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In 14th season, Brady still excited for playoffs

January 8, 2014

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Tom Brady banged helmets with teammates before his first Super Bowl.

Twelve years and four more NFL championship games later, the quarterback hasn’t lost his fire. He still shows it before games and after big plays by banging helmets with other New England Patriots.

“I’m pretty emotional,” Brady said Tuesday.

That should be obvious when the Patriots come back from a first-round bye to face the Indianapolis Colts in an American Football Conference divisional-round playoff game Saturday night. Especially if he has plenty of scoring plays to celebrate.

His mood will be quite different if the Colts’ Robert Mathis, the NFL sacks leader, keeps getting close enough to tackle him or hurry his passes.

“He’s a great player and been a great player for a long time,” Brady said. “He’s having one of the best years of his career.”

So what can Brady do if he sees the 11-year veteran bearing down on him? Step up in the pocket? Throw quickly? Duck?

“I can’t really run away from him,” Brady said with his usual jab at his lack of speed, “so that option’s out the door.”

Mathis led the NFL with 19½ sacks and forced eight fumbles. His strip-sack of Kansas City’s Alex Smith led to a Colts touchdown in their 45-44 wild-card win over the Chiefs last Saturday.

The Colts overcame a 28-point, third-quarter deficit to win that game.

“It was a great game, a great team win,” Brady said of Indianapolis’ victory. “Once you get some momentum going on your side, it’s pretty remarkable to be able to do that.”

The Patriots overcame their own big deficit during the regular season, rallying from 24 points down at halftime against the Denver Broncos for a 34-31 overtime win.

Another big lead Saturday night likely won’t be safe until the very late stages, not with Brady and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck leading their offenses.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games, they’ve been in a lot of close games,” Brady said. “They find a way to win them. That’s how they got to this point.”

The Colts are 6-1, including the playoffs, in games decided by six points or fewer. The Patriots are 8-4 in games decided by seven or fewer.

Brady downplays the meeting with Luck, who has a chance to match Brady’s accomplishment of winning a Super Bowl in his second season.

The chance to keep the youngster from upstaging the all-time NFL great doesn’t provide extra motivation.

“My motivation is pretty simple,” Brady said. “I just try to win. That’s what I try to do and try to be part of the reason why we’re successful.”

For Luck, Brady can serve as an example.

“He has definitely set the standard for success at the quarterback position,” Luck said, “The way he handles himself, watching from afar, the competitive nature and basically all the right things he does. Yeah, I guess he is a barometer and he is the standard.”

In his 14th NFL season, the enthusiasm of the Most Valuable Player of the 2002 Super Bowl persists.

“It’s incredible to play in this,” Brady said. “These are the moments you dream about, to be in the NFL playoffs and you have a chance with eight other teams to be the last team standing.

“It’s why we work hard. It’s why every guy puts a lot out there. You sacrifice a lot of things. A lot of people would die to be in our positions. I don’t think you take those things for granted.”

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