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Patriot games getting better for Brady as he targets Super victory; AMERICAN FOOTBALL.

Byline: Burning RUBBER

HISTORY beckons tonight for Tom Brady, who feels he is a better player now than when he first emerged on to the scene with the New England Patriots.

The star quarterback and head coach Bill Belichick have been at the forefront of a revolution for the Patriots since the turn of the century with five Super Bowl triumphs and nine AFC Championship titles.

Brady will become the only person to collect six Super Bowl rings exclusively as a player if the Patriots overcome the Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It was coincidentally with a win against the Rams - who were based in St Louis at the time - at the end of the 2001 season that Brady first got his hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy as a second-year signal caller.

The 41-year-old has given no indication he is ready to bow out yet and thinks he and the team have evolved over time to become a well-oiled machine.

The evergreen Brady said at his final press conference broadcast on the Patriots' website: "I think I'm a better player now than I was in 2001, I don't think I was the best player that I could possibly be at that point.

"I think there's been a lot of work and effort over the years to try to get to where I'm at now.

"It's really about playing at a championship level, I think that takes a different shape every year based on how the team is set up.

"My first few years we relied heavily on the defence to keep the scores low in the games, I did my part when I was called upon.

"As things have changed as our offence has developed and grown and we've become more efficient on offence, our defence has had some incredible years and I would say we are a pretty balanced team now."

The Patriots rallied after a sluggish start to the season to reach the play-offs and, perhaps as a consequence of their reputation for holding their nerve in pressure situations, are favourites to triumph.

Stopping Brady may hold the key for the Rams, who finished 13-3 in the regular season, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald is confident his team-mates can disrupt the Patriots' gameplan.

He said: "I trust our secondary that they're going to do their job and lock things down to the point where he might have to hold it and we've got to get him to the ground.

"As long as everybody does their job and does what they have to do, we'll be fine. We've been playing great football all year but this is the last one.

"You've got to play your best football, this is the biggest stage, so we've just got to keep playing football at that level and don't forget what's got us here and leave everything out there one more time."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2019
Words:482
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