Drew Brees and Tom Brady have proven age is just a number in the NFL and the superstar duo have continued to poke fun at each other ahead of the blockbuster showdown.

Brees – who celebrates his 42nd birthday on Friday – will lead the New Orleans Saints against the 43-year-old Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on Sunday.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing touchdowns, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady has taken a light-hearted approach this week after sharing a meme via Twitter, which depicted the two all-time great quarterbacks as older men set for battle on the History Channel.

Asked about the viral meme, Super Bowl winner Brees joked with reporters on Wednesday: "Unfortunately, they made me look like the dad from Family Ties. I didn't like the hairline. I'll be honest, I would have liked a little thicker head of hair. I mean, I know I'm getting older and probably losing a little bit, but I would have liked a little more hair up top. I've never really been able to grow a beard.

"So maybe that's what I've got later on in my future. Maybe I'll get a nice, good, thick beard going. But I thought it was hilarious."

Brees added: "Listen, I think, Tom and I have a friendship and mutual respect. We were texting back and forth on Monday just kind of chuckling at this whole scenario, right? Listen, he's 43. I turn 42 on Friday. So that's 85 years and a lot of football experience that's going to be on the field on Sunday.

"When Tom Brady signed with the Bucs and I knew that he was coming to our division, I envisioned this game. So what was that nine months ago, eight months ago, I envisioned this game happening because I knew our aspirations as a team, to be in the playoffs and beyond. 

"And I certainly knew what he was bringing to the Bucs and that talented roster. And so I think this is probably where we all envisioned being at this point in season."

Brady (341) and Brees (303) rank first and third in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined, per Stats Perform.

Meanwhile, Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team on Saturday brought his career postseason total to 75, and the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. Of the league's 32 current franchises, only five of them have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history.

"Tom and I have known each other for a long time and been playing against each other since 1999. Maybe before a lot of guys that we're on the field with were born," Brees continued.

"So I think, there's a friendship there. There's a mutual respect there. I think we have a lot of things in common. A lot of things that we both value and appreciate that are very much the same."

This will be the 59th all-time meeting between the franchises and the first time they will square off in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight games against the Buccaneers, outscoring Tampa Bay by a combined 165-81.

Tampa Bay's 38-3 loss to New Orleans in Week 9 was the most one-sided defeat by a playoff team in 2020.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said it was "inevitable" that he would meet Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady in the NFL playoffs.

It will be a clash of the titans when Brees and the Saints host Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on January 17.

The second-seeded Saints earned a showdown with the Buccaneers after easing past the Chicago Bears 21-9 in Sunday's Wild Card clash in New Orleans.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady – who swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers at the start of the season – and Brees are the top two passers in terms of yards and touchdowns in NFL history.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing TDs, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

"The minute that he signed with the Bucs and came to the division, you felt like that was going to be a team to contend with, that was going to be a team that would have playoff aspirations and beyond, just like us," Brees told reporters after being asked about the upcoming blockbuster.

"So, I guess it was inevitable."

Brees fuelled the Saints with two touchdowns against the Bears, finishing 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, no interceptions and no sacks.

The veteran – who is reportedly set to retire at the end of the season – also became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

The Saints allowed nine points and 239 total yards at home to Chicago – each the fewest allowed by New Orleans in a playoff game in team history, per NFL Research.

"Our defense played outstanding," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "We tackled well in space ... Ultimately we forced them to become one-dimensional, and when you do that you're going to win a lot of games."

Tom Brady wants the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to show a greater killer instinct after missing chances in their road win at the Washington Football Team.

The Bucs won their first postseason match since the 2002 campaign on Saturday, beating Washington 31-23 in their first playoff game in 14 years.

Brady threw for 381 yards and recorded his 75th career postseason touchdown after setting up Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

The 43-year-old, now the oldest player in history to throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff match, dropped deeper to pick his targets and frustrate a Washington pass rush that recorded 47 sacks in the regular season.

Brady, who led the regular-season standings for downfield passes of 20 yards or more, threw for two touchdowns over the same distance in a postseason game for the first time in his remarkable career.

