Ranking the Top 5 Times Tom Brady Was Bailed Out by an NFL Referee
Tom Brady wouldn’t own seven Super Bowl rings if he didn’t have a legendary work ethic and an undying passion for playing the game of football.
He also wouldn’t have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy more than any other player in NFL history without some favorable calls and well-timed flags from referees.
But for someone who’s spent two decades dominating the league and cementing his case as the GOAT, which ones stand out above the others? In light of perhaps the most egregious roughing the passer penalty of the 2022 season, here are the top five times Brady has reaped the rewards of NFL refs.
5. A.J. Bouye’s pass interference call in the 2017 AFC Championship
In what could have been a narrative-changing day for Blake Bortles’ career, the oft-criticized quarterback ended up on the losing side of a closely contested AFC Championship Game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots. Of course, that meant Brady got the chance to play in another Super Bowl–a feat that may not have happened if not for a controversial pass interference call near the end of the second quarter.
With Bortles and Co. looking poised to head into the locker room with a 14-3 lead, the Patriots took advantage of two penalties on their final drive before halftime. Following an unnecessary roughness call against safety Barry Church, cornerback A.J. Bouye got flagged for pass interference on a deep attempt from Brady to Brandin Cooks.
New England gained 32 yards on a play that looked more like a case of the receiver failing to gain separation against physical coverage. Brady proceeded to connect with Cooks on a 12-yard pass, James White punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown, and Stephen Gostkowski nailed the extra point.
A pair of penalties on successive plays ultimately set the Patriots up for an easy scoring opportunity. It took a clutch pass breakup by Stephon Gilmore to prevent Bortles from breaking Patriot Nation’s hearts, but it’s fair to wonder whether it should have been New England having to drive to go ahead to end the game.
4. Grady Jarrett’s roughing the passer penalty in Week 5 of the 2022 season
Grady Jarrett was no stranger to taking down the greatest quarterback of all time before he made headlines last Sunday. After all, the veteran defensive tackle racked up three sacks in the Atlanta Falcons’ infamous meltdown in Super Bowl 51.
But for a player who’s quietly been one of the best at his position for years, it’s easy to see why Jarrett would be upset about the “roughing the passer” call levied against him in what turned out to be a crushing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5.
“If it’s costing people games, it’s going to cost people’s livelihoods; it’s costing people opportunity,” he said Tuesday on The Grady Jarrett Show.
With the Falcons down by six, Jarrett appeared to have given his team a chance to get the ball back with roughly 3 minutes to go. However, instead of adding a sack to his 2022 stat line, he added a roughing the passer penalty to his resume. The call allowed the Buccaneers to maintain possession, run a few more plays, and run the clock out to preserve a 21-15 win.
3. Chris Jones’ fourth-quarter flag in the 2018 AFC Championship
Chris Jones and Kansas City Chiefs fans had every right to be furious at the referee crew assigned to the 2018 AFC Championship. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say Patrick Mahomes may have multiple Super Bowl rings if not for a huge call against his highly-paid teammate that greatly benefitted the Patriots and undoubtedly changed the Chiefs’ fortunes.
Down 21-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Brady failed to complete a second-down pass to Julian Edelman. Yet officials moved the ball from New England’s 28-yard line to the 43 thanks to a roughing the passer call on Jones that certainly didn’t live up to its name.
2. Dee Ford’s offside penalty
Oh, what could have been.
If Dee Ford had simply turned his head and moved back a few inches, maybe the Chiefs would have become the NFL’s next dynasty.
Not long after Jones’ questionable roughing the passer penalty gave New England a significant advantage, the referees provided Brady with a considerable boost by throwing another flag.
And boy, did the Patriots desperately need it.
Initially, it seemed like Kansas City had sealed a spot in Super Bowl 53 when a Brady pass went off Rob Gronkowski’s fingertips and into the hands of Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward. At that point, it truly looked like New England’s run of dominance had come to an end.
However, what should have been a game-ending interception got negated by Ford being offside. TV replay clearly captured the pass rusher lined up in the neutral zone, which provided a perfect snapshot for future memes.
In true TB12 fashion, it didn’t take long to turn a bad moment into a good one. He completed a beautiful deep ball to Gronkowski on the next play, Rex Burkhead plunged across the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown, and the Patriots eventually emerged victorious in overtime, setting the stage for their sixth Super Bowl championship.
1. The Tuck Rule
The course of NFL history changed forever on a snowy night in Foxborough on January 19, 2002. In the blink of an eye, the New England Patriots and a then-unproven version of Tom Brady went from watching the then-Oakland Raiders and their flashy young head coach start to celebrate a victory to getting a second chance thanks to the biggest game-altering (and controversial) call of all time.
You can’t tell the story of TB12 without highlighting the infamous “Tuck Rule Game” that occurred 20 years ago.
Playing in cold, windy conditions on a field covered by a blanket of fresh snow, the Patriots appeared to have lost out on their chance to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 36 when Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson recorded a strip sack against Brady.
Yet fate (and NFL refs) had different plans.
Rather than awarding the Raiders possession, officials determined Brady met the criteria for the obscure tuck rule, thereby ruling the play an incomplete pass. That decision ultimately allowed the Patriots and their young quarterback to keep the ball, drive down the field, and put Adam Vinatieri in a position to send the game to overtime.
By nailing one of the most difficult kicks in NFL history, he did just that.
And as we all know, the rest is history.
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