FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady feels better after his latest attempt at running ended with a hard blow to his upper back. If only he were as elusive as Vince Young.

The two quarterbacks – one an admitted plodder and the other a powerful runner – meet Sunday in Tennessee. The New England Patriots will try to improve their playoff seeding from fourth to third while the Titans and Young need a win to have a chance at a postseason berth.

“I wish I could run half his speed,” Brady said Wednesday. “It’s pretty cool to watch him make guys miss.”

The rookie from Texas, drafted with the third pick, ran 36 yards for a touchdown in last Sunday’s 30-29 win over Buffalo. Two weeks earlier, his 39-yard scoring run beat Houston 26-20 in overtime. And two weeks before that, he had a 1-yard touchdown run in a 24-21 win over the New York Giants.

Young already has rushed for 523 yards, 87 more than Brady has in seven seasons. His six touchdowns rushing are three more than Brady’s career total. He also has two runs in the last three weeks that are longer than Brady’s career-best of 22 yards in the fourth game this season.

Brady did show elusiveness when he got by linebacker Brian Urlacher for an 11-yard gain and a key first down in the fourth quarter of a 17-13 win over Chicago. In last Sunday’s 24-21 win at Jacksonville that clinched a playoff berth, Brady’s 7-yard run on a third-and-6 in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown, even though he was stunned by linebacker Clint Ingram’s hard hit near his right shoulder.

“You take a good hit on it, it’s always probably a little bit sore,” Brady said. “I’m doing a lot better than I was a couple of days ago.”

Matt Cassel replaced him for one play, which turned out to be a penalty against Jacksonville. Brady completed a pass on the next play that led to a touchdown and a 24-14 lead.

He felt lucky that he wasn’t hit on his throwing shoulder, which could have resulted in a costly injury to the player the Patriots can least afford to lose.

“I didn’t see the guy,” Brady said. “I haven’t been hit that hard in a long time. And he’s a big man that hit me.”

Brady is listed as probable for Sunday’s game, as he’s been all season, and plans to make his 105th consecutive start, third behind Brett Favre and Peyton Manning among active quarterbacks.”I’m real proud of the fact that I’ve hung in there as a guy (for) who the knock on him coming out (of college) was too skinny, too weak, can’t run, can’t do any of that,” he said.

Young also drew pre-draft criticism: His throwing motion wouldn’t succeed in the NFL. His ability to direct an offense was suspect.

The Titans’ current six-game winning streak put those to rest.

Now he wants to “get to the level where (Brady’s) on, to win the Super Bowl,” Young said. “He has done the job … even though people said he couldn’t.”

Brady wasn’t drafted until the sixth round in 2000, the 199th player taken, but led the Patriots to the first of their three Super Bowl championships in his second season.

He’s guided them to 23 wins in games they trailed in the fourth quarter.

Young also has a knack for comebacks. In this year’s 41-38 Rose Bowl win over Southern California that gave Texas the national championship, he ran 8 yards for the winning touchdown on fourth down with 19 seconds left. Then his overtime score beat Houston this season.

“I just play the same way I’ve been playing the whole game,” Young said.

Brady sees no reason to change his approach this Sunday and would like to play the whole game even though the Patriots have clinched a playoff berth.

“The best part of the week for me is Sunday,” he said. “All that crap that you do during practice is for that one day.”

So if he has to run for a first down, he plans to do it, even though a 250-pound defender could bear down on him with the playoffs just a week away.

“You do everything you can in the offseason to try to prepare for that. You try to strengthen every part of your body,” Brady said, “so that when those things come up, you’re not one hit and out of the game.”

AP-ES-12-27-06 1649EST


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