Still, he was frustrated at certain missed opportunities, notably when he was sacked by Daron Payne and when Godwin made three drops, which allowed Washington nine unanswered points in a third quarter that threatened to derail the Bucs' endeavours.

"We hit some big plays, made some chunks," Brady said. "I think just not scoring enough in the red [zone] was probably the thing that bothers us, [we] missed a two-point play, had other opportunities to score but just didn't quite take advantage of it.

"We moved the ball okay. I think we had decent yardage. But at the end of the day, it comes down to points, and we've got to do a better job scoring more points - and we'll work on that next week."

Brady was full of praise for wide receiver Mike Evans, who recorded a team-high six catches on 10 targets for 119 receiving yards, all after recovering from a hyperextended knee in Week 17.

"Mike played his butt off," Brady said. "He got hurt last week. We weren't sure if he was going to go or not. [He] just did an incredible job fighting through it and made a bunch of big plays when we needed it."

The match mostly belonged to Brady, though, the six-time Super Bowl winner making history as he became the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs, overtaking George Blanda in the 1970 AFC Championship game.

"Come on, that's Tom Brady," said team-mate Leonard Fournette said. "I haven't got to think too much about that. That's the boy. We've got faith in him. We're going to protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw. That's our job."

Tom Brady posted a vintage post-season performance as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held off the Washington Football Team, 31-23, in the Wild Card round to advance in the NFL playoffs.

The 43-year-old showed his class at FedExField and clinched his 31st post-season victory, his first for the fifth-seed Bucs, while throwing for 381 yards and recording his 75th career post-season touchdown with scoring passes to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

Led by rookie revelation Chase Young, Washington’s defense kept the NFC East champions in contention and stand-in quarterback Taylor Heinicke led an impressive comeback attempt but was unable to force Ron Rivera’s side back into the Wild Card contest.

Brady, 43, became the oldest player to throw a pass in an NFL playoff game as he led the Bucs on a 55-yard opening drive for a field goal before Heinicke, replacing starter Alex Smith who was sidelined with a calf injury, raced into Tampa Bay territory but his tipped pass ended up in the hands of Sean Murphy-Bunting for an interception.

Ex-Patriots signal caller, Brady, took advantage of the strong field position to find wide receiver Brown with a 36-yard play-action pass to extend the lead to nine, as kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was blocked.

Alex Smith has been ruled out of the Washington Football Team's playoff clash with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning Taylor Heinicke will start at quarterback in the NFC wildcard game.

Veteran campaigner Smith was listed as questionable due to a calf injury coming into the Super Wild Card Weekend, and Washington have now confirmed the 36-year-old will be inactive.

Smith dislodged second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the 2020 campaign and has amassed 1,582 passing yards for six touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

With Haskins having been released in December, Heinicke was promoted to second choice, and the sixth-year quarterback performed impressively during an appearance from the bench in Week 16, albeit he could not help Washington avoid a defeat to the Carolina Panthers.

Washington have not won a playoff game since the 2005 campaign. However, it was the Bucs who they prevailed over on that occasion.

On his second career start, Heinicke will be going up against the NFL's oldest player in Tom Brady, who has enjoyed a brilliant season with Tampa.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady threw for 40 touchdowns in the regular season, with the 43-year-old joining Peyton Manning as the only players in league history with 40-plus TD passes in a single year with multiple teams.

Only Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers (three) has had more seasons with 40-plus TD passes than Brady's two.

Tampa have also been boosted by confirmation that wide-receiver Mike Evans, who suffered a knee injury in a Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, is fit to play.

Tom Brady's attention to detail has gone to another level ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' clash against the Washington Football Team, head coach Bruce Arians said.

The Buccaneers face Washington at FedExField on Saturday in their first playoff game since 2007.

With his performance against the Atlanta Falcons, Brady joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with 40-plus touchdown passes in a single season with multiple teams.

And Arians said the playoffs meant Brady had gone to another level ahead of the clash against Washington.

