FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Saturday night’s AFC divisional round playoff matchup between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans will set the NFL playoff record for biggest age gap between starting quarterbacks, as there are 16 years and 88 days separating Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota. But age isn’t exactly at the forefront of the 40-year-old Brady’s thinking.
“These are fun games to play in. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old; it’s a great feeling to be in this place,” Brady said. “I know we’re excited. We’ve had a good week.”
It has been 26 years since Steve DeBerg outlasted Todd Marinovich in the Kansas City Chiefs‘ 10-6 wild-card win over the Los Angeles Raiders on Dec. 28, 1991. That game had previously been the widest age gap between starting quarterbacks (15 years, 166 days) in a playoff game, as DeBerg was 37 years old that year.
As for the Brady-Mariota matchup, it marks the second time they will face each other, though Mariota injured his knee early in the first matchup — a 33-16 Patriots win on Dec. 20, 2015 — and played only 19 snaps that day.
“I think it just comes down to how well you play,” Brady said, when asked if experience trumps youth. “At the end of the day, it’s not like the old guys are going to win or the young guys are going to win. Or the home team or the road team. It’s really going to come down to execution.”
Brady has played in 34 playoff games, while Mariota’s postseason debut came in Saturday’s 22-21 win over the Chiefs in the wild-card round.
Mariota, 24, spoke highly of Brady earlier this week.
“He’s been the best. He’s been the best for quite some time,” Mariota said. “For a young guy like me, that’s what you aspire to be. That’s what you want to do — be consistently good and win consistently. I think he’s done an incredible job through his career of making plays and being that guy that they need. Hopefully, through my time, I can do some of the same stuff.”
Brady returned the compliments on Thursday, specifically when asked about a 6-yard touchdown pass that Mariota threw to himself last week (it bounced off a defender and he gathered it in and ran into the end zone).
“That was pretty cool,” Brady said. “It’s plays like that, and things you obviously wouldn’t expect; this time of year anything can happen, and any play can really decide the fate of the season.”
Thursday’s news conference was Brady’s first since an ESPN The Magazine article was published last Friday that detailed friction between him, owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
Brady was asked whether the aftermath of the article has been a distraction.
“Not to us players,” he said. “I think we do what we always do; we show up to work and try to do the best we can do. There’s a lot at stake, I think everyone’s put a lot into it. It doesn’t really matter what happens outside of this facility, and what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s a big task to go out and win a playoff game and play against a good team, divisional round. I’m glad we earned the chance to be here to do it, and now we just have to go take care of business.”
ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe contributed to this report.