OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — John Harbaugh can’t help but marvel at how talented 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady is for the undefeated, defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
“It’s incredible. For him to play at the level he’s playing at, it’s obviously admirable,” said Harbaugh, who will guide the Baltimore Ravens against the Patriots on Sunday night.
In his 20th season with the Patriots, Brady has thrown for 2,251 yards and 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He’s also run for three scores.
With six Super Bowl rings, 215 regular-season wins and 72,765 yards passing, Brady has at least one man’s vote as the GOAT — Greatest of All Time.
“Tom Brady is definitely the one at the top,” Ravens second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson said Wednesday.
For the Ravens (5-2) to beat the Patriots (8-0), they must stop Brady, who’s 6-1 against Baltimore in the regular season.
“It’s very important,” Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “He’s kind of the head of the snake, and in order to kill the snake you’ve got to get the head. That’s what we plan on doing.”
With Brady at the helm, the Patriots have 106 points in their past three games against Baltimore, most recently a 30-23 win in 2016. In that one, Brady was 25 for 38 for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
Although three years older now, Brady is certainly no less effective.
“He and Peyton Manning are probably the two best ever at dissecting the defense intellectually and knowing where to go with the ball,” Harbaugh said. “Setting himself up pre-snap to have that throw, getting the ball out and getting it out very accurately and quickly, that’s what makes him who he is.”
It helps to have the same head coach for two decades. Brady and Bill Belichick share an understanding of the New England offense that has withstood the test of time and many a coordinator.
“What makes him good is just the fact that he’s been in the scheme a long time,” Williams said of Brady. “He probably helped create that scheme, so he knows the ins and outs. We just have to figure out how to get to him. That means pushing the pocket, rattling the offensive line, playing our kind of football.”
Brady’s quick release makes him difficult to sack, but it’s imperative for the Ravens to at least rattle him in the pocket.
“They’ve got active linebackers that blitz quite a bit, and then they’ve got good cover guys,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “They challenge you in terms of handling pressure, and then they’re physical.
“Big challenge for us on the road. It’ll be a loud environment down there, no question about it,” McDaniels added. “So, there’s going to be an element of the silent cadence, and those types of things, that we’re going to have to do a good job of executing to hopefully avoid long-yardage situations.”
Brady, of course, has seen it all before.
“He’s just so cool,” Jackson said. “In the pocket, he drops back so smooth. It looks like he’s just standing there, waiting for stuff to happen so he can pick the defense apart.”