"It's just even more attention to detail," Arians told a news conference when asked what he had seen from Brady.

"Some things he might've let go and talked [about] on the side, he addresses immediately. Same with me.

"I don't accept anything this week at all. If it's a little bit off, if it's two yards off your reception area, you better get in the right spot."

Washington have won three of their past four meetings with the Buccaneers, most recently claiming a 16-3 victory in 2018.

Chris Godwin paid tribute to Tom Brady after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback starred against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Brady completed 26 of 41 passes for 399 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in the Buccaneers' 44-27 victory.

The 43-year-old joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with 40-plus touchdown passes in a single season with multiple teams.

Godwin, who had 133 receiving yards and two TDs, hailed the quarterback.

"That's really dope. For a guy that is in the public spotlight so much and criticised so frequently, to still be doing it at such a high level at his age, it's so impressive," he told a news conference.

"Being able to see that every day, watching how hard he works, watching his attention to detail, I'm not surprised but it's definitely well deserved."

Only Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers (three) has had more seasons with 40-plus TD passes than Brady's two.

Asked if he expected to perform so well in his first season with the Buccaneers, Brady was full of praise for his team-mates.  

"Whatever happens for me as a quarterback is reflective of what our group does on offense," he said.

"I love playing with the guys I play with, we've got a great group of receivers, great group of tight ends, very selfless, the backs have done an incredible job and the way the offensive line is playing and protecting gives any quarterback a great opportunity.

"It's a team sport, those are great team accomplishments and just proud of all the guys for what they put in this year.

"Now we're moving into the playoffs and got a great opportunity ahead of us, we've got to go and try to take advantage of it."

The Cleveland Browns ended the NFL's longest playoff drought as they held off the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion to secure postseason football.

Needing a win to book their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Browns triumphed 24-22 in the final game of their regular season.

Joining the Browns in the playoffs are the Baltimore Ravens, who thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals 38-3 to take another of the seven available postseason spots on Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins' hopes took a blow as they succumbed to a heavy defeat to AFC East winners Buffalo Bills, while the Dallas Cowboys fell short at the final hurdle with a loss at the New York Giants, who need a favour from the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

BROWNS END 18-YEAR WAIT

After 17 seasons of being on the outside looking in, the Browns are into the playoffs thanks to a nerve-wracking victory over the Steelers enough to end a dismal run.

Cleveland had to shut down its practice facility four times over the course of the last eight days due to COVID-19 concerns but, inspired by Baker Mayfield, the Browns made it through.

Mayfield threw for 196 yards and one touchdown but led some decisive drives and sealed the victory with a first-down run at the death after Mason Rudolph had missed a two-point attempt that would have tied the game.

The Browns finish the regular season 11-5 – it is their best record since 1994, when Bill Belichick led them to their last win in a playoff game. 

Pittsburgh ultimately ended Cleveland's hopes that season, and the Steelers will be the Browns' first opponents in the playoffs next week. 

In another twist of fate, the Browns' only playoff appearance this century also came in Pittsburgh, where they lost 36-33.

JACKSON-INSPIRED RAVENS SOAR AND GIANTS ON THE BRINK

Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to top 1,000 rushing yards in successive seasons as he helped the Ravens to a massive, playoff-clinching win over the Bengals.

More records tumbled for the 2019 MVP, as the 23-year-old became the first QB to throw 46 red-zone touchdowns without an interception and takes the crown for the fastest QB to amass 30 wins.

Jackson, a former first-round pick, rushed for 97 yards on Week 17, as Baltimore won a fifth straight game with ease.

The Raves will now face the winner of the AFC South – either the Tennessee Titans or the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile, the Giants will be rooting for the Eagles to overcome the Washington Football Team later on Sunday after their win over the Cowboys put them on the brink of the postseason.

Should Philly win, the Giants will clinch the NFC East title, though a Washington win would send Ron Rivera's team through.

