FOXBORO -- It's been a relatively mellow year for Tom Brady when it's come to his podium visits.
You'd be hard-pressed to come up with any signature hot-and-bothered moments the likes of which we've seen from him occasionally in years past. Last season, after a Week 1 defeat at home to the Chiefs, Brady bluntly called out his teammates. He did the same after a Week 2 win in Minnesota in 2014 because he wasn't happy with what he'd seen.
This year? Not much sizzle.
In Jacksonville, he smiled when he came to the podium. In Detroit, he was more despondent than angry. "We're just not doing anything well enough." Tennessee's headline was, "Just a bad day for all of us." After the Miracle in Miami, he pointed out, "Football is a crazy game." In Pittsburgh, he grinned and shook his head. "Didn't get the job done."
On the field, it's equally hard to recall (on the pissed-off end) blown gaskets on the sidelines, or (on the jacked-up end) screaming, shaking-with-excitement, face-mask-to-face-mask touchdown celebrations. And in recent weeks, whether because of injury or something else, we've pointed out that he hasn't done his usual pregame fire-up-the-crowd fist pump at the end of the stadium opposite the Patriots tunnel.
If he's been consciously conserving, maybe it's because he's been tired. Maybe it's because he's been focused on things like balance and positive energy -- things he's spoken about for years, but at times, in the heat of the moment, has put to the side.
Maybe the dialed-back approach could be explained by his belief that this team can gather itself in tough times without his prodding. Or maybe there have been tough times when he's felt as though his prodding wouldn't make a dent so why bother? Maybe the prodding has taken place behind the scenes.
Or maybe, just maybe, Brady has been saving it? Maybe he's focused on pacing his emotional releases in his 41-year-old season.
On Thursday, we got what felt like a mini-release, a rare show of emotion at the microphone. It was sparked by a question about why he enjoys playing in the postseason.
"There’s been so many plays," Brady said, "that I’ve seen in my career that had we not made that one play, which could be just an extra effort, could be an arm tackle, could be just one extra push of the pile that ends up being the difference in an entire game and really, an entire season.
"That’s what it’s all about. It’s great when it comes out for us and I think you just try to express that I don’t think you can compete any less than what you’re ultimately capable of competing at. That level, that’s intense and it’s every play and it’s just, you max out. You can’t leave everything behind. You’ve just got give everything you’ve got."
Cliched as some of that might read, his delivery felt genuine. It felt like he might be referencing Dont'a Hightower's tackle on Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX or Danny Amendola's two-point conversion push against the Falcons two years later. It felt like something he might say to other players.
If Brady has been pacing himself, what better time than now to let it out, in the process letting his teammates and everyone else know that this is when every little thing matters?
The urgency is what stood out. There was an urgency to Brady’s tone that hasn't been heard much this season, an urgency that indicated that even after almost two decades of postseason play, there's nothing else like it for him.
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