FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This never gets old for Tom Brady. He has been there, done that and wants to do it again.
The New England Patriots are one victory away from a Super Bowl berth. Again.
"I like to be playing this time of year," Brady said Friday, during his final media session before Sunday's AFC Championship Game rematch against the Baltimore Ravens. "There is nothing more exciting than this."
That's not exactly good news for the Ravens. A quick check of Brady's pulse and glance at the image standing at the podium at Gillette Stadium revealed … well, he looks and sounds like the same consistent guy, with the productivity to prove it.
With a victory on Sunday, the Patriots will advance to their sixth Super Bowl in 12 seasons, which speaks to the solid ground on which the franchise is built and surely the greatness of coach Bill Belichick. Yet perhaps it says even more about Brady, the winningest quarterback of this quarterback-driven era.
Can you imagine all of this winning by the Patriots without Brady? I can't.
It's striking that at the end of a season illuminated by the emergence of so many marquee faces of the NFL's future -- rookies Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson among them -- that Brady, 35, is still standing as a representative of the old guard.
For this weekend, at least, he's the last of the Mohicans.
Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers got bounced from the playoffs last weekend. Eli Manning and Drew Brees didn't even get into the playoffs.
That leaves Brady -- whose Patriots have never lost an AFC title game at home -- as the only quarterback who has won a Super Bowl with a chance to win another one in a couple of weeks.
Matt Ryan just won his first playoff game -- barely. Joe Flacco is trying to prove himself as elite, which includes getting over the hump and winning a championship. Colin Kaepernick has sizzled as one of the league's most remarkable breakout players, but now he has to win a championship game on the road.
"I certainly have had experience in these types of games, but it only really matters if you go out and play well," Brady said. "There was a time when I was inexperienced, and we did pretty well."
Brady was once the young, rising star, and it indeed worked out. He was the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, then won a second and third crown over a four-year span. Then things changed. The defense grew old and was rebuilt. The offensive cast around Brady has been retooled, pending need and circumstances.
This is what happens when you've lasted 13 seasons, like Brady.
Yet for all of the Super Bowl victories early in his career, it has been seven years since Brady has won the big one. Seven long years, if you're Brady.
"Believe me, I have thought about that a lot myself," he said.
The last two times the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl, including last season, they were stopped in their tracks by the New York Giants. Now, in the big game before the biggest game, there's another bitter rival in the Ravens standing in the way.
"I think Baltimore has a great football team," Brady said. "They have had a great team for a long time. We've just had a lot of great games against them, and I think this one will be another great game."
If Brady is feeling more pressure to close the deal this season with another Super Bowl title, he does not show it. Composure is another component of his consistency.
He looks relaxed, confident, smooth. Like always
Yet there's no doubt that he feels something that is best reflected on the field -- the burning fire of competition.
"It is hard to get to this point, hard to get to the AFC Championship Game," Brady said. "You need a lot of things to go your way over the course of the year. I think we are fortunate to be in this game and have this opportunity. There are a lot of things that need to happen positively over the course of a long season to have this chance, and I am glad we have it."