FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -There will be an MVP in their midst when the Patriots return to practice.
On a weekend when he didn't even play, Tom Brady scored another landslide victory like so many he led New England to on its way to the first 16-0 season in NFL history. He received 49 of 50 votes and became the first Patriots player to win the league's MVP award on Saturday.
His boss and his teammates felt the honor was overdue.
``To be honest, I'm surprised it took so long for him to get this recognition because he's sort of been our MVP since he stepped on the field in '01, in my mind, and the way he just took over,'' Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. ``He treats everyone in that locker room the same way he treats me or the coaches.''
Brady did win the Super Bowl MVP award after the 2001 and 2003 seasons. Defensive end Ty Warren became his teammate in 2003.
``Every year I have been here, he has always been the MVP in my eyes. Hands down,'' Warren said. ``He is going to be remembered as one of the best that ever played in this league and he has definitely put on a clinic this year with the guys that he has had around him.''
The eight-year veteran helped the Patriots shatter records by throwing for 50 touchdowns. He broke Peyton Manning's NFL mark by one, and threw 23 of those TDs to Randy Moss, which lifted the receiver past Jerry Rice's record of 22.
New England scored 589 points, another record, as was the Patriots' 75 touchdowns. Eleven of their wins were by at least 17 points.
Brady's NFL best 117.2 passer rating was close to Manning's record of 121.1 in 2004. Only one full-time AFC starter, Jacksonville's David Garrard, threw fewer than Brady's eight interceptions and Garrard threw 253 fewer passes.
They'll meet next Saturday night in Foxborough in the divisional round. Jacksonville advanced with a 31-29 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday while the Patriots had the weekend off from meetings and practice.
``As I have learned over the course of my time with the Patriots, the most meaningful accomplishments are always the ones I have celebrated with my teammates,'' he said. ``I am certainly proud of the success that we have enjoyed so far this season.''
He missed by one vote being a unanimous choice of the nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the NFL on a regular basis. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, the only three-time MVP, got that vote.
Among other AP MVPs were quarterbacks Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway and Steve Young - all Hall of Famers.
``I have always been a huge football fan and will always have great respect for the history of this game,'' Brady said. ``I am flattered to join such an esteemed list of players, many of whom I consider the greatest of all time. I hope that I can set as great of an example for kids around the world as the previous MVPs did for me.''
Running backs LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and Shaun Alexander in 2005 won the previous two MVP awards. That broke a stretch of four years with quarterback winners - Manning in 2004, Manning and Steve McNair in 2003, Rich Gannon in 2002, and Kurt Warner in 2001.
Brady led the league in completion percentage and yards passing. And he threw a touchdown pass in all but one game - a 20-10 win over the New York Jets in his 14th game.
Teammates continually praise Brady as an unselfish superstar and one of the Patriots' hardest workers.
``There are two types of players in the league,'' linebacker Junior Seau said. ``One that wants to be great and one that needs to be great. Tommy positions himself every day to be great for every game.''
This week the game will be against Jacksonville. The MVP would like another big win.
``There is still plenty of football to be played this season and I look forward getting back on the field with my teammates and preparing for next weekend's game,'' Brady said.

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