steelers defense needed to stop Blake Bortles and couldn’t do it.

      This is like the insane people who blamed Matt Ryan for the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss — people performing all kinds of mental gymnastics to put a 53-man team’s wins and losses solely on one player.

      • Tom

        Agreed. The Steelers offense came out sputtering, and then did what they are built to do – make big plays with a number of highlight-reel guys, and gutsy play by Ben (that backward pass to Bell was really, really freaking cool).

        So…you have the offense basically doing what we all think they can do every game – put up huge numbers – and they still don’t win.

        If someone told you the Steelers were going to up 42 on the Jaguars, are really telling me you think they lose the game? Fine, the last one is garbage. If the Steelers put up 35 on the Jags – with no help from turnovers mind you – you’re really telling me they lose that game?

        If anyone tells me that Ben or the offense has anything to do with that loss, they’re out of their minds. Unless of course, you’re supposed to put up 50 points on the Jaguars because, you know, the Jags have this insane offense that can just unload on you.

  • Mark Growcott

    Another heartbreaking Playoff loss for Brees and the Saints and what makes it harder to digest again is the fact that the Saints would have been favourites against the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game with a potential SB match-up against Tom Brady to follow. Take a moment to ponder that, a 40 Yr old Brady against a 39 Yr old Brees that is what we potentially had to look forward to in the SB.

    Brees once again did all he could in this game to bring his team back into a winning position. He did have a poor first half but with 3 TD Passes in the 2nd half against a Defense that did not concede more than 2 TD Passes in a game all season, that is impressive as was his final drive which led to the clutch FG by Lutz.

    Brees is a first ballot HOFer without doubt and has some big personal milestones on the horizon in 2018 but is deserving of so much more. He should have at least 1 Regular Season MVP award to go with his SB MVP and was cruelly denied a chance at a 2nd SB ring.

  • Renan

    I think this is a very valid question. Is Brees the best playoffs QB since Montana?

    • Richie

      You are going to make Patriots fans heads explode.

      • Tom

        An immediate supernova of all their heads collectively…

    • Tom

      This article by Chase (one of my favorites of all time) says “no”; it’s Peyton Manning. But this was written before Peyton’s less-than-stellar performance in 2015, but other post-Montana guys are ahead of Brees: Warner, Favre and Aikman


      • Renan

        I haven’t seen this one before. Very interesting indeed. Would love to see it updated. Besides 2015, it’s missing the SB against SEA and the game against IND in 14. Those 5 games should lower Manning numbers.

        • Tom

          Right…Brady is going to be much higher!

  • Tom

    Here’s some info to chew on:

    Select QB’s in Clutch Situations – down by as much as 8 or tied, 4th quarter – in the playoffs since 2001

    Aaron Rodgers (http://pfref.com/tiny/hPqsu)
    7 Clutch games (games where he played in the above situation) and 2 wins (0.286). 10.49 ANY/A

    Drew Brees (http://pfref.com/tiny/cugYI)
    8 Clutch games, 3 wins (0.375). 8.42 ANY/A

    Tom Brady (http://pfref.com/tiny/XuPyz)
    15 Clutch games, 10 wins (0.667). 6.41 ANY/A

    Ben Roethlisberger (http://pfref.com/tiny/6bwpR)
    10 Clutch games, 4 wins (0.400). 4.76 ANY/A

    All QB’s since 2001 (http://pfref.com/tiny/EikFS)
    168 Clutch games, 64 wins (0.381). 5.94 ANY/A

    YES, SMALL SAMPLE SIZES, but what the hell else do we have to look at?

    My take: guys like Brees and Rodgers have played exceptionally well WHEN IT MATTERED in playoff games, and for whatever reason didn’t get the wins. Brady has also played well in the clutch and for a variety of reasons – timing, defense, special teams, coaching, etc. – he gets the wins.

    We always come back to this: team game.

    • Richie

      Rodgers’ 5 losses were:

      2009 Wildcard at Arizona. Rodgers was strip-sacked in OT for the game-losing touchdown. This after led a game-tying touchdown drive with 2 minutes left.

      2011 divisional game vs NY Giants. Green Bay never led.

      2013 wildcard vs San Francisco. Rodgers led a game-tying FG drive with 5 minutes left. (On 3rd and goal from the 8 he ran the ball up the middle for 2 yards, and the team kicked a 24-yard FG. I don’t remember the details, but the play by play here looks bad for Rodgers.) His defense then allowed an 80-yard scoring drive to Kaepernick as time expired.

      2014 Championship at Seattle where Seattle won in overtime without Green Bay getting the ball. That was the crazy game where the Packers had a 19-7 lead. Seattle got every break to take the lead with 1:25 left. Rodgers drove for the game-tying FG in regulation and never got another chance.

