Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to recap Sunday’s 41-28 victory over the Texans and preview next Sunday’s AFC championship matchup against the Ravens.
The Patriots overcame early injuries to Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski and pulled away from the Texans.
“We’ve played a bunch of games now, we’ve never really been fully healthy yet — and obviously now won’t be — but you know what? We’ve still got a very good team,” Brady said. “When there’s different guys that step up and make those big-time plays — whether it’s Wes [Welker] or Brandon [Bolden] or Deion [Branch] or Shane [Vereen] or Rid [Stevan Ridley] or Woody; Aaron Hernandez had another big game — they’ve got to stop all of us. And I think that’s what we have to continue to do this week.”
Welker had eight catches for 131 yards, including an impressive 47-yard reception down the Patriots sideline in the opening half on which he brought in the ball with one hand before being knocked out of bounds.
Said Brady: “Wes did an unbelievable job getting his hands on that ball and making the play. … It’s not like Wes has triple-XL hands. Wes isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he’s got the biggest heart. That makes up for a lot of the size difference, is his mental toughness, his physical toughness. There’s just nobody like the guy.
“We probably haven’t practiced that three times all year, throwing the ball down the field to Wes like that. When it matters the most, Wes comes up with it. Wes has his opportunities and he always take advantage.”
While the Patriots impressed a lot of people with their hurry-up offense, at least a couple of NFL players accused the team of bending the rules. One such player is Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who sent out a series of incendiary tweets during Sunday’s game.
“We’ve had a lot of people comment about our team and our players this year. I think the best thing that we do is we ignore the noise, we go out and we try to prepare,” Brady said. “Nothing really that anybody says or does is going to affect what’s going to happen next Sunday. I think it’s best for us just to focus on what we can do, and that’s prepare and work and do what we’ve done all season. People want to say things or write things, they have the liberty to do that, but it doesn’t really have any bearing on what we do.”
The Patriots had success in the hurry-up offense by taking advantage of well-timed plays and creative play-calling. Brady said that for the hurry-up to be successful, multiple factors have to be working in his team’s favor.
“I think they’re both important — I think the pace, the play and the execution, certainly,” Brady said. “Like I’ve said before, it does no good to go fast and not do your job. It starts with us executing well, being able to do our job effectively. I think as long as we can stay on the field and make a few first downs, then we’ve got a great tempo and momentum to the drive. And it’s hard to stop us at that point. We’ve just got to get into the drive, and once we’re into the drive we feel like we’re going to put points on the board.”
Added Brady: “Ultimately it comes down to our execution. It’s throwing, catching, running, blocking, playing penalty-free, not turning the ball over. I think I was most proud that it was a very clean game in terms of penalties and turnovers. That’s when we needed it the most. You can’t afford to give up those possessions, put yourself behind in these long-yardage situations against good teams, because they take advantage.”
The Broncos suffered an overtime loss Saturday, and Brady said he had some empathy for Peyton Manning.
“I know the feeling. It’s a pretty crappy feeling,” Brady said. “The part of the competition is one teams wins and one team loses. When you’re on the winning end, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. When you’re on the losing end, there’s absolutely nothing worse. I feel bad for all those guys that lose. But at the same time, the guys that won, they deserved to win. It’s a team game, it’s a team effort. Baltimore was the better team on Saturday.”
That sets up a rematch of last year’s AFC title game in Foxboro between the Patriots and Ravens.
“They’re playing their best football right now,” Brady said of the Ravens. “And the way their offense played — I did see a few of those Torrey Smith catches, and those were incredible. He had a great game against us [in Week 3], and he had a great game on Saturday. They’ve got a very good offense, very good defense, they’ve got some Pro Bowl special teams guys. They’ve got a great team and they’re very well-coached. That’s why they’re in the same position that they were last year.
“I feel the same way about us. We’ve got, I feel, the best coaching, we’ve got a lot of mentally tough players and physically tough players that are going to be facing our toughest challenge of the year. And I know we’ll be ready for it when the ball’s kicked off next week.”
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, who he passed for most playoff victories by a quarterback: “There was a lot of Joe Montana and a lot of Steve Young [memorabilia in the Brady house]. Those were my two favorites. To grow up as a kid in the Bay Area with the 49ers winning all those games is probably a lot like the kids in New England growing up now. I think that’s really where my love for football started. My parents loved football and loved taking me to the games. There was nothing more fun for me than to go to Candlestick Park. Our seats were about on the 10-yard line, about eight rows from the top of the stadium. There was just so much excitement every week because the team won. Those two quarterbacks really set the bar for how the position is to be played. I’ve always admired both those guys. I have a good relationship with those guys.
“I just feel very blessed to be a part of such a great [Patriots] organization. To play for Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Jonathan and the Kraft family. And to play for coach [Bill] Belichick. I’ve been very fortunate in my life. Like I said last night, I never take it for granted. I’m just very grateful. I think that’s how I really feel.”
On controversial cornerback Richard Sherman and the Seahawks, who were eliminated from the playoffs with Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Falcons: “I think what I saw Atlanta do yesterday was pretty remarkable, to move the ball with 31 seconds left down the field on two pass plays was incredible, against one of the best secondaries in the league. He’s a very good player, and Earl Thomas, what a great player he is. He reminds me a lot of Ed Reed — a lot of similar qualities in what they do. They had a great team. I wish we would have beaten them this year; we didn’t. Hopefully sometime in my career I’ll get a chance to play Seattle again. But this week it’s all about Baltimore.”
On the postseason refereeing: “I always feel like the calls even out over the course of a game. Sometimes they get them right, sometimes they get them wrong. We’re used to that. We’ve always done that. That’s how it’s been since we started playing this game in high school or some of us in peewee football. The refs miss calls. That’s just part of it. The best team usually ends up winning. The refs I think do a great job in the playoffs. You see, they let us play a little bit more, which I think the players enjoy. There’s not the ticky-tack calls. I think they let us play, and that’s how the players probably typically like it. You see who the toughest guys are, you play physical, it’s a physical game. Then you see who’s the best team after four quarters of football.”
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