When James White caught 2 touchdown passes from Tom Brady on Sunday in the New England Patriots’ 35-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals he became the 56th player to be on the receiving end of a “Brady Bunch.”
That means 55 other times, Brady has thrown 2 touchdowns — or more — to the same player in one game. For a quarterback who spreads the ball like John Stockton, that’s a huge number.
The very first recipient of a Brady Bunch was David Patten, exactly 15 years ago. Brady would have 5 multi-touchdown games in that breakout season, but only once would he find the same target twice, when Patten torched the Indianapolis Colts for 117 yards and 2 scores, including a 91-yard grab. That was the first time Brady outdueled Peyton Manning, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Here’s a look back at some of Brady’s more remarkable red-zone romances.
Patten, Oct. 6, 2002, vs. Miami
Brady kicked off his sophomore season as a starter with five straight multi-touchdown games, but it would take until the fifth for him to connect with the same receiver twice, and Patten again was the lucky guy, accounting for both of New England’s scores in a 26-13 loss to the Dolphins.
Antowain Smith, Nov. 3, 2002, at Buffalo/Kevin Faulk, Nov. 10, 2002, at Chicago
In back-to-back weeks, Brady displayed the backfield recognition that became a hallmark of his career. Brady has made a career out of utilizing the passing game out of the backfield, and his two-score game with Smith was the first time he’s found a running back twice. One week later, Brady again found a rapport with a running back, hitting Faulk for two scores in a 33-30 comeback win against the Bears. Faulk would go on to become a major target for Brady for years.
Christian Fauria, Nov. 24, 2002, vs. Minnesota/Sept. 14, 2003, at Philadelphia
Before there was Gronk, there was Christian Fauria. Brady’s first favored tight end snagged two scores in a 24-17 win against the Vikings, and Brady again displayed his trust of his tight end in the red zone early the next season, as Fauria had all of 19 yards on 3 catches – but 2 touchdowns – in a 31-10 win at the Eagles.
David Givens, Dec. 20, 2003, at New York Jets/Oct. 31, 2004, vs. Pittsburgh
Brady had 23 touchdowns in 2003, with nine multi-score games, but only twice — Fauria against the Eagles and Givens in a 21-16 win against the Jets — did he connect with the same player twice. A year later, Givens again came up big, grabbing 8 passes for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, albeit in a 34-20 loss to the 6-1 Steelers.
Ben Watson, Nov. 13, 2005, vs. Miami/Mike Vrabel, Dec. 26, 2005, at New York Jets
Noticing a pattern here? Quality over quantity is the thing, as Brady found Watson three times for 37 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 23-16 win against Miami, the fourth time in four years he found a tight end multiple times. But crafty Brady once more proved his ability to use all the tools at his disposal six weeks later, with 2 touchdown passes to Vrabel, one for 2 yards, the other for 1, in a 31-21 win at New York.
Randy Moss, Sept. 16, 2007, vs. San Diego
After zero 2-touchdown connections in 2006, Brady came into 2007 with a vengeance — and a host of new targets, including Moss. Brady had 50 touchdowns on the year, with only two games of one or fewer scores. This was not one of those days, as Brady hit Moss eight times for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 38-14 home win against the Chargers.
Wes Welker and Moss, Oct. 21, 2007, vs. Miami
A Brady Bunch first! But now things are getting ridiculous: Brady smoked Dolphins defenders for 6 touchdowns on 21 passes, finding Welker and Moss both twice in the end zone in a 49-28 win. This was the second straight week he spotted Welker twice, and it was the fourth time in six weeks that Brady hit Moss for multiple scores.
Moss, Nov. 18, 2007, at Buffalo
Another one for the record books. The most prolific game in the established Brady-to-Moss history, the enigmatic wideout waltzed around the Bills defense, catching 10 passes for 128 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 56-10 rout that moved New England to 10-0.
Moss, Dec. 29, 2007, at New York Giants
Talk about closing out a season in style. In a Super Bowl preview, Brady capped off Moss’ record-breaking campaign with 6 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, numbers 22 and 23 on the season, in a 38-35 win at the Giants. He had an astounding 8 multi-score games on the year.
