Tom Brady Sets New NFL Record With Another 17-Point Comeback Against Falcons

Tom Brady wrote another chapter of NFL history on Sunday by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a crucial comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.

The six-time Super Bowl champion completed 31 of his 45 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns as the Bucs erased a 17-point deficit at halftime to win 31-27 in Atlanta and keep their bid for a wildcard berth alive.

The win against the Falcons was the fourth time in Brady's career between regular season and playoff games he has led his team victory after trailing by at least 17 points at halftime, the most of any NFL quarterback in the Super Bowl era, as per NFL Research.

"Great poise by everybody," Brady said after the game. "Everybody hung in there. We got off to a tough start, but we found a way to win."

The Falcons knew all too well the feeling of being on the wrong side of a Brady-inspired comeback, as up until Sunday the veteran quarterback had last erased a 17-point deficit after two quarters when he led the New England Patriots to triumph in Super Bowl LI. Then, Atlanta had led 21-3 at halftime and 28-3 with 8:31 left in the third quarter.

Brady engineered the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, hitting James White for a five-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 28-9 at the end of the third period, before leading the Patriots to score 25 unanswered points over the fourth quarter and overtime.

Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 20 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Brady's other two comebacks when trailing by at least 17 points at halftime came in Week 15 of the 2011 season—when the Patriots overcame a 17-0 deficit to defeat the Dolphins 27-24 in Miami—and in Week 11 of the 2013 season—when New England defeated the Broncos 34-31 in Denver after trailing 24-0 at halftime.

On Sunday, the stakes were nowhere near as high as in Super Bowl LI the Bucs trailed by a smaller gap than the Patriots faced against the Broncos in 2013 and against the Falcons in 2017, but Brady's role in the comeback was just as crucial.

The 43-year-old led the Bucs to score with the first possession in the second half as Leonard Fournette rushed over for a one-yard touchdown run, before the Falcons restored their 17-point lead when Matt Ryan hit Hayden Hurst for a seven-yard touchdown.

Brady then connected with Chris Godwin for a four-yard touchdown pass, before leading the Bucs down the field again as Fournette scored his second touchdown of the day following another one-yard run.

Atlanta retook the lead halfway through the final quarter after Ryan Succop had hit a 27-yard field goal to tie the score at 24, before Brady hit Antonio Brown for a 48-yard touchdown at the end of a four-play, 78-yard drive to give the Bucs a 31-27 lead.

Speaking after the game, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians paid tribute to Brady.

"He's just a winner," he said. "He knows how to do it."

With the win in Atlanta, the Bucs improved to 9-5 and closed the gap to the New Orleans Saints after the NFC South leaders slipped to 10-4 after losing at home to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tampa Bay is currently sixth in the NFC standings. FiveThirtyEight gives it a 99 percent chance of securing a playoff berth for the first time since 2007. With games against the Detroit Lions and the Falcons still to come, the Bucs have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL and could overtake the Los Angeles Rams in the race for the first wildcard spot in the NFC.

The Rams are also 9-5 after a surprise loss at home to the New York Jets on Sunday and have the fourth-hardest remaining schedule, with games against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.