FOXBOROUGH — It may not be a battle for the ages, but Saturday’s divisional-round matchup between the Patriots and Titans will be a battle of the ages.
With 16 years and 88 days separating Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota, the game will set an NFL playoff record for the biggest age gap between opposing quarterbacks. The previous record was 15 years and 166 days, set when Steve DeBerg and the Chiefs beat Todd Marinovich and the Raiders on wild-card weekend in 1991.
When Brady was Mariota’s age, he won his first Super Bowl, so he has reason not to take much stock in the idea that youth is trumped by experience.
“I think it just comes down to how well you play,” Brady said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about old guys are going to win or young guys are going to win, the home team, the road team. It’s really going to come down to execution. No one’s going to be able to do it for you. You’re out there, you’re in the position to succeed.
“Your coaches have put a lot on you. The team’s really relying on you. You’ve got to go out there and make the plays. You’ve got to make the tackles, you’ve got to make the throws, the catches, the blocks, the runs, whatever it takes. Whoever does that better is going to win the game over the course of 60 minutes. Again, all these plays matter, so we’ve got to go out there and make sure every one counts.”
At kickoff, Mariota will be 24 years, 75 days old. Brady will be 40 years, 163 days old. Mariota was just 6 when Brady entered the NFL.
Mariota was born on Oct. 30, 1993, when the Titans were the Houston Oilers, Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” was at the top of the charts, and the average movie ticket cost $4.14. It was also the same year the Titans franchise last won a game in Foxborough.
Asked what advice he might give his younger adversary, Brady wasn’t giving anything away, other than to enjoy the moment.
“These are fun games to play in,” Brady said. “Everyone has worked pretty hard to get to this point. There’s only eight teams playing this weekend, so it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. It’s a great feeling to be in this place. I know we’re excited. We’ve had a good week and we’ve just got to go out there and try to play our best.”
Thursday’s news conference was Brady’s first on-camera appearance since ESPN published a lengthy article detailing alleged tension between the quarterback, coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft, specifically over Brady’s trainer and friend Alex Guerrero and the trade of former backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
Brady already had denied in a radio interview he was involved in the decision to trade Garoppolo, and he avoided the issue Thursday, saying that the coverage hadn’t become a distraction.
“Not to us players,” Brady said. “We do what we always do. We show up to work and try to do the best we can do. We know there’s a lot at stake and I think everyone’s put a lot into it. It doesn’t really matter what happened outside of this facility and what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s a big task to go out and win a playoff game. We’re playing against a good team, divisional round, and I’m glad we earned the chance to be here to do it, and we’ve just got to go take care of business.”
Brady also shied away from talking about the upcoming documentary series, “Tom vs. Time,” he’s creating with filmmaker Gotham Chopra. Brady has promoted the six-episode series, which chronicles his efforts to stay in shape and play football into his 40s, as well as showing behind-the-scenes footage of the quarterback at home with his family, but was not interested in talking about it behind the podium at Gillette Stadium.
“This is about Tennessee,” Brady said. “We’re two days from the biggest game of the year.”
“Tom vs. Time” will have to wait until after Tom vs. Tennessee. Though in a sense, the name is apt in both cases.