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Patriots' Tom Brady at his best when postseason pressure ramps up

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady takes the field Saturday for an AFC divisional-round playoff game against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, it will be his 30th career postseason game.

That will match kicker Adam Vinatieri for the most career postseason games played in the NFL, which is experience that buoys the confidence of teammates who know it can be a trump card in pressure-packed playoff action.

“That’s a lot of games to be a part of in the playoffs,” Pats fourth-year receiver Keshawn Martin said. “It’s good to have that experience.”

“He’s our leader and we follow him,” second-year running back James White added.

The pressure of the playoffs, and how it can affect players, was evident in the wild-card round.

Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer, making his first career postseason start, struggled badly. And then there was 26-year-old Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missing a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter in a 10-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

In his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI on Monday, Brady spoke in general terms of the weekend games and said: “I think it goes to show you what playoff football is all about. You can’t take anything for granted. When your whole season is on the line, there is just a different level of pressure. Some guys it gets the best out of you. Some guys it doesn’t.”

For Brady, who is 21-8 in the playoffs, it’s usually the former.

He has played in nine conference championship games, which is the most of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. In Super Bowl XLVI, he completed a record 16 straight passes. He has thrown three or more touchdown passes eight different times in the playoffs, one shy of Joe Montana’s record.

A few more Brady-based playoff numbers to consider:

  • Brady (223 regular-season starts, 29 in playoffs) and Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice (284 regular-season starts, 29 in playoffs) are the only NFL players with at least 200 regular-season starts and at least 25 postseason starts.

  • Brady’s 21 victories in the playoffs is a league-best mark among quarterbacks in NFL history who have made at least 10 starts.

  • He has played in six Super Bowls, tying the NFL record for any player (with Mike Lodish).

  • Brady joined Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins. Only Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley (five) has more.

  • Brady is the all-time leader in Super Bowl passing yards (1,605), attempts (247), completions (164), touchdown passes (13) and starts (six) for quarterbacks.

  • He is the all-time leader in postseason touchdown passes (53), passing yards (7,345) and completions (683). Brady is also the only player in league history with 50 touchdowns, 7,000 passing yards and 600 completions in the playoffs.