DOLPHINS SINK, BRADY'S BUCS CAP OFF REGULAR SEASON IN STYLE

The Dolphins' playoff chances are slim after a 56-26 defeat to the Bills, as Josh Allen and Isaiah McKenzie – who ran in three touchdowns – blew them away in Buffalo.

Allen, who is in a race for the league's MVP award, threw 224 passing yards for three touchdowns on Sunday.

The third-year QB holds single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,544), touchdowns (37) and completions (396).

Miami must now rely on the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off an unlikely win over the Indianapolis Colts to claim a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished a brilliant regular season with a 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

On his record-setting 299th start in the NFL, Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, as the six-time Super Bowl champion finished with a Tampa Bay single-season record 40.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino are the only players other than Brady with multiple seasons of at least 40 touchdown passes.

Brady also picked out three-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans with a pass, who once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa, though he then suffered a game-ending knee injury.

JEFFERSON INTO THE RECORD BOOKS

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson set a new Super Bowl-era record as he surpassed Anquan Boldin for the rookie with the most receiving yards in a season.

He is now second all-time behind Bill Groman, who holds a rookie record of 1,473 receiving yards, which he set in 1960.

Jefferson also set a Vikings franchise rookie record when he caught a 15-yard pass in the third quarter of a 37-35 win over the Detroit Lions, who will finish no lower than seventh in the current draft order.

 

Week 17 results (part one)

Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons

 

Mike Evans once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa Bay – but his involvement against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was cut short by a worrying knee injury. 

Evans went into the Week 17 game on the brink of NFL history, as he was in sight of becoming the first receiver to have seven straight seasons with 1,000 yards to start a career. 

The three-time Pro Bowler duly reached the milestone in the first quarter on Sunday when reeling in a 20-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady. 

However, on the next play, Evans was hurt trying to score a touchdown. In pain having over-extended his left leg, he was taken to the team's locker room on a cart. 

Tampa Bay later confirmed the receiver would not be returning, with his health now a huge concern for the franchise ahead of the playoffs. 

The Bucs have already qualified for the postseason but will finish behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South – they are yet to discover who they will face in the opening round. 

Brady, meanwhile, also achieved a notable landmark, his 299th start in the NFL moving him out of a tie with Brett Favre for the most by a quarterback. 

Tom Brady has "totally exceeded" expectations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers according to head coach Bruce Arians, who has praised the veteran quarterback for his leadership qualities.

After 20 seasons and six Super Bowl victories, Brady opted to end his time with the New England Patriots, the 43-year-old instead moving on to Tampa Bay as he signed a two-year deal with the Buccaneers. 

The coronavirus pandemic did not aid his acclimatisation period with his new team, as offseason schedules were heavily reduced due to the impact of the global health crisis. 

A losing debut in New Orleans in Week 1 was a tough start, yet Brady has overcome the early obstacles and helped the Bucs reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. 

Speaking to the media ahead of the Week 17 clash against the Atlanta Falcons, Arians revealed how the three-time NFL MVP has had to learn on a game-by-game basis, as well as talking up his influence on the team beyond just his responsibilities as a quarterback. 

Asked if Brady – who has thrown for 4,234 yards so far in the regular season, with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions – has lived up to expectations, Arians said: "Totally exceeded.  

"With having such a limited practice, we went to New Orleans [in Week 1] still learning words. When the quarterback calls a play, he should have a picture in his head.  

"I don't think that happened until November – just continuing to learn what words meant and what concepts meant, and then adjusting concepts as we went along. A guy might have a three or four-way go on a route [but now] we eliminated it to two. Things like that as we just kept evolving.  

"I think right now when he calls a play, the picture is in his head and he's really, really playing well.  

"He's exceeded it [expectations]. His leadership is beyond anything I've ever seen. Peyton Manning is the only thing close."

Brady's current completion rate of 65.9 per cent is higher than he achieved in his final two years with the Patriots, while his 36 touchdown passes is already a franchise record for the Bucs in a single season.

He threw four of them before half-time in the 47-7 rout of the Detroit Lions in Week 16, the second-largest win in Tampa Bay's history.

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