Tom Brady had 40 touchdown passes in his first 16 games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which easily set a franchise single-season record and launched the 2020 team into the playoffs. After the Buccaneers' successful pursuit of the Super Bowl LV Lombardi Trophy, Brady returned for a second season at the helm and…threw 40 touchdown passes in the first 16 regular-season games.
It's hard to say whether those totals are more impressive because of how prolific or how consistent they are, but maybe the answer is neither. Maybe the most impressive part is that neither of those two season touchdown totals matches Brady's age. He threw 40 touchdown passes at the age of 43 and now has another 40 at the age of 44. And because there is one game to go after the league expanded the schedule to 17 contests each, Brady has an excellent chance to break his own franchise record.
Brady is the oldest quarterback ever to have even one 40-TD pass season, let alone two; behind him there was the 37-year-old Peyton Manning in 2004 and the 37-year-old Rodgers last year. None of the other 40-TD seasons (there are now 17 of them in total) were put up by a quarterback older than 33.
Brady was also the first quarterback ever to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season, which he did with the Patriots in 2007 when Randy Moss was running wild. That means Brady has three seasons of 40-plus touchdown passes in his career, matching Rodgers for the most ever. (Rodgers could get a fourth with five scoring passes next Sunday.) Brady and Drew Brees are the only two quarterbacks ever to throw for at least 40 touchdown passes in two consecutive seasons; Brees did it with the Saints in 2011 and 2012.
Brady got to his 40 touchdown passes this year with three more in Sunday's thrilling win over the New York Jets in the Meadowlands. He also threw for 410 yards on 34-of-50 passing, with one interception. In the process, he maintained his NFL lead in both touchdown passes and passing yards, with just one game to go. Brady has previously finished as the NFL's touchdown pass king four times (2002, 2007, 2010 and 2015) and has previously led the league in passing yards three times (2005, 2007 and 2017).
2021 NFL Leaders in Touchdown Passes
2021 NFL Leaders in Passing Yardage
Thanks to that 17th game, Brady has an excellent chance to break the Buccaneers' single-season record for passing yards as well. He will go into next Sunday's contest against Carolina needing just 110 yards to surpass Jameis Winston's mark from 2019.
Most Single-Season Passing Yards, Buccaneers History
Brady's 40th touchdown pass of the 2021 season was perhaps his most important one of the year, as he hit Cyril Grayson on a hysteria-inducing 33-yard completion with 15 seconds left on Sunday to turn a 24-20 deficit into a 28-24 win (after a two-point conversion). That pass was the capper of a nine play drive that covered 93 yards, all through the air, which is how Brady ended up north of 400 yards for the third time this season. Brady now has 13 career 400-yard passing games, tied for the third most such performances in NFL annals.
Most 400-Yard Passing Games, NFL History
By taking the Bucs from a deficit on the scoreboard to a win in the closing minutes, Brady also improved his numbers in two of the most meaningful categories of his career: fourth-quarter comebacks (4QC) and game-winning drives (GWD).
Pro Football Reference compiles these totals and defines them as such:
- A fourth-quarter comeback "must be an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter, with the team trailing by one score, though not necessarily a drive to take the lead. Only games ending in a win or a tie are included."
- A game-winning drive "must be an offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time."
Brady now has 42 fourth-quarter comebacks and 53 game-winning drives in his career. Both rank second in NFL history.
Most Fourth-Quarter Comebacks by Quarterbacks, NFL History
Most Game-Winning Drives by Quarterbacks, NFL History
Two 40-touchdown campaigns in the last two years obviously gives Brady a total of 40 regular-season touchdown passes as a Buccaneer. It has taken him less than two full seasons to move into a tie for second place on the franchise's all-time list in that category.
Most Career Touchdown Passes, Buccaneers History
Brady's game-winning pass was just the second career touchdown for Grayson, but the Bucs' other two scores in the Jets game were logged by players who are very familiar with the end zone. Brady connected with both Mike Evans and Cameron Brate on four-yard scoring passes, padding the stats of two of the top three producers of touchdown receptions in team history. Evans is far out in the lead in that category but Brate is close to joining him in the top two, and in the top four in total touchdowns scored.
Most Touchdown Receptions, Buccaneers History
Most Total Touchdowns, Buccaneers History
|Warrick Dunn||RB||1997-2001; 08||28|
Brate scored for the fourth time in 2021 and now has 30 touchdown receptions since the start of the 2016 season. Only three tight ends in the NFL have more in that span.
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL, Tight Ends, 2016-21
Evans scored for the 12th time in 2021, matching the second highest single-season touchdown reception total in Buccaneers annals. He is the only player in franchise history to have a dozen or more TD catches in a season, and he's now done it four times. Evans owns four of the top five seasons in team history in that category.
Most Touchdown Receptions, Single Season, Buccaneers History
Brady did not connect with his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski in the end zone on Sunday but he found him for big games over the middle of the field consistently throughout the afternoon. Gronkowski was targeted a team-high 10 times, which produced seven catches for 115 yards. It was the second 100-yard game of the season for the veteran tight end and the 31st of his career. That is tied for the most 100-yard games by a tight end in NFL history.
Most 100-Yard Receiving Games, Tight Ends, NFL History