      2015 Divisional loss at Arizona where Arizona won in overtime without Green Bay getting the ball. Rodgers drove for the game-tying touchdown as time expired.

      • Tom

        Thanks for posting this Richie! I’m thinking if we look closer at the games, as you have here, we can see where certain plays that have huge impacts are going to overshadow perhaps good-looking stat numbers (ANY/A).

        Here’s Rodgers WPA numbers from those 5 losses:

        2009 WC: +0.05
        2011 Div: +0.07
        2013 WC: +0.33
        2014 CG: +0.09
        2015 Div: +0.38

        Overall, from an impact/clutch perspective, he never “cost his team” the game, but certainly could have played better in three of those losses.

        The games that “hurt” are obviously the 2013 and 2015 games…those are games that could have been won. We can certainly ding Rodgers for the 2-yard run in 2013…would have been more “clutch” if they scored a TD on that drive. But with 5 minutes remaining the game was far from over…the Niners get the ball back and have about a 55% to win the game. Nothing can be said about the 2015 game…ties the game with the pass to Janis, never sees the ball again.

        • Corey

          Worth noting with respect to the 2013 game that a) it was Rodgers’ second game back after missing half the season with a broken collarbone, and b) it was played in brutally cold conditions (5 degrees/-10 wind chill at kickoff). Also, Rodgers led an earlier drive in the 4th quarter for a TD to give GB the lead that the defense followed up by allowing a 5-play TD drive to immediately surrender the lead again. Rodgers twice gave his team the lead in the 4th quarter and the defense blew it twice.

          • Tom

            Yep, you’re right. My numbers of course don’t account for the cold or his collarbone, but I’m with you that those things matter and are worth looking at when we judge these dudes.

            And yeah, that 4th quarter quick lead change was a killer. The Packers take about 6 minutes go down the field for the score, going from WP of 35% to 60%, and in less than a minute and a half, Kaep and Co. come right back and score a TD, and the Packers are now at 37%. You are exactly correct – Rodgers had two 4QC drives and still lost the game. So what can we blame him for? The fact that they didn’t score a TD on the second drive?

            This is why I started running these numbers…got tired of hearing how some guy is a winner and some guy isn’t when we’re talking about a team game. The Packers were 3-point underdogs in that game, meaning they had roughly a 41% to win. The GB offense put up +33%, so all the defense and special teams need to do is throw in 8%. But instead the defense gives up -69% and there’s your game. At what point is it downright silly to call this a playoff “loss” for Rodgers?

    • Renan

      Links are not working. Too bad. I wanted to make some tweaks to the queries.
      Do you have Peyton’s numbers?

      • Tom

        Renan – the parentheses were screwing up the links. They should work now…

        Didn’t run Peyton’s numbers, but I’m thinking he’ll be right around Brady…I’ll try to get to it today unless you do it!

        • Renan

          Peyton Manning http://pfref.com/tiny/8rRZb
          12 Clutch games, 2 wins (0.167). 5.76 ANY/A

          Hope the numbers are correct.
          A lot of heartbreaking losses: 2 Vanderjagt FG missed, 2 SD games that he played quite well, R. Moore game and NYJ game that he took the lead with less than 1 min left but still lost.

          • Tom

            Yeah those numbers are right. Wow, I thought Manning would be a bit better, he’s actually below average! There’s a bunch of ways to look at this, but this data perpetuates the narrative that Manning doesn’t play well in playoff clutch situations. I’ve run Win Probability numbers for his playoff games and it paints a better picture than this, but he’s still behind Brees, Brady, Rodgers, etc.

            That being said, yeah, some heartbreaking losses, especially the missed field goals…

            • Four Touchdowns

              I’m not going to say Manning played great in the playoffs overall or anything, but I do think this shows the limitation of stats in evaluating QB performance (though it’s the best tool we have outside of watching game film, which I imagine no regular person has the time or expertise to do).

              In Phil Simms’ book, “Sunday Morning Quarterback,” he mentioned seeing a box score with mediocre QB stats and assumed the QB played poorly in a loss. When he went to look at the game film, he saw that the QB’s performance was next to perfect — incompletions were due to dropped passes and throwaways when no one was open.

              This article’s from 2013, after the loss to the Ravens, but the numbers are still interesting. According to Scott Kacsmar, in his 8 one-and-done losses to that point, Manning suffered from 30 dropped passes and of 6 interceptions, three bounced off his receivers hands and two others were during garbage time when he was getting blown out by the Jets.


