Patriots

Brady, Pats look to continue unparalleled December success

Brady, Pats look to continue unparalleled December success

Nobody appreciates the month of December quite like Tom Brady and the Patriots. Well, unless you’re a big believer of that fat man from the North Pole. The numbers have been repeated so often they don’t even require a double check but do bear repeating over and over again.

Brady is 55-10 in the final month of every year, far and away the best of any in his storied career. But it’s not just Brady, obviously. It’s an entire team, one that’s changed over the years but still has embraced the final quarter of the regular season like few other, especially in those “Super” seasons. The Pats are 26-2 during Decembers when they’ve eventually gone on to play for Lombardi Trophies, and one of those losses was a throwaway in 2014 to Buffalo in the season finale. 

“I’ve been a member of some great teams that have really paid the price months earlier to put you in a great position to succeed in December when the games are the most meaningful because there’s fewer of them,” said Brady.

To Brady and others, these games mean more. That puts an even greater onus on preparation, both big and small. That’s always been a hallmark of Bill Belichick coached teams. To have continued December success, it can’t change.

“When there’s a little bit more at stake and the ante moves up I think you compete a little bit harder,” said Belichick. “You prepare a little bit harder.”

“Coach [Belichick] would say ‘no days off.’ Just work hard every day, no matter what you’re doing,” added Brady.”Whether you’re on the field or not on the field, you've got to be putting the time in mentally or physically to get yourself physically, mentally, emotionally ready to play for those games.”

Despite their 8-game winning streak - one that has vaulted the Pats to the top of just about everyone’s power rankings (for whatever that’s worth) - this group doesn’t think it can get away with anything other than their best. Of course, that hasn’t always been the case this season. There certainly have been a couple of victories that weren’t the way the coaching staff drew ‘em up, but you can sense a certain level of disappointment from this players in the aftermath. They’ll take it, but they’re measuring themselves against something greater. That’s a belief ingrained into the important players and one that filters down the roster. 

“…we’re a team that we can't afford to come in Wednesday and have a bad Wednesday,” said Devin McCourty. “Like we're not good enough to catch up on Thursday and Friday and then walk–through Saturday and think Sunday it's just going to turn on and we'll be ready to go. We have to be ready throughout the whole week. We need to have a good Wednesday, a good Thursday, string good practices together where we're going over everything that we might get, whether we've even had walk–throughs sometimes out there. But we get a lot of plays done, we get a lot of things talked about, communicated and that gives us a chance to win on Sunday. I think once you get in December it's about not slipping up any of those weeks.”

“We can’t afford anything less than our best,” said Brady. “I know it’s not going to be perfect out there, but you try to do as best you can, especially in the preparation so that you can be ready to anticipate and compete as hard as you can like this on a Monday Night Football game in December.”

If your best players think this way, how can the mid-level or bottom-end guys not approach their jobs the same way? It partly explains Brady’s success, but the team’s as well. And it’s why they’ll treat tonight’s game against the Dolphins as if it’s the most important game they’ll play all year. Because it is. And if the Patriots keep stacking them up, then the games keep getting bigger and more important. Until it’s Super Sunday and the whole world is watching you try and lay claim to another Lombardi.

Patriots-Jaguars pregame notes

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Patriots-Jaguars pregame notes

The Patriots host the Jaguars today at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game. The game begins at 3:05 p.m.

  • Watch Patriots Pregame Live from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Michael Felger, Charlie Weis, Bert Breer, Troy Brown and DJ Bean in Burlington, and Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi at Gillette.
  • When the game ends, watch Patriots Postgame Live.

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch, or click here for the livestream of the shows (and all NBC Sports Boston programming).

Here's what you need to know about the game . . .

FACTS AND FIGURES

GAME TIME: 3:05 p.m. 

SITE: Gillette Stadium

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 14-3, Jaguars 12-6

ON TV: CBS

TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely

ON LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub Patriots Radio Network

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak

NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One

NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Kugler, Dan Fouts and Ed Werder

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Patriots lead, 10-1

LAST MEETING: Patriots 51, Jaguars 17 on Sept. 27, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

-- Tom Brady completed 35 of 53 passes (66 percent) for 337 yards and three touchdowns for a 102.5 passer rating in the Patriots’ 35-14 win against Tennessee in the Divisional Playoffs. He can become the first quarterback in postseason history to record four consecutive games with at least 300 yards and multiple touchdown passes.

-- James White scored two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in the Patriots’ win against Tennessee. He also scored three touchdowns in Super Bowl LI, and needs two touchdowns today to tie Emmitt Smith and Larry Fitzgerald for the most combined rushing and receiving touchdowns over a three-game span in postseason history.

-- Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass last week and now has 10 career postseason TD receptions, trailing only Jerry Rice (22) and John Stallworth (12). He can tie Stallworth with two today.

-- The Jaguars, who went 3-13 last season, are attempting to become the first team since the 2009 Saints to go from 'worst to first' in their division and qualify for the Super Bowl. (In the NFC title game, the Eagles can accomplish the same feat.) Prior to the Saints, the last team to do so was the 2003 Panthers, whom the Patriots beat in Super Bwl XXXVIII.

-- The Jaguars, who beat the second-seeded Steelers in last week's divisional round, are also attempting to become the 11th team to defeat the top two seeds in their conference en route to the Super Bowl. 

-- Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 109 yards in three touchdowns in the Jaguars' 45-42 win in Pittsburgh last week. With one rushing touchdown today, he can tie Jamal Lewis (2000 Ravens), William Floyd (1994 49ers), Tony Dorsett (1977 Cowboys) and Norm Standlee (1941 Bears) for the postseason record for most rushing TDs by a rookie in a single postseason. He can break the record with two.

PATRIOTS VS. JAGUARS

-- The Patriots and Jaguars are meeting in the postseason for the fifth time. New England has won three of the previous four, including the 1996 AFC Championship Game at old Foxboro Stadium, which the Patriots won 20-6 in Bill Parcells' final home game as Patriots coach.

-- In the teams' last postseason meeting, New England improved its season's record to 15-0 by knocking off Jacksonville, 31-20, in the 2007 AFC Divisional Playoffs on Jan. 12, 2008 at Gillette Stadium.

MORE ON THE PATRIOTS

-- New England is the first team since the 1970 merger to play in seven consecutive conference championship games.

-- The Patriots have won nine conference championships, the most in NFL history. New England is 6-1 all-time in AFC Championship Games played at home.

-- Bill Belichick has advanced to 12 conference championship games, the most by a head coach since the 1970 merger.

-- Brady has 26 career playoff wins, the most by any starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady is also the NFL postseason leader in career completions (866), attempts (1,378), passing yards (9,431) and touchdown passes (66).

-- Brady has 13 playoff games with at least 300 passing yards, the most in NFL history. Brady recorded his 10th career postseason game with at least three touchdown passes last week and surpassed Joe Montana for the most all-time.

-- New England won its ninth consecutive division title, the longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots are the only team to win 14 division titles in a 15-year span.

MORE ON THE JAGUARS

-- Jacksonville is the second team since the 1970 merger to advance to the conference championship game after winning three or fewer games in the previous season. The other was the 2006 Saints.

-- The Jaguars led the NFL with seven defensive touchdowns during the regular season and scored on a 50-yard fumble-return touchdown by linebacker Telvin Smith in the divisional round against Pittsburgh.

-- Smith leads the NFL with three defensive touchdowns this season (including the playoffs).

-- Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles has won his first two career playoff starts. In both games, he threw a touchdown pass with no interceptions.

CAN JAGS TURN UP THE HEAT?

-- Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell had a franchise-record 14.5 sacks in the regular season and teammate Yannick Ngakoue added 12 sacks. Against Pittsburgh, Ngakoue had a sack and forced fumble, which led to Smith’s 50-yard fumble-return touchdown.

LOOKING FOR MORE?

-- Click here for additional information about the game.

Former Patriot Mike Vrabel named head coach of the Tennessee Titans

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Former Patriot Mike Vrabel named head coach of the Tennessee Titans

The Titans job was rumored to be the first pick of Josh McDaniels, but as details have come to light, that is not the case.

The Tennessee Titans have agreed to hire former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel as their Head Coach tonight.

The team publicly announced the hire tonight across all of their social media platforms.

Vrabel won the Super Bowl with the Patriots three times in the early years of the New England dynasty. 

Despite having limited experience as a coach, he has attracted much attention in this past offseason for openings across the NFL. He has just one season's experience as a coordinator. 

Vrabel steps in to fill the role of Mike Mularkey, who was fired just one night after many believed he was receiving an extension. Despite the rumor of the extension, Mularkey and the Titans agreed to part ways just one day later.

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