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For old times' sake: Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees with a shot at NFC title game on line

Drew Brees of the Saints and Tom Brady

Drew Brees of the Saints and Tom Brady of the Buccaneers share a few words of encouragement after a game on Nov. 8, 2020, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images/Icon Sportswire

When it comes to football, Tom Brady is laser-focused and all business. But there is a lighter side to the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history, and it showed a few days ago once it became apparent that he would face Drew Brees in Sunday’s NFC divisional-round playoff game.

It started off as a tweet from former major league third baseman Danny Valencia, who tweeted, "Every future @TomBrady game should be on the history channel." Not one to pass up an opportunity to have some fun on social media, a response tweet soon appeared on Brady’s timeline. It featured a picture of the 43-year-old Brady and 42-year-old Brees as much older men — both with gray beards and with Brady looking like Charlton Heston as Moses in the movie, "The Ten Commandments."

Hysterical.

Brees thought so, too. After Brady posted the tweet, Brees gave it a retweet with the comment, "This is good!"

Then again, everything wasn’t exactly to his liking with the picture. "Unfortunately, they made me look like the dad from ‘Family Ties,’ " Brees said, a reference to actor Michael Gross in the 1980s sitcom starring Michael J. Fox. "I didn’t like the hairline, I’ll be honest. I would’ve liked a little thicker head of hair. I know I’m getting older and probably losing a little bit, but I would have a little more hair up top . . . But I thought it was hilarious."

Welcome to the Old Man Bowl, as the two legends with a combined age of 85 meet in a game featuring the oldest starting quarterbacks playing against one another in NFL history.

Of course, they made football geriatric history twice before this season when they faced off in Week 1 in New Orleans and in November in Tampa. But with Brees leaning toward retirement after this year’s playoffs, this indeed could be history for this rivalry between the iconic passers.

The Brees-Brady duel will determine which quarterback advances to the NFC Championship Game and moves one step away from another Super Bowl. Brady has been to nine Super Bowls, winning a record six along with four Super Bowl MVP awards. Brees was the MVP in his only Super Bowl appearance after the 2009 season.

Brees got the better of Brady in both regular-season matchups. He led New Orleans to a 34-23 home win with two touchdown passes and no interceptions; Brady had a pair of touchdown throws and two interceptions. Brees won the rematch, too, throwing four touchdown passes in a 38-3 rout in Tampa. It was one of Brady’s worst games, as he threw three interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 40.4.

But that was a turning point for Brady. Since that loss, he has won six of his last eight games — including last weekend’s 31-23 win over Washington in the wild-card round. Brady has thrown 22 touchdown passes and five interceptions in that span and has been picked off only once in his last five games.

"I think we’ve certainly come a long way [since the Week 9 loss]," Brady said this past week. "I think we’re just going to keep improving. The more we’re together, the more we’re talking about football, the more we’re trying to be on the same page, the better it is."

All things considered, it has been a remarkable adjustment for Brady, who spent the previous 20 years with the Patriots and didn’t have the benefit of an offseason training program to get used to his new teammates. Brady wound up with 40 touchdown passes, the most he has thrown since leading the league with a career-high 50 in the Patriots’ unbeaten regular season of 2007.

But Brady has his eye on the prize he has won more than any other player in NFL history. And to earn the chance for a seventh Super Bowl ring, he needs to conquer his fortysomething opposing quarterback and a Saints defense that is among the best in the game.

"We’ve got a big test against one of the great teams in the NFL," Brady said. "[The Saints have been] consistently one of the great teams for a long time. We’re going to have to go play a great football game."

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