As the NFL has become more of a passing league over the years, it’s not uncommon to see quarterbacks put up huge numbers, not just in the regular season but in the NFL playoffs as well. It’s not that quarterbacks didn’t have big games back in the day but seeing those crazy stats is just more commonplace these days, which is why it’s not a shock that four of the top five single-game passing performances in the postseason have come in the last decade, the lone exception being Bernie Kosar‘s 489-yard performance for the Cleveland Browns back in 1987.
The other five (there’s a tie for fifth) performances took place in 2012 or after and were all accomplished by Super Bowl champions, including two from the man with the most Super Bowl rings in history, Tom Brady.
So let’s get to it. Here’s a look at the top five single-game passing performances in NFL playoff history.
T5. Drew Brees and Tom Brady each have a 466-yard performance in the NFL playoffs
Drew Brees and Tom Brady are the two most prolific passers in NFL history so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on this list. The two are currently tied for fourth on the list of single-game postseason passing performances as each once threw for 466 yards in an NFL playoff game.
Brees was the first to reach the mark back on January 7, 2012, in the New Orleans Saints’ 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round. Brees completed 33 of 43 passes that day with three touchdowns. What’s crazy is that the sixth-best single-game passing performance in NFL playoff history came a week later when Brees threw for 462 yards against the San Francisco 49ers.
As for Tom Brady, his 466-yard performance came on February 5, 2017, against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. You remember that game, right? Falcons fans surely haven’t forgotten as their team blew a 28-3 lead as Brady led a crazy comeback for the Patriots. TB12 completed 43 of 62 passes that night in Houston with two touchdowns and one interception as New England captured their fifth Super Bowl title with a 34-28 overtime win.
4. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards against the Jaguars in 2018
Coming in third on the list of the best single-game passing performances in NFL playoff history is two-time Super Bowl champion, Ben Roethlisberger.
On January 14, 2018, Roethlisberger and the second-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers squared off against the third-seeded Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round, which turned out to be quite the shootout. The Steelers lost that day, 45-42, but it certainly wasn’t Big Ben’s fault as he completed 37 of 58 passes for 469 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
3. Bernie Kosar threw for 489 yards against the Jets in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in 1987
It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Cleveland Browns were one of the best teams in the AFC in the mid-to-late 1980s. Cleveland made the NFL playoffs for five straight years to close out the decade and went to the AFC Championship Game three times in that span, one of those instances coming after the 1986 season, a year in which the Browns went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Following a bye in the wild-card round, the Browns squared off against the New York Jets in the divisional round on January 3, 1987, and earned a trip to the AFC title game with a 23-20 win. Although he threw just one touchdown pass that day, longtime Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar set a new NFL playoff record by throwing for 489 yards on 33-for-64 passing in the victory, eclipsing the previous record set by Dan Fouts, who threw for 433 yards for the San Diego Chargers in 1982.
Kosar would hold the record for more than 31 years until Tom Brady became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in the postseason in 2018.
2. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 501 yards in a loss to the Cleveland Browns
With just the second 500+-yard performance in NFL playoff history, Ben Roethlisberger makes his second appearance on the list due to his 501-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns on January 10, 2021 in the wild-card round.
Roethlisberger attempted 68 passes, the third-most in postseason history, and completed 47 of them for 501 yards and four touchdowns. However, Big Ben also had four interceptions in the Steelers’ 48-37 loss.
1. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards in Super Bowl 52
Just one year after throwing for a Super Bowl-record 466 yards against the Falcons, Tom Brady set a new NFL playoff record for passing yards in a single game by throwing for 505 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game the Patriots famously lost in dramatic fashion, 41-33.
Brady completed 28 of 48 passes that night in Minneapolis with three touchdowns. His performance in Super Bowl 52 is one of 25 500+-yard games in NFL history and obviously just one of two to occur in the NFL playoffs. Of those 25, 18 have come since the year 2000 and Tom Brady is responsible for two of them.
His career-high in passing yards came against the Miami Dolphins in a regular-season matchup on September 12, 2011, when he completed 32 of 48 passes for 517 yards with four touchdowns.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference