FOXBORO - If you were one of the hearty souls that braved single-digit temperatures and a wind chill that made it feel -50 (hey, I’m not a weatherman nor do I play one on TV), Tom Brady has a lot of love for you.
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“That was pretty hardcore today,” said the still-thawing out quarterback after the Patriots’ 26-6 win over the Jets. “To be out there and to brave that weather, sit in the stands, that was pretty sweet. It was a great way to end the year. We started 2-2 and 13-3 is pretty good and to get the No. 1 seed. So, our biggest games are ahead of us, and hopefully, the fans enjoy that and they come out ready to go whenever we play.”
That weather had an impact on Brady Sunday afternoon. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes - that almost never happens - going 18–of-37 for 190 yards. Brady wasn’t razor sharp but neither were his receivers. There were a handful of drops, including a well-thrown deep ball to Philip Dorsett, and several miscommunications with Brandin Cooks and even Danny Amendola that probably shouldn’t happen at this point in the season.
“It just makes everything harder,” said Brady. “I mean, it’s harder to throw, it’s harder to catch, it’s harder to tackle. I mean, it’s just, I think for you guys standing out there in 10 degrees, it’s pretty tough. So, it’s a very technical sport. And, really, you’re not really playing the weather. You’re playing the other team. So, whoever handles it the best wins, and today winning 26-6, I think we handled it pretty well.”
Brady wasn’t in the best of moods postgame. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was his performance or that of the offense in general. He was hurried on 11 of his 37 throws, though sacked just once. Brady also took a couple of hard shots, including one in which he landed on his right shoulder - the throwing shoulder - something he’s very conscious of avoiding. When asked about the group’s performance and where the unit was headed going into the playoffs, he kept it short.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I mean, it’s going to be a different defense, different plan and we’ve just got to get going and execute better, and I think we can do that.”
Past history would side with Brady. Heck, recent history - like early November - would also back that sentiment. On this day, the Pats clearly removed Rob Gronkowski from being a major piece of the game plan to more of a decoy, no doubt in effort to keep him healthy as the Pats head for the postseason. Gronk was not targeted once. In fact, watching from above, it looked like Brady never even looked in his direction. The Pats were also without Chris Hogan again this week, and Rex Burkhead and James White and Mike Gillislee and even Malcolm Mitchell, who returned to practice this week after re-injuring his knee back in August. Some - if not all of those players - are being counted on for a January return.
“Yeah, it’s going to take – I mean, if those guys are able to get out there and play, I think anytime you get good players healthy, it helps a lot,” Brady said. “So, there’s a lot of guys, like Brandin Cooks, Danny [Amendola] – they played a lot of football this year and have been out there for a lot of snaps – Dion Lewis has. So, if guys can kind of take some snaps off, I think throughout the week of practice and the games, I think that really pays off. So, you’d like to be able to use everybody, and we have a good roster, especially on offense, and a lot of good skill players. I think it’s got to be more than just two or three guys doing it. If we can get five or six guys healthy and everyone plays a role, then that’s going to be great for the offense.”
There’s no denying that, nor the fact that Brady is at his best when he has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal. But even without that, the Pats have put themselves in position to be in position for the next step, a home playoff game, then another and finally, they hope, a trip to Minnesota and another Super Bowl appearance.
“I mean, football’s a team sport. I mean, we’re 13-3. That’s the best in the AFC. That’s what we’re playing for, and that’s all that really matters.”