FOXBORO, Mass. — While the New England Patriots won with relative ease last Saturday in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, Tom Brady struggled through his worst game of the 2016 season.
He followed it up with arguably his best.
With a spot in Super Bowl LI on the line, Brady torched the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, completing 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions as the Patriots cruised to a 36-17 AFC Championship Game victory at Gillette Stadium. That yardage total was the highest ever by a Patriots quarterback in a playoff game, breaking the previous mark of 367 set by Brady in the 2014 divisional round.
After the game, players in both locker rooms sat in awe of Brady, who at age 39 will play in his seventh Super Bowl on Feb. 5 against the Atlanta Falcons. A sampling of the postgame reaction:
Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett: “I think Tom did pretty well. He did OK (laughing). Tom did what Tom does. He’s fired up and laser-focused. All the guys just came through for him to make plays when we had the opportunities.”
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount: “He’s the best quarterback to ever play the game. He’s obviously, in my opinion, the best quarterback to ever play the game.”
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman: “Anytime you’re on the field with No. 12, it’s special. You never take that for granted. He’s the greatest, and he’s a huge part of why we’re so successful.”
Patriots running back Dion Lewis: “He’s a great leader. He’s the same person every day. He comes in every day, works extremely hard, and he’s extremely focused every day. That’s what you want from a leader, and it rubs off on everybody.”
Steelers safety Mike Mitchell: “Yeah, he’s no joke, man. We knew what it was when we came in here. We were expecting to play the best. We play Ben (Roethlisberger) every day, so we were expecting a high-caliber fist fight. It doesn’t get any better than 12.”
Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons: “You have to give it to him today. He made a lot of plays out there, made a lot of great plays down the field. We tried to get pressure on him, but we’ve got to give it to him.”
Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt: “Yeah, he ripped us apart.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: “There’s a reason that he’s one of the best to ever play the game. That’s why we have respect for him and we know coming into this environment what we’re up against, and that’s why we needed to play a near-flawless game. And we didn’t.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images