              Even when Manning was horrible in 2015, he still had bad luck from WRs dropping passes against the Steelers in the playoffs, as this video montage shows (the article says 7 drops, but the video shows 9 incompletions, so I guess they took two away as great defense or something) —


              So if you give Manning 7 of those 9 incompletions, nevermind the potential for added yards and scoring that may have come with them, his passer rating jumps from 74.4 to 87.9. I’d say the second and eighth passes were more good defense that WR error, so if we give Manning just the airyards from the other passes, his rating jumps up even higher to 99.5 for that game (an imperfect idea, I know — just illustrating a point).

              And among those 9 incompletions, 4 would have been a first down, 1 would have converted a third down and 1 would have converted a fourth down.

              That’s the issue with stats — just like wins and losses, they give total credit to the QB for things that are a team effort. Bad protection, dropped passes, and poor play-calling are part of those bad numbers as well — we just don’t know to what degree unless we watch the tape.

              • Tom

                Yep, you’re right on. Any comments I make about a player doing poorly or not being clutch, or playing great, etc. is *always* based on the numbers (either my WP numbers, EP, ANY/A, etc.) and do *not* take this important stuff into account. I watch the games, but I certainly don’t make decisions as to what was a drop, what was a great catch, what kind of interception it was (fluky? Not fluky?). The play just is what it is.

                Like, what can we say about Keenum’s pass to Diggs? By my numbers (and Burke’s are close to this as well), Keenum gets +0.90 WPA for that play, which is as big a play as the Butler INT. The number is right – teams in the spot the Vikes were in almost always lose (which is why the play is so exciting). But how much credit goes to Keenum, how much to Diggs, how much from Williams? Who has time to go through all of that?

                Over the long haul, I think these things even out, but when we’re talking about single games, as we are here, this stuff (your comment) is absolutely important and worth noting.

                • Four Touchdowns

                  Perhaps over the course of the regular seasons in very long careers, but I don’t think they really even out in playoff football because the sample sizes are so small.

                  Overall, I don’t think they even out because rosters and coaches are pretty different in individual players’ careers. If Tom Brady had wide receiver corps like Peyton Manning or Joe Montana, he might have better volume stats. If Dan Marino or Dan Fouts were on the Walsh 49ers, they might have better efficiency stats and Super Bowl rings. If Drew Brees had the same scoring defenses as Tom Brady, he might have thrown less interceptions and made the playoffs more.

                  It’s tempting to think things “even out” but there are just so many factors at play. Hell, even if you gave every QB the same OL, WRs, defense and opponents, when you consider that all QBs operate in different systems under different coordinators, it still wouldn’t even out. I’m still reminded of Richard Sherman saying that they basically knew what plays the Broncos were going to run because the play-calling was so predictable.

              • Renan

                Plus, if R. Moore does not allow the TD against BAL like he should, there’s no OT and the INT does not happen. Manning finishes the game with 101.3 PR, a 88-yard GWD and better “clutch” numbers.

                I agree with you. Game charting is important and it’s even more important for small sample sizes or elimination games. It can definitely change the narrative from the box score. And it can go both way. A very good stat line does not account for dropped INTs.

                I do think Manning was great in the PO specially before the last 2 seasons in DEN. And he won 50% of his rings in those years. You can see this article right after the blowout loss to SEA in the SB.


  • Corey

    Not only has Brees had bad playoff luck with late-game defenses, but his playoff opportunities have been limited because New Orleans’ defenses have frequently been atrocious during Brees’ career. NO’s DVOA ranks in defense since Brees got there are 22, 30, 26, 17, 10, 28, 32, 10, 31, 32, 31, 8. Every year the team had a defense that wasn’t awful, the Saints with Brees won at least 10 games and made the playoffs. Every year they had a defense that was terrible, they went either 7-9 or 8-8.

    • Four Touchdowns

      There are many great players who disprove the idea that the QB determines who wins or loses — Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts — but at the top of the list is probably Drew Brees. I think he’s every bit as good as Peyton or Brady.

  • Adam

    I couldn’t bear to read this post for a couple days because I knew it would be gut wrenching. And it was. With better defenses and kicking, Drew Brees may very well be held in the same regard as Brady and Montana, which again emphasizes that judging QB’s by TEAM records is incredibly stupid.

    • WR

      I don’t understand how you can be so high on Brees’ performance, when you were so critical of Brady after the Super Bowl against Atlanta. It just seems inconsistent to me, because I don’t see a lot of difference in the value of their individual performances.

  • jgov05

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on PFR. Great stuff, especially Brees’ pro-rated 16-game postseason stat line — absolutely ridiculous.

    Another great Brees stat I just noticed: this season, he passed for 4,334 yards (4th in the NFL) and 23 TDs. These are the lowest total he’s had in either category in 12 years with the Saints!