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This QB a marksman

Brady focused on wins, not on 5,000 or 300

By Zuri Berry
Globe Staff / January 2, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH - When Tom Brady hangs up his cleats, the date of Jan. 1, 2012, may only be a career footnote, but it was a historic day nonetheless.

By throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns, Brady surpassed the 5,000-yard mark for the season, and in doing so, led the Patriots to a 49-21 comeback win over the Bills to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Brady became the third player (and the fourth occasion) in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards, finishing the season with 5,235 to go with 39 touchdown passes. He surpassed the mark with a 39-yard scoring pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez in the second quarter.

Dan Marino held the NFL record for passing yards in a season for 27 years, throwing for 5,084 in 1984. That record was broken last week by the Saints’ Drew Brees, who has done it twice, finishing the season with 5,476. (Later yesterday, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford became the fourth player to reach 5,000, finishing with 5,038).

Brady also reached 300 career touchdown passes yesterday, tying John Elway for fifth on the all-time list. The significance of it all was not lost on Brady, but it took a back seat.

“I play this game for one reason and it’s to win. There’s nothing more important to me than that,’’ he said. “As a quarterback, you do everything you can do to help this team win. When your number is called upon to go out and execute certain plays, that’s what you’re expected to do. It’s not something I think about, it’s not something I ever [think], ‘Man, I love throwing touchdowns,’ or ‘I love throwing for yards.’ I love winning and that helps me sleep at night.’’

At the end of the day, Brady may only be worried about Super Bowl wins. He’s burning for a fourth title, one that eluded him in the 2007 season. He credits his success to the talent around him. Rob Gronkowski, who racked up 1,327 receiving yards, a record for a tight end, certainly has made things easier. As has Wes Welker, who finished with 122 catches for 1,569 yards. And one can’t forget Hernandez, who yesterday had his third 100-yard receiving day of the season.

“Our passing game has been obviously a big strong point of this team,’’ Brady said. “The pass catchers and the blockers have been great and we’ve run the ball great, too, at times. That’s what it takes - a complementary offense. You run it, and we throw it when we need to throw it, and we can be effective. You have to stay balanced and those guys have done a great job all year doing stuff with it.’’

For coach Bill Belichick, there’s also a tendency to gloss over individual accomplishments and focus on wins. But they are acknowledged, if only slightly. When asked to comment about Brady’s year, as well as Gronkowski’s record, Belichick said, “They’ve obviously had great years. No question, they’ve had great years.’’

Belichick’s attention, like Brady’s, is on winning the next game.

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. You can follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

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