BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — For Tom Brady, age is nothing but the numbers.

When he erred toward the end of the regular season, panic mongers proclaimed Brady finally looked like a 40-year-old quarterback and the end was near. It was undeniably odd to see Brady toss six interceptions over five games, a streak unlike any he endured in 15 years, but it didn’t occur because he woke up old.

And now, as Brady has opened the playoffs with back-to-back games with a passer rating north of 100 for the first time in his career, his age has been ignored.

“Why does everyone want me to retire so bad? I don’t get it,” Brady said.

“I’m having fun. The team’s doing good.”

Again, 40 is the new 30.

Well, that’s until Saturday, when he’ll likely becomes the first 40-year-old MVP in NFL history, a label that will be fixed to his season for, say, 24 hours. Because at that point, if Brady has his way, he can ditch the age-based description by becoming the first six-time Super Bowl champion in history.

The truth of the matter, through the ups and downs this season, is that Brady was and is still Brady. He remains the best quarterback in the game and is capable of handling adversity, whether it’s a quarterback controversy with a $100 million veteran in 2001, a torn ACL in 2008, a pressure-packed league investigation in 2014 that culminated with a suspension in 2016, or a few bad throws in 2017.

And as Brady orchestrated his 26th and 27th playoff victories, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns. He has a chance to win a Super Bowl without throwing a postseason pick for the first time since 2004. As it turns out, 40 is the new 27.

This isn’t to downplay those interceptions from Weeks 12-16. Brady sure didn’t and is still – nearly two months and five victories later – upset about the pair he threw during the Monday night loss in Miami on Dec. 11.

“I think interceptions are really important for a quarterback to think about,” Brady said. “We talk so much about turnovers. It’s the No. 1 stat that leads to winning and losing games, turnover differential, and when we don’t turn the ball over, we have a very, very high percentage of winning. So every day in practice, I’m thinking about risk-reward, and is it worth it to throw the ball certain yards down the field with the risk of the ball being intercepted?

“I had some of those late in the year when I just didn’t make great decisions, and it led to turnovers, and turnovers obviously led to the game we lost. I think about that a lot. Had I not turned the ball over on that play, those are game-changing plays. So I think about them every day.”

Brady’s interceptions against the Dolphins were on long throws to Brandin Cooks, which speaks to the risk-reward nature. Brady was also intercepted by Tre’Davious White on a sideline lob to Rob Gronkowski, who usually wins those battles but was angry that he didn’t benefit from pass interference. And in Week 16 against the Bills, Kenny Britt didn’t flatten his crossing pattern, and Jordan Poyer jumped the route for a pick-six.

To an extent, there’s a team element involved in interceptions, like the crispness of the route or the receiver’s ability to pull down the ball if it’s contested. He was also pressured on two of the interceptions during that streak, throwing off balance against the Dolphins in Week 12 and getting hit on an underthrown ball against the Steelers.

“We talk about protecting the football,” Brady said. “We talk about where I need to throw the ball to give my guy a chance with limiting the opportunity of the opponents to catch the ball. I think that also speaks to the protection that I get up front, my ability to throw the ball when I want to throw it as opposed to when the defense forces you to throw it. And then the receivers protecting the ball, too. Those guys have done such a great job of doing all the technique things that we need to do in order for them to do their part in the passing game. It’s a team stat. It’s a quarterback’s decision. A lot of other people play a part in it, and hopefully there are no turnovers in this game (against the Eagles). I certainly don’t want to throw any picks.”

That’s not to excuse Brady for the half-dozen giveaways, but the entire play must be assessed when making sweeping generalizations about an age-defined drop in production. Brady’s interceptions might have caused a few gray hairs but weren’t the result of them.

Case in point: Brady lit up the league’s top-ranked passing defense in the AFC championship game, and the Jaguars were lauded for much more than just that element of their ability to shut down offenses. And Brady did it with 12 stitches in his throwing hand.

That’s why the Patriots are still alive this week, because Brady is playing like his old self.

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