FOXBORO — It was hardly a breakout game for Tom Brady but after the way things went in Week 2 against the Jets and the first quarter Sunday, he will take Sunday’s 23-3 win over Tampa Bay as a step in the right direction.
Brady finished 25-of-36 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Patriots to 17 second-quarter points that gave New England control they would never relinquish. Brady did throw an interception in the red zone in the third quarter, something you can count on one hand from a Brady-led Patriots offense in the last 12 seasons.
“I could play better. I certainly could play better,” Brady said. “The interception will bother me for the rest of the week until I get a chance to get out there again. And the missed touchdown pass, that was terrible. I expect to make those plays.”
But most of the yelling by Brady on Sunday was not in anger but motivation. From the two touchdowns to Kenbrell Thompkins in the second quarter to an efficient second half, Brady’s body language looked much better Sunday.
“Well hopefully it stays that way,” Brady said. “I thought the guys did a great job – we had a good week of practice and I think it ultimately showed up. It was a good win. It was fun to be out there, fun to see us play a little bit better, so it’s nice to be 3-0.
“The [receivers] have been playing well. I think we just got good production from the tight end spot, the running back spot. It’s nice that the burden doesn’t have to fall on one position. We got a great job in the running game against one of the best run defenses in the league. 160 yards rushing against the number one rated rush defense in the league last year is pretty impressive.”
Brady got a big boost from his defense, which stopped Tampa Bay twice on fourth down in the first half, leading to points.
“They did a great job,” Brady said. “And Tampa got stuck a few times in the fringe area going into the wind and had to go for it because it’s too short to punt it and too long for a field goal. We’ve been caught in that situation a few times. Our defense did a great job stopping them and any time you can limit a team to three points, that’s incredible in the NFL. They’ve been playing great. Offensively we just have to keep doing a better job.”
Here is the rest of Sunday’s postgame presser from Brady:
Q: Can you talk about the determination of the rookies, trying to do well for you and the team?
TB: Yeah, they’re doing a great job. They’ve worked really hard to understand what we’re trying to do on a weekly basis. And it changes up a lot with our offense. It’s not like we do the same thing week to week all the time; we try to attack teams in different ways. Today we definitely made some adjustments throughout the first quarter, second quarter, and we did a good job adjusting and really trying to understand what we need to do to put drives together.
Q: Sometimes young guys have a hard time understanding urgency. Aaron Dobson was just saying that some of your frustration last week kind of cemented for him that ‘We don’t have time. We have to do this right and we have to do it right quickly.’ I’m guessing that wasn’t your intention, but do you think that’s the case?
TB: Yeah, it’s interesting because you go through the spring camps and you have the practices and because there’s no real competition and there’s no scoreboard, and in some ways you get a false sense of security that things are going the right way. And then you have preseason games and practices and things are going the right way, and none of it matters, because what matters is what you do during the regular season. You come into these games and we went up to Buffalo and won a hard-fought game. It took a big drive from us at the end to win. And last week was a division opponent and we didn’t play our best, but we really fought it out, grinded it out. And today was a better day all around. It’s a week-to-week thing in the NFL and you have to put it in every week. And every week the urgency is more because there are less games and there is less you can do about your season. Just to get to 3-0 – we’ve only done it once in the last seven or nine years, which is a pretty good stat. I’d love to get to 4-0.
Q: You spend a lot of time talking about poise and mental toughness. Were the first few drives today good ways to test that and where you were?
TB: Yeah, we got off to a little bit of a slow start. We just didn’t convert some meaningful third downs. And when you don’t do it, you’re off the field and you’re punting the ball to the other team. But our defense did a great job limiting them to a field goal and then stopping them. Really that was a big turnaround when they stopped them in the fringe, we took the ball went down the field and I hit KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] on the route for the touchdown. So that ended up being a big swing with the big stop, a good drive and really resulting in a touchdown.
Q: The quarterback sneak just before the half that you picked up five yards on, was that an audible?
TB: We talked about it so it was…I wish I could have been a little faster and gotten a little more. But the great thing is Steve [Gostkowski] made the field goal. Coach always talks about those really important situational football plays that when you actually get a chance to finish the play, we finish the play. It was a great field goal attempt – kick, blocking, snapping – and a huge momentum playing going in, with the interception, make two good positive plays and then a great kick to go into the half with three points.
Q: It was reported that you reached out to Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd. Can you comment on that?
TB: No, I haven’t talked to those guys in a while. I love both of them. They’re good friends and great teammates, but I haven’t talked to either of them in a while.
Q: How important is this part of the season where it’s forcing you to go around to all these different targets while Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski are out, and then when they’re back you’ll be used to your whole complement of receivers?
TB: Yeah, fortunately all of those guys – [Zach] Sudfeld, the three rookie receivers – have all been out there at practice every day throughout the spring and the summer. I know Josh [Boyce] missed some in the spring, but I’ve thrown a lot of balls to those guys. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about offensive football and situational football. We’ve done a pretty good job in situational football, which has really helped us. The plays before the end of the half, the drive at the end of the Buffalo game, the third down play that we made at the end of last week against the Jets where Julian [Edelman] caught the ball at the end of the route. Those are big plays. They’re little things, but they’re big things. That’s a big reason why we’re 3-0.
Q: Did you start attacking them differently on first downs than you were at first?
TB: Yeah we did a better job on the drive starts. This team has done a great job last year and through the preseason of getting teams into third-and-long. They do a great job with their run defense to get you in second-and-10s, second-and-10-plus, which forces you into third-and-long and it’s an aggressive defense, so when you get in these third-and-11s, third-and-nines…they’ve had more third-and-10-plus attempts than third-and-less-than-10. That says a lot about their first and second down defense. We obviously didn’t do a very good job with that early in the game. I thought we converted better as the game went on. But we’re going to have to do a better job of it next week.
Q: Did you try to attack them differently on first down as the game progressed?
TB: A little bit. We definitely made some adjustments of routes that we thought would be better against what they were playing. And then we ended up making the plays. It’s one thing to make the adjustments and say ‘Look, this is going to give us a better chance,’ and we did end up doing a better job and guys made a lot of really good catches out there, good catch-and-run plays like the touchdown. We had a bunch of third-down plays with guys crossing the field so that was important.
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