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Tom Brady was almost perfect. The Patriots still are.
Their poised and prolific quarterback knocked another mark out of the books in their record-breaking season, completing all but two of his 28 passes to lead New England to its second consecutive AFC Championship Game with a 31-20 victory over Jacksonville on Saturday.
The Patriots improved to 17-0, matching the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to go unbeaten from the first game of the season through the Super Bowl.
Two more wins and the Patriots will join them — much to the chagrin of some of those Dolphins.
One more win next Sunday at Gillette Stadium will put the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the first time in three years. They'll face the winner of today's game between San Diego and Indianapolis, which beat New England in last year's AFC title game.
"The thing about it now is that none of it matters." Brady said. "For 17 games, it all comes down to this and we were here last year. I hope we perform better."
Brady completed 92.9 percent of his passes, breaking Phil Simms' record of 88 percent (22 of 25) set in the Super Bowl after the 1986 season.
And Brady did it mostly without Randy Moss, who had only one catch against double- and triple-coverage.
"They went back to the old way of covering me," Moss said. "We win as a team. I've never been a greedy guy. I'm not going to start now."
Brady hit all the other receivers, throwing for three touchdowns and 262 yards.
"When they're open like that, it's my job to hit them," he said. "They were open every time, so it's easy to play quarterback."
While Jacksonville's defense struggled to stop Brady and crew, New England's defense had no such problems against the Jaguars' one-two rushing punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The league's second-most productive duo during the regular season combined for just 66 yards.
It was the Patriots who dominated on the ground as Laurence Maroney rushed for 122 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.
Brady completed his first 16 passes before the next one went off the hands of Benjamin Watson, who caught two others for touchdowns.
"Brady's been great all year," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "He's as good as they come."
David Garrard, in just his second playoff game, hit 22 of 33 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for Jacksonville.
In Indianapolis on Sunday, backup quarterback Billy Volek scored on a sneak and Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes before hurting his right knee as the San Diego Chargers stunned the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts 28-24 in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff.
The Chargers will face the unbeaten New England Patriots next Sunday in the AFC championship game.
This program aired on January 14, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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