Watson, Sept. 14, 2009, vs. Buffalo
Returning from the first major injury of his career, one that cost him almost all of 2008, Brady re-established his rapport with Watson. Moss and Welker combined for 234 yards but it was Watson who scored twice in a 25-14 season-opening win against the Bills.
Moss, Dec. 27, 2009, vs. Jacksonville
By this late in his 12th season, Moss had lost a step and wasn’t quite going off on a regular basis. But he still had those hands, and while he snagged 4 passes for 45 yards, three went for scores in a 35-7 win against the Jaguars. Moss finished with 13 touchdowns in 2009, with 3 multi-score games. He’d have just one more with Brady in 2010.
Welker, Sept. 12, 2010, vs. Cincinnati
With Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez added to a group that included Moss and Welker, Brady truly had more options than any point in his career. On this day, Welker was the key, scoring twice on 8 catches for 64 yards in a 38-24 win against the Bengals.
Aaron Hernandez, Nov. 7, 2010, at Cleveland
The Browns stunned the Patriots, winning 34-14, but it was significant for another reason: This is the first time Brady and Hernandez connected for 2 scores.
Rob Gronkowski, Nov. 14, 2010, at Pittsburgh
The Patriots righted the ship one week later in a 39-26 win at the Steelers, with Brady on the lookout for his other rookie tight end. What a tandem they’ve become, but Gronk’s 3-score performance against the Steelers was just the beginning.
Gronkowski, Jan. 2, 2011, at Buffalo
Bills, Bills, ye tortured Bills. What is it about Buffalo that brings out the best in Brady? Perhaps a poor pass defense, but whatever it is, Gronkowski had his second big game of the year, catching 2 touchdowns in a 34-3 win.
Gronkowski, Sept. 18, 2011, vs. San Diego
It’s hard to accurately describe Gronkowski’s dominance as a second-year tight end. The league had never seen anything like him, and his 2-touchdown game in a 35-21 win in Week 2 against the Chargers was just the first of 7 multi-score games in 2011 for Gronkowski.
Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd, Oct. 28, 2012, at St. Louis
Brady had 34 touchdown passes in 2012 and was at his best in terms of scoring distribution. Only three times did he connect twice with the same target, including his 4-touchdown game in a 45-7 win against the Rams in which he found Gronkowski and Lloyd twice each. Three weeks later, Brady and Gronkowski did it again in a win against the Colts, and three weeks after that, Brady and Hernandez got in the mix with 2 scores.
Julian Edelman, Sept. 8, 2013, at Buffalo
With Gronkowski hobbled or sidelined for much of the season and Aaron Hernandez — well, we all know what happened to Aaron Hernandez in 2013 — Brady’s cast of catchers was vastly depleted. He’d finish with 25 touchdowns on the year, his lowest total for a full season since 2006, but he’d have multi-touchdown connections with Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins (Sept. 22 vs. Tampa Bay), Aaron Dobson (Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh) and Edelman again (Nov. 24 vs. Denver).
Brandon LaFell, Oct. 12, 2014, at Buffalo/Oct. 30, 2014, at Green Bay
LaFell won’t go down as one of Brady’s Mt. Rushmore of targets — Moss, Gronkowski, Welker and Edelman are carved in stone — but he did have a pair of 2-touchdown performances in 2014. This one, in a 37-22 win against Buffalo — of course — and again in Week 12 in a 26-21 loss at Green Bay.
Shane Vereen, Oct. 16, 2014, vs. New York Jets
Vereen was a steady presence in the New England backfield for a half-decade, even if he never truly seized the role. But his 2-touchdown day was the first time in quite a while that Brady found the same running back twice.
Gronkowski, Oct. 26, 2014, vs. Chicago
Brady’s 5-touchdown performance highlighted the day, but it was his 3 touchdown passes to Gronkowski that re-lit the flame between the two superstars.
Edelman, Sept. 20, 2015 at Buffalo / Oct. 29. 2015 vs. Miami
Brady, the ultimate distributor, had 36 touchdowns in 2015, his 15th year as New England’s leader. Yet only twice did he connect with the same receiver twice for scores, and both times it was Edelman.
So while it’s clear Brady is still at the top of his game, the results of the last few years show he’s spreading the love a little more.