clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dan Quinn owned Tom Brady in 2 Super Bowls ... until the 4th quarter

The Patriots figured out Quinn’s defense just in time in two separate Super Bowls.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows how to frustrate and fluster Tom Brady. For three quarters, at least.

Sunday’s dramatic Super Bowl victory marked the second time Brady torched Quinn’s defense in a thrilling comeback win. The first came when Quinn was a rising star in the coaching world as the mastermind behind Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense. An all-star Seahawks unit badgered the New England Patriots before the team tied an NFL record by turning a 24-14 deficit into the franchise’s fourth championship.

The second served as the most brutal loss — Super Bowl or otherwise — of all time.

With Quinn’s defense creating pressure and forcing Brady into mistakes, his teams have taken an aggregate 52-23 lead through the opening three quarters of their two big showdowns. After that, things change dramatically; Brady 29, Seahawks/Falcons 0. A look at the stats from those two games show a tale of two quarterbacks.

Tom Brady vs. Dan Quinn's Super Bowl Defenses

Super Bowls vs. Dan Quinn Comp Att PCT Yards Yards/Att TDs INTs QB Rating Points Scored
Super Bowls vs. Dan Quinn Comp Att PCT Yards Yards/Att TDs INTs QB Rating Points Scored
Tom Brady, Quarters 1-3
vs. Seahawks 23 34 67.65% 198 5.82 2 2 77.8 14
vs. Falcons 21 34 61.76% 220 6.47 1 1 78.1 9
Tom Brady, 4th Quarter & OT
vs. Seahawks 14 16 87.50% 130 8.13 2 0 140.1 14
vs. Falcons 22 28 78.57% 246 8.79 1 0 115.2 25

For two straight games, Quinn’s defenses have managed to turn one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks into the rough equivalent of Blake Bortles. He’s even got the pick-six to prove it.

Once the clock burns its first 45 minutes, Brady transforms back to his old self like a werewolf controlled by a glimpse of the Lombardi Trophy. He was near perfect to overcome the Seahawks in 2015, then set a Super Bowl record for most passing yards in a single game to spark the biggest comeback of his career. The end result: Four game MVP awards, five rings, and an endless stream of articles declaring him the GOAT this February.

So what changed? Was there a flaw in Quinn’s defense, or is Brady really the semi-deity Boston fans have always claimed he was?

Against Atlanta, Brady’s resurgence was the product of a stronger blocking game and the eventual tiring of the Falcons’ defense. The Patriots quarterback was sacked five times in the first 51 minutes of the game, but was protected as the team sprung 22 points as the clock bled into overtime. After getting pressure on Brady 16 times in the first half, Atlanta managed only four more through the rest of the game.

That, combined with a secondary that had to carry the pressure of shutting down the league’s No. 3 offense for 93 plays and more than 40 minutes of field time, created the windows of opportunity Brady would tear into doorways.

The resurgence is tougher to pinpoint against the Seahawks. Like in Super Bowl LI, Brady dug himself a hole when a big mistake cost his Patriots points. Rather than a pick-six, it was a forced throw to the end zone that Jeremy Lane turned into the biggest interception of his career. Brady also dealt with a tough pass rush — Seattle came into the game forcing pressure on more than 37 percent of its snaps — but it was nothing like the battering he took early against the Falcons.

The Seahawks only sacked Brady once, and that happened to kick off one of the team’s scoring drives in the fourth quarter. They were also missing a key component of their defensive line late, as starter Cliff Avril went down early in the final period with a concussion. With Seattle’s pressure reduced, Brady was able to find room in the pocket, where he found a way to deliver the ball to targets away from his opponent’s toughest defenders.

Brady threw 16 passes in the fourth quarter, only one of which challenged All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman (it went for 4 yards). Instead, he relied on short check-down passes to his tailbacks — Shane Vereen had five receptions in the quarter, paving the way for James White’s monster day two years later — and threw to receivers covered by lesser defensive backs like Tharold Simon and Byron Maxwell.

Two years ago, Tom Brady beat Dan Quinn’s vaunted Seattle defense by attacking the weaker points of his secondary. On Sunday, he used a renewed blocking effort to gash a gassed defense and pull off the biggest Super Bowl comeback of all time. While Quinn has set the foundation for beating the Patriots in the biggest game of the season, his inability to close out contests has led to two of the most heartbreaking losses the NFL has ever seen.