In this meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hopes he delivers the knockout punch.

In this meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hopes he delivers the knockout punch.

“I know how good they are,” Brady said Monday. “I know what kind of team they are. They’re disciplined, they’re powerful, and they hit hard.

“I remember last year I got knocked out of the game for a play. (Backup quarterback Matt) Cassel and I were joking about it this morning. On the film, I run and I dive and I get hit, and the next thing you see is Matt right on the sideline buckling his chinstrap up. He knew right away he was coming in.

“I think there was a penalty on the play so he didn’t get credited for a play, but I’m hoping to not get knocked out of the game this weekend.”

It was linebacker Clint Ingram’s hit on Brady after he scrambled from the pocket that knocked the veteran quarterback out of the Patriots’ 24-21 win over the Jaguars at Alltel Stadium on Dec. 24, 2006.

The two teams will bang helmets again in an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Ingram’s hit proved to be no more than a glancing blow.

Brady quickly returned to the teams’ next-to-last game of the 2006 regular season to finish 29-for-38 for 249 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions in the game that clinched their Patriots their fourth straight (it’s now five) AFC East division championship.

“They have a disciplined scheme and players that fit that scheme,” Brady said of the Jaguars Monday. “They have a big, physical defensive line with powerful linebackers, and cornerbacks and safeties who can all make plays and all hit. It’s all really centered around the fact they are a physical team.”

Now, even more than in the regular season, there is a mental game to be played as well. That is inherent in the NFL’s “second season.”

“We know there’s going to be quite a bit of pressure this weekend,” said Brady, who boasts a career postseason record of 12-2 with the Patriots, “but there’s pressure every week. It’s different in the playoffs because you realize you’re going to bed (Friday) night realizing that (Saturday) night, that could be it. You could be planning your vacations.

“That’s not a very good feeling. We’ve experienced that the last few years. Those are games you remember, that sit with you for a long time.”

It has already been a memorable season for Brady, who, in quarterbacking his team to the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, surpassed the league record 49 touchdown passes Peyton Manning tossed in 2004 for the Indianapolis Colts with 50. Twenty-three of those went to Randy Moss, who eclipsed the league-record 22 Jerry Rice caught with the San Francisco 49ers in 1987. The team put a league-record 589 points on the board, breaking the record the Minnesota Vikings set with 556 in 1998.

Brady’s work earned him the first regular-season most valuable player honor of his eight-year career, an award announced by the Associated Press on Saturday after a runaway that saw him, rather ironically, garner 49 of the 50 votes. 

Brady can put that on the mantel with the bookend Super Bowl MVP awards he won for his performances in the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII triumphs.

“The best part about playing quarterback here is I just have to do my job and show up every day and work hard just like everybody else,” Brady said.

“I think my job is a bit different than everybody else, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing that I can just go out there and worry about myself and expect that everybody else is going to do their job.

“It’s been a fun season. Every week we come in here on Monday and everybody’s excited and the plane rides home (from road games) are great. It’s just been a lot of fun. What we’ve accomplished thus far is great.

“At the same time, I think we realize that, as Coach (Bill Belichick) put it, there’s another mountain to climb. We’ve climbed the mountain thus far, but we’re right back at the bottom with everybody else and we’re in the same position as Jacksonville. We’re in the same position as Indy. We’re in the same position as San Diego. We’ve got our biggest test ahead of us and it’s going to be very challenging, but I know this team’s ready for it.”

The Enterprise