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Brady, SB champions focused on Eagles, not personal success

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady’s looking ahead, though not beyond this weekend.

No one’s had more success in the NFL playoffs than the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who says his focus is on trying to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Philadelphia Eagles and not a dazzling postseason resume or how well he’s played at age 44.

The Bucs (13-4) set a franchise record for wins during the regular season, with Brady joining Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in the past 30 years to lead the league in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions.

With a career-best 5,136 yards — the third-highest single-season total in NFL history — and 43 TDs, the argument can be made that this has been his finest season.

If Brady agrees, he’s not saying.

“I feel like it’s, for me, always about the team’s success so it’s hard to compare one year to another. I feel like I want to play as a championship-level player. That’s what I’ve said for a long time,” the Bucs star said.

“I said a long time ago when I suck I’ll retire. But what I really meant was when I’m not capable of leading the team to victory, then someone else has to do the job. I feel like I can do that,” Brady added. “Obviously, we’ve put ourselves in a decent position. Now we’re in the postseason, and we’ve got to take care of a very tough opponent.”

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was 3 years old when Brady made his first postseason start in 2001.

Brady enters Sunday’s NFC wild-card round matchup at Raymond James Stadium with a sparkling 34-11 playoff record. He’s thrown for 12,449 yards and 83 touchdowns — both all-time league bests — in those 45 games.

Hurts, 23, is in his first year as Philadelphia’s full-time starter. The Eagles have won seven of 11 games since losing to Tampa Bay 28-22 at home on Oct. 14, including four of the past five to earn the No. 7 seed in the NFC.

One of the keys to the surge has been the NFL’s top rushing attack.

Hurts is one of eight quarterbacks in league history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 750 in the same season. He led the Eagles with 784 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the ground, with most of that production coming since facing the defending Super Bowl champs.

“He has definitely gotten better throughout that time, which doesn’t surprise me at all because Jalen is a student of the game. Jalen wants to get better and craves to get better. … I think you’re just seeing him grow closer and closer to his ceiling,” first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

With Hurts making his playoff debut and Brady beginning his NFL-record 19th postseason, the experience factor obviously favors Tampa Bay.

But it’s not as if Hurts has never performed on a big stage, having done so in college with Alabama and Oklahoma.

“Any experience that I’ve had prior to coming to the NFL, all of those help me,” Hurts said. “Regardless of the stage or the name of the game, it’s about the Philadelphia Eagles executing to the best of their abilities and having the right type of focus and preparation.”

Brady was asked where his glittering playoff record ranks among his many accomplishments, including being the NFL’s career passing leader.

“That’s a good question. If you had asked me what my record was, I would have said: ‘I don’t know.’ It’s just the reality of doing this and staying focused on what’s ahead and not looking back,” Brady said. “I’d love to get to 35-11 — that would be my answer. Got to go win a very tough game against a great opponent.”

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