A very Brady breakout

Randy Moss laughed when someone asked him how Tom Brady compares to Daunte Culpepper, with whom Moss spent his formative years.

"No one compares to Tom," he replied.

Moss was right. He also had a right to be in a good mood because Brady seems about to take him to a place he's never been: the Super Bowl.

Moss' comment came after the New England Patriots took down Dallas 48-27 last Sunday in the much-ballyhooed battle of two 5-0 teams. Even for as decorated a quarterback as Brady, this was a breakout game that included a career-high five touchdown passes, giving him 21 for the season. Brady is the first QB to throw for at least three touchdowns in each of the first six games of a season.

"I think this is the most comfortable I've felt," Brady says. "For eight years I've put a lot of time and effort into trying to get things the way I want them. There's a lot that goes into throwing, the mechanics of it. It's not just coincidence that you complete certain passes that maybe you struggled with in the past. It's probably just better technique."

Still, Brady insists he'd rather have wins than records.

That rings true because his career has been about wins ever since he replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and led the Patriots to the first of their three Super Bowl victories this decade. Just playing was a bonus for a sixth-round pick the previous year who had been expecting to sit behind Bledsoe.

Then Bledsoe was injured in the second game of that season.

In fact, Brady's career is the converse of the only other current NFL quarterback in his class, Peyton Manning.

Manning has the breeding of a thoroughbred: son of a star quarterback; No. — pick in the 1998 draft; older brother of another quarterback who was the No. — overall choice himself six years later.

But until last season, when he and the Colts finally won a Super Bowl, Manning's stardom was based on numbers, not titles. Two years ago, he set a single-season record for touchdown passes with 49 and he's on pace to break just about every career passing record that exists.

In those years, Brady was the quarterback who won. Manning was the one who put up numbers.

Now Brady is both winning and putting up numbers. Those 21 TDs in six games extrapolate to 56 for the season, seven past Manning's record.

But that's not something Brady talks about. Nor, if you believe him, cares about.

While he's bright and intuitive, one of the more interesting NFL players to chat with during his early years in the NFL, he doesn't talk much anymore &

partly because of coach Bill Belichick's "say nothing to anyone" policy; partly because his tabloid-friendly social life has made him interview-shy. Except in very rare cases, Brady's only available now in group interviews and those are rare, usually once during the week before a game and then directly after it.

And when he does say something, it sometimes disappears from the record. In training camp in 2005, for example, he was asked on the field, surrounded by a half-dozen reporters, about what was then the Patriots' quest for an unprecedented three straight Super Bowl wins.

"We know what the goal is, but that's way down the line," he replied.

That innocuous comment was excised from the official transcript, presumably because he was looking too far ahead for Belichick and his censors.

In many ways, Brady's career is a lot like that of the quarterback he grew up watching and rooting for as a boy living on the peninsula south of San Francisco: Joe Montana.

Montana was only a third-round pick, in part for the same reason that Brady was a sixth-rounder.

Montana had alternated as a starter at Notre Dame with Rusty Lisch. Brady alternated as a starter at Michigan with the more-publicized Drew Henson, who had the high school reputation and the cannon arm that Brady didn't seem to have.

So everyone had five chances to draft him and passed in 2000.

Yet last week's game in Dallas was his 100th NFL start and he's still just 30, young for a quarterback.

"I was hoping to get to 10," he said last week when he was reminded of it. "But 100. That's good."

One reason he has that many starts &

and many more to come &

is the Montana-like accuracy. He also has the temperament, a "why worry about things you can't control" attitude that has carried him through the very occasional bits of adversity.

Until this year, Brady was simply known as a winner, not at all a bad reputation.

Even without any wide receivers of average ability, the Patriots came within one drive of beating the Colts in Indianapolis in January and reaching their fourth Super Bowl in six seasons. In the offseason they added Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker and now he's both a winner and a stats machine.

"I've never played with anyone that accurate. I've never seen anyone that accurate," Welker says. "It's not just that he gets you the ball. It's that he gets you the ball where you can do something with it. Even in the NFL that's rare."

Three Super Bowl wins going on a fourth is rare.

Belichick gets a lot of the credit. Brady is starting to get his due.

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