Clutch: a word that sometimes defines a quarterback's legacy in the NFL, determining whether he’s worthy of being put in the class of elite players. The league has had a large number of close games this season, which means quarterbacks are performing well in late-game situations and leading fourth-quarter comebacks on a weekly basis.
We all know Tom Brady is one of the most clutch quarterbacks of all time, as are Tony Romo and Eli Manning. But when it comes to just this season, none of those three grabs the top spot.
Instead, two unheralded quarterbacks rank in the top two for their play late in games. here are the 10 most clutch quarterbacks of 2016.
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Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos
This might seem like somewhat of a surprise, but Siemian has been great in clutch situations this season. In the opener, he led two touchdown drives to beat the Panthers, doing so in his first NFL start. Against the Bengals, Siemian had a 55-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to seal the win and give the Broncos a 29-17 lead.
He has three fourth-quarter comebacks this season and has the third-best fourth-quarter passer rating at 109.8. Siemian also has nine touchdown passes in the final quarter, good for the sixth-most. And when the Broncos fall behind he gets even better, throwing 11 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He may not be consistent, but Siemian looks like he has the clutch gene.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
When it’s all said and done, Ryan might just be the NFL’s MVP of 2016. And if he does win the award, it’ll be partly thanks to his clutch play. In the fourth quarter this season, he’s thrown seven touchdown passes and three interceptions with an impressive passer rating of 99.2. When trailing, he has 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions, showing that he can always pull the Falcons back into the game.
Twice this season he’s led Atlanta on a game-winning drive, he and has one fourth-quarter comeback, which came against the Packers to secure a 33-32 win. Considering how many points the Falcons score, he doesn’t usually have to lead come-from-behind victories, but he’s more than capable of doing so.
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Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been wildly inconsistent this season, either blowing out teams or losing by a wide margin most of the time. As a result, Roethlisberger hasn’t had to be clutch, per se, in many games. When called upon, though, he typically delivers. He has one game-winning drive this season, bringing the Steelers back in the fourth quarter to beat the Bengals this past week.
Big Ben also has the NFL's fourth-best fourth-quarter passer rating (108.8) and has eight touchdown passes to just two interceptions in the last frame. With games becoming increasingly crucial as the weeks go on, Roethlisberger is only going to prove his worth more with clutch play.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees probably won’t go down as the most clutch quarterback of all time. He might not even be mentioned among the best. The most fourth-quarter comebacks he’s had in a season is just four, but he’s been terrific late in games this year – outside of his picks against the Buccaneers. He has a 99.1 passer rating with a league-high 12 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. He also has seven interceptions, but that’s bound to happen when your team is constantly trailing late due to a bad defense.
When the Saints are behind, though, Brees usually gets the job done. He has four game-winning drives this season alone and has completed 71.4 percent of his passes in the final quarter – second in the NFL.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are obviously tied for the best record in football, and a large part of that has been thanks to the play of Prescott. As a rookie, he’s played extremely well in high-pressure situations. He has the third-most fourth-quarter comebacks this year (five) and is 12th all-time for the most in a single season. That’s pretty impressive for a 23-year-old rookie. His passer rating has been stellar all year long but it’s especially good in the final 15 minutes, coming in at 103.5.
While he struggled against the Vikings and Giants, very rarely has he failed to put the Cowboys in a position to win the game. Even against New York in the season opener he nearly marched them down the field for a potential game-winning field goal. The Cowboys lost that game, of course, but it was a glimpse of how good Prescott would be.
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Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers proved just how clutch he is Sunday against the Bears, when he hurled one 60 yards in the freezing cold, hitting Jordy Nelson deep down the field to set up a game-winning field goal. While that was just one of his two fourth-quarter comebacks, the Packers have held onto their leads in most of their victories. And when they haven’t, Rodgers brought them back late in the game.
He’s completed 63.8 percent of his fourth-quarter passes with the fifth-highest passer rating (108.5) and nine touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes. When it gets late, Rodgers is definitely among the quarterbacks you don’t want to face – even if he does have just two game-winning drives this season.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck did not have his best season in 2015, struggling through an injury-plagued year. He’s bounced back in a big way this season, and it shows in his fourth-quarter passing numbers. He’s sixth in the NFL with a passer rating of 107.2 in the final quarter, completing 63.4 percent of his passes. He’s led the Colts on three game-winning drives, which is tied for the sixth-most in the league.
Unlike a lot of other quarterbacks on this list, Luck doesn’t have a great deal of help around him. His offensive line is not good, and he doesn’t have a true No. 1, go-to receiver on the outside. T.Y. Hilton is close to being that, but he’s not a guy you can completely rely on to come down with a big grab late in the game.
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Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Seeing as the Patriots don’t usually play in close games or trail in the fourth quarter often, Brady’s comeback numbers are skewed a bit. He also missed the season's first four games, but that doesn’t make him any less clutch. He’s led one game-winning drive this season (against the Jets), beating New York 22-17 on a pass to Malcolm Mitchell in the final two minutes.
As far as his numbers go, Brady is arguably the best in the league in the fourth quarter. He has a league-best 114.7 passer rating in the final frame, completing 67.1 percent of his passes in the last 15 minutes. The Patriots are often leading late, so they rely more on the running game than Brady’s arm. That’s why he only has four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. However, with the game on the line, there might not be a quarterback better than Touchdown Tom.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
In just his third NFL season, Carr has showed he can handle the pressure and rise when needed most. He’s led the Raiders to seven fourth-quarter comebacks this year, second only to Matthew Stafford’s eight for the all-time record. Only Drew Brees has more than Carr’s 10 fourth-quarter TD passes.
His passer rating in the final 15 minutes is a whopping 110.1, which is also second in the NFL. Not surprisingly, Tom Brady is first at 114.7. Some of Carr’s best moments this season have come in the fourth quarter with the Raiders trailing, from his touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree to beat the Ravens to his walk-off touchdown against the Buccaneers. Rarely is this young QB faced with a moment that’s too big for him, and it shows in his stats.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
There’s no doubt about who’s No. 1 on this list. It’s Stafford, and he has eight reasons for holding the top spot. Stafford has led the Lions to eight fourth-quarter comeback victories this year, which is the single-season NFL record. In fact, in most of the Lions’ victories, they were trailing in the final 90 seconds only to watch Stafford lead the charge and carry them to victory with a game-winning drive.
He’s completed 65.7 percent of his passes in the fourth quarter and has six touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes to go along with a game-winning rushing touchdown against the Bears. Stafford has established himself as one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the game today, having 25 career fourth-quarter comebacks (14th all-time).