The New England Patriots are close to fully healthy entering Sunday's AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium, and that a rested quarterback in Tom Brady.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that Brady played through an MCL sprain during the regular season, and that it impacted his performance.
Sources say Brady is as healthy as he's been today since he began the season, having made good use of the bye. Previously, Brady battled an MCL sprain, sources say, one that took him a few weeks to overcome. In his worst statistical season since 2014, it clearly affected Brady.
Rapoport also reported on the structural health of Brady's knee.
Thanks in part to the bye, Brady is healed and there is no structural damage in his knee, sources say. Besides an exit physical, nothing is planned after the season for his knee.
Brady didn't look like the elite player we're used to seeing during the regular season. His stats were solid, but he didn't have a prolonged stretch of dominance, and the Patriots finished with their worst regular-season record (11-5) since 2009.
Brady certainly didn't look hobbled in the Week 17 regular-season finale against the rival New York Jets, though. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Patriots won 38-3 to clinch a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
The 41-year-old quarterback will face a much tougher test Sunday against a fearsome Chargers defense led by elite pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Brady is 7-0 in his career against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, including two playoff victories, but this might be the best Los Angeles team he's faced in his career.
When Brady took the field Sunday, he ran all the way to the far end zone, an encouraging sign for Patriots fans.
Protecting Brady and establishing the run early are critical to keeping the Patriots quarterback upright and fending off the Chargers pass rush.
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