TAMPA - — Tom Brady and Drew Brees first squared off in 1999, when Brady led Michigan to a 38-12 win over Purdue. They've played each other eight times in the NFL, with Brees holding a 5-3 advantage.
Sunday's match-up features Brady, 43, and Brees, 41, in the only playoff game in NFL history with two starting quarterbacks over the age of 40.
"He’s a great player. I’ve known him for a long time," Brady said during his weekly news conference. "Always had a great amount of respect for him, going all the way back to his Purdue days. I think so much of him as a person, as a player."
Brady is the current leader in career passing touchdowns with 581. Brees is at 571. But Brees has the career passing yards mark of 80,358, more than 1,100 clear of Brady.
They'll likely go back-and-forth in the record books as long as they keep playing, and Brady recognizes what it takes for both of them to play at a high level for more than two decades.
"I know what it takes to do what he’s doing. He knows what it takes to do what I’m doing. And I think there’s just a lot of mutual respect."
The Bucs and Saints kick off Sunday night at 6:40 in New Orleans. The winner heads to the NFC Championship to face either the Packers or the Rams.