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Tom Brady’s Peers Are Getting Older. He Can’t Relate.

Brady has always made great use of his running backs as receivers, and that strategy for the short passing game is unlikely to change. But as he is about to become the oldest quarterback in Super Bowl history, Brady’s approach to the game defies the way aging in the N.F.L. is expected to work.

Rather than being reduced to a game manager, as Peyton Manning was, or evolving into an interception machine, as Brett Favre was in two of his final three seasons, Brady is still trying to add elements to his repertoire. And it helped him lead the N.F.L. in passing yards for the first time since 2007.

“What he physically is still doing at 40 years old blows my mind,” said Frank Reich, the longtime backup quarterback of the Buffalo Bills who is now the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots’ Super Bowl opponents. “I played until I was 37, and the last three or four years, I don’t know how much distance I lost, but it was a lot. I don’t see any of that. I don’t see his arm diminishing at all.”

Brady said on Monday that he believed evolving from year to year was just part of the game. He also said his current approach was somewhere near the top of what he was capable of.

“At this point, I’m very efficient with what I do,” he said. “I know what works; I know what doesn’t work.”


Rob Gronkowski catching a touchdown pass in the divisional round of the N.F.L. playoffs despite being blanketed by Tennessee’s Kevin Byard. Gronkowski’s health on Sunday could affect Brady’s aggressiveness.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

Brian Hoyer, who is in his second stint as Brady’s backup, described a drill in which the quarterbacks throw a ball 40 yards, trying to land it in a barrel. Hoyer, 32, has a stronger arm than Brady, but he said that didn’t matter much when competing against someone so tireless and unwilling to accept failure.

“He just wants to keep the game going until he wins,” Hoyer said.

The Eagles present an intriguing challenge to Brady’s fondness for throwing deep and into traffic. According to Sportradar, the Eagles were the top team in the N.F.L. at breaking up contested receptions, with opposing quarterbacks completing 13.8 percent of them, leading to a passer rating on those throws of 16.6.

Another complicating factor is the uncertain status of Rob Gronkowski, who has yet to be cleared in the N.F.L.’s concussion protocol. Gronkowski accounted for 25 of New England’s 69 contested receptions, ranking third in the N.F.L. among all players and first among tight ends.

But if Brady, new style or not, can win his third Super Bowl in the last four years, and sixth over all, he will have even less reason to contemplate a retirement date.

Brady said Monday he had no idea when that day might come.

“I never want to be a detriment to the team,” he said. “For me, as long as I’m playing at a high level and I make the commitment to taking care of myself year round, then I’ll continue to play.”

But acknowledging the physical nature of the game, he added: “Things change quickly. Anything can happen.”

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