Nov 27, 2014 12:59 PM
Watch No. 12: Tom Brady vs Aaron Rodgers
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers really do have a lot in common.
During this season's first month, the star quarterbacks of the Patriots and Packers were facing questions about their teams' slow starts.
It's no coincidence New England and Green Bay are now playing at extremely high levels. Consistent, outstanding play by both QBs has their clubs on similar paths.
Heading into Sunday's showdown at Green Bay's Lambeau Field, Brady's Patriots and Rodgers' Packers are riding high in their respective conferences.
New England (9-2) owns the AFC's best record, coming in riding a seven-game winning streak. NFC North-leading Green Bay (8-3) has won seven of eight.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he saw any similarities in how they've elevated their play after the slow starts.
"They both wear No. 12," he said, breaking into a grin before he left the podium.
Belichick was more expansive in praising Rodgers.
"It's just, he's great," he said. "He's quick, he's big, he throws the ball very accurately, has great vision down the field. He finds guys that there's not a lot of space, but he finds them and he hits them."
Rodgers has thrown 30 touchdowns with just three interceptions this season, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for an NFL-leading 119.2 QB rating. Since a 1-2 start, he has 25 TDs to two INTs, matching Brady's 2007 record of four straight games of three or more TDs with no interceptions.
"He's the best quarterback I've seen on tape," said New England safety Devin McCourty, who has already faced Denver's Payton Manning and Andrew Luck of Indianapolis this season.
"He's the guy that commands that team," Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
Rodgers' run started after he told Packers fans on his radio show in September: "Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packer land: R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We're going to be OK."
He couldn't resist that answer when asked about the turnaround again this week.
"I think we've been pretty relaxed," he said, smiling.
Brady's season isn't much different.
Following a blowout loss in Kansas City on Week 4, his ability was questioned. He was asked if time had passed him by.
Instead, during the winning streak, the 37-year-old has connected for 22 TDs with only four interceptions, completing 67.3 percent of his passes.
"What we went through, we went through, and hopefully we've moved past that and we're at a different point now," said the two-time MVP (2007 and '10). "Like I said, you never want to ride the ups and downs of the season. There are going to be ups, and there are going to be downs, and there are going to be long nights. There are going to be sleepless nights, and you've just got to stay true to what you're doing."
When they face off for the first time in their careers as starters, don't expect a lot of interceptions.
Rodgers and Brady are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, all-time in TD/INT ratio.
"Even if you're not playing your best game, if you're not turning it over, your team is probably going to be in the mix," said Rodgers, the 2011 MVP. "(If) you're being efficient and accurate and not turning the ball over, you're probably going to win a lot of games."
Brady had a similar answer.
"I do think not throwing interceptions and not turning the ball over is hugely important to the success of the team," he said.
They've both relied on scoring a lot early in games and enter this weekend as the NFL's only two unbeaten teams in the month.
Green Bay has averaged 44 points in November and leads the league with 28 first-half TDs this season. New England, second in points during the month at 39.7, is right behind the Packers with 24 touchdowns before halftime.
In their last two home games, the Packers have put up 50-plus points behind Rodgers' combined nine TDs with no interceptions.
"That's a big reason why they're getting ahead at home because (when) they get ahead of you, you start to press, you turn it over, they convert into more touchdowns, and it just piles on," Brady said.
They both grew up in California. They say they know each other well, and Rodgers said he learned a lot watching Brady.
"As a young player I liked to watch his film and study him," said Rodgers, who turns 31 on Tuesday.
On Sunday, he'll try to outdo him.
AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas contributed to this story from Green Bay, Wisconsin.