EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Brady said he never considered sitting out Sunday's game against the Jets, but it was apparent that he wasn't himself at MetLife Stadium as he dealt with a balky knee. At least not until his team's final scoring drive to win the game.
He finished 30-for-50 for 286 yards and two touchdowns to pick up his 200th-career win, 22-17, but there were throws he missed that he usually doesn't. And the elusiveness he's shown since returning from a four-game suspension to start the season was not there to help him avoid taking some shots from his opponent's aggressive defensive front.
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"I wasn’t hitting the ones that were there early, and we just couldn’t make enough plays to stay on the field to put pressure on those guys, and we need to do a better job of that," he said. "But I can certainly do a better job."
In all likelihood, his knee was partly to blame. He missed Patriots practices on Wednesday and Thursday, and though he returned to the practice field on Friday, he still required extensive treatment in order to get himself in shape to play.
"I’m happy the week is over," Brady said. "It was a long week . . . I think everybody is battling through different things. You just do the best you can do. It’s a long season. Every week starts fresh again. I’m glad it’s over, and I’m glad we won."
The week was in some ways a short week in that players had last Monday off after beating the Niners. Then they had a shortened day on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving. With Brady out for two days of on-the-field work, his usual preparation time was condensed.
"There was a lot of time I wish I had spent on the practice field that I was spending getting treatment," he said. "So I’d rather have more time to prepare mentally and on the practice field than do what happened, but that’s the way it goes. You’re not going to practice every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I mean, you’d love to, but it’s probably not the reality for most guys in the league. It was Thanksgiving week, kind of a different week in itself, but I had the chance to get out there on Friday and run around a little bit and the coaches put me in."
Brady wasn't the only one dealing with some physical limitations in New Jersey. Rob Gronkowski left the game in the first quarter with a back injury and didn't return. Chris Hogan (back), Julian Edelman (foot) and Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) were all questionable coming into the game, and Bennett appeared to aggravate an ankle issue that's bothered him since Week 5 when he was tackled early in the third quarter and briefly came out of the game.
"Everybody’s going to try and do different things, and I try to just show up and do my best," Brady said. "I don’t think everybody’s feeling great this time of year so just do the best you can do and I’ll try to do the same this week."
Bill Belichick lauded Brady's toughness, particularly his mental toughness, in being in a position to play this weekend and lead the team to a go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter by completing 6-of-9 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown to rookie wideout Malcolm Mitchell.
"Tom worked hard this week," Belichick said. "As he said, I think a lot of guys, it's Week , so I don't think anybod's fresh as a daisy . . . It's a grind. You've got to fight through it.
"Tom's got great mental toughness. So do a lot of other guys on the team that are dealing with something, too."
It's something the Patriots will need as the season wears on and the "bumps and bruises," as Brady put it earlier this week, continue to pile up.