Commentary

Ranking the top 10 QB playoff performances of the QBR era

Updated: January 17, 2018, 9:16 AM ET
By Seth Walder | ESPN.com

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsBlake Bortles was the best QB of the divisional round, per QBR.

The quarterback closest to the QBR record books in the divisional round was ... Blake Bortles. The much-maligned Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback was more efficient than even Tom Brady last weekend.

Before you worry our calculators are broken, I'll point out that, due to a higher volume of work, Brady added more points to his team's cause. But Total QBR is a rate stat, and in Total QBR, Bortles won the week with a 90.8.

And by the way, that shouldn't seem all that crazy besides the fact that he is, well, Bortles. On just 30 action plays by the quarterback, the Jaguars put up 38 points on offense. And though he threw only one touchdown pass and his performance wasn't always the prettiest, Bortles' performance ultimately was effective.

That was thanks to two 40-plus-yard passes, yes, but also because of another huge play -- his largest, in terms of expected points added by the quarterback -- when he scrambled for 16 yards on a third-and-8 in the third quarter.

As efficient as Bortles was in the Jags' 45-42 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was only the 21st-best Total QBR playoff performance since 2006 (as far back as the statistic goes).

Who could possibly have been better than Bortles? Well, here are the top 10 Total QBR playoff performances. Let's do some reminiscing:


1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, 2007

Divisional round vs. Jaguars, 31-20 win
Total QBR:
98.0

QBR is all about efficiency, and that's the word Brady embodied that day against the Jaguars. He completed 26 of 28 attempts (on 30 action plays) en route to what stands as the best playoff QBR game since 2006. It was also his third-best game overall in that time frame.


2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, 2009

Divisional round vs. Cardinals, 45-14 win
Total QBR:
97.7

The flea-flicker led to fireworks. Drew Brees' most valuable moment in this blowout win was a flea-flicker pass launched deep down the middle of the field to Devery Henderson, who finished the job and ran it in for a touchdown.


3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, 2016

NFC Championship Game vs. Packers, 44-21 win
Total QBR:
97.2

Ryan was helped out in this one by a miraculous game from Julio Jones -- including an awesome stiff-arm against Damarious Randall -- but the Falcons quarterback was also superb. Though not the most mobile of quarterbacks, Ryan did scramble for a 14-yard touchdown in addition to his four other touchdowns the old-fashioned way.


4. Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos, 2011

Wild-card round vs. Steelers, 29-23 win
Total QBR:
96.7

Actually, this wasn't really about Tebow's famous 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. In fact, that was only his fifth-most valuable play of the day, because Tebow didn't throw it very far down the field and Thomas did most of the work. EPA-wise, it was another pass to Thomas -- a 51-yarder in the second quarter on third-and-12 -- that was the most valuable.


5. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals, 2009

Wild-card round vs. Packers, 51-45 win
Total QBR:
96.13

Warner outshone Aaron Rodgers in this playoff shootout. In fact, the then-Cardinals quarterback threw more touchdown passes than incompletions in this one. The Cardinals won in overtime on a strip-sack of Rodgers that Arizona returned for a touchdown.


6. Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers, 2007

Divisional round vs. Seahawks, 42-20 win
Total QBR:
96.12

Even at 38 years old, even with snow falling at Lambeau Field, Favre still had some playoff magic in him. That magic included, on a third-and-8 when the game was still in question, a stumbling Favre underhanding a pass to Donald Lee for a first-down conversion.


7. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, 2010

Divisional round at Falcons, 48-21 win
Total QBR:
95.9

The Packers trailed or were tied with the Falcons through most of the first half. But with 48 seconds left in the second quarter and the game knotted up at 14-14, Rodgers fired a bullet to James Jones to take the lead. At the start of the third quarter, then up by two touchdowns, Rodgers scrambled for a 7-yard score.


8. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers, 2012

Divisional round vs. Packers, 45-31 win
Total QBR:
95.6

Total QBR is an efficiency statistic, but in terms of sheer volume, Kaepernick takes the cake. No quarterback has ever contributed more (garbage-time adjusted) expected points added to his team's cause in the playoffs than Kaepernick in this contest. Most of that was on the ground, as he rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns.


9. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2007

Divisional Round at Patriots, 31-20 loss
Total QBR:
95.3

Poor David Garrard. He puts in one of the greatest playoff performances of the QBR era and just happens to do it while opposing a Hall of Famer who had the best playoff game of any quarterback since 2006. That's some tough luck. Garrard actually threw a pick in this game, but it came on fourth-and-6 so he wasn't overly punished for it.


10. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals, 2008

NFC Championship Game vs. Eagles, 32-25 win
Total QBR:
94.3

Just like Brees a year later, Warner benefited from a huge play on a flea-flicker. This one was a little more involved, as Warner pitched it to J.J. Arrington, who ran right, turned around and threw it backward to Warner, who heaved it downfield to Larry Fitzgerald for a 62-yard touchdown.

Seth Walder

ESPN Analytics

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