Disclaimer: Quarterbacks don’t have records, teams do. A quarterback’s “record” is simply shorthand for saying “the record of a quarterback’s teams in all playoff games started by that quarterback.” Please forgive me for using that shorthand for the remainder of this post.
Eight years ago, Doug Drinen wrote a fun post in advance of the 2006 AFC Championship Game. At the time, Peyton Manning had gone 0-2 in playoff games against Tom Brady, so Doug looked at quarterbacks who had gone winless against another particular quarterback in the postseason.
Manning wound up beating Brady in that game, and evened his record against Brady in the 2013 playoffs. No pair of quarterbacks have ever met as starters five times in the playoffs, so Brady/Manning are tied for the most playoff meetings. Joining them on Saturday will be Brady and Joe Flacco. This weekend’s game will be the fourth time since 2009 that the Ravens have traveled to Foxboro in the postseason, and Brady and Flacco have been under center for each game.
That will make Brady/Flacco the 4th pair of quarterbacks to face off four times in the playoffs. Who were the first three?
The most famous game between Brady and Stabler, of course, was the Immaculate Reception game. But Daryle Lamonica was the Oakland starter that day, although Stabler wound up replacing Lamonica in the 4th quarter. In fact, it was Stabler who scored what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown on a 30-yard rush.
That game was the first of a five-year stretch where the Steelers and Raiders would meet in the playoffs every year. The Immaculate Reception took place at Three Rivers, but three of the four Bradshaw/Stabler games took place in Oakland.
Oakland exacted some revenge the following season, but the Raiders would then lose to the Dolphins in the AFC title game. After that, tho, the eventual winner of each Raiders/Steelers game would win the Super Bowl.1
At first, Favre was the underdog: Young had won the AP MVP and the Super Bowl in 1994, as part of one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history. In 1995, Favre won the AP MVP award, but the Packers were still heavy underdogs against the 49ers. Green Bay pulled the upset, the first of three straight years in which the Packers knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs. From 1992 to 1997, the 49ers made the playoffs all six years, and either lost to Green Bay (three times), lost to Dallas (twice), or won the Super Bowl (once).
In 1998, it appeared as though the Packers would make it four straight against San Francisco. Brett Favre threw a touchdown to Antonio Freeman with two minutes left to give the Packers a 27-23 lead. Then, in the final seconds, Young and Terrell Owens created The Catch II, connecting for a 25-yard touchdown on the last play from scrimmage. Has Owens not made that catch, Young would have lost to Favre in four straight seasons, with three of those games coming in San Francisco.
Peyton Manning (2-2) vs. Tom Brady
Here is a very succinct way to describe Brady/Manning in the playoffs: the home team has won each game.
Joe Flacco (3-1 or 2-2) vs. Tom Brady
The first Ravens/Patriots playoff game was one of the worst games of the Brady/Belichick era. New England fell behind 24-0 in the first quarter, and the Patriots finished with a Game Script of -16.6. That’s the second worst of the Brady/Belichick era, behind a -18.0 in the famous 31-0 Bills game in the 2003 season opener.
In 2011, the Ravens nearly pulled off another upset. Flacco connected with Lee Evans for what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown, but Sterling Moore knocked the pass out of Evans’ hands. Two plays later, Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal that would have forced overtime. The miss sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl, but it would be the Ravens to next hoise a Lombardi Trophy.
That’s because the Ravens came into Foxboro and shocked the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game. Baltimore then defeated the 49ers in the Super Bowl, capping perhaps the 2nd most unlikely Super Bowl run since 1978.