|Tom Brady: The Purple Palace is ‘a little different’||09.19.12 at 2:47 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows what type of atmosphere he’s entering on Sunday night at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore harbor.
The Patriots escaped last January with a 23-20 win in the AFC championship when Sterling Moore broke up a TD pass to Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff hooked a 32-yard field goal wide left.
He knows the Ravens and their fans will be out for blood this time.
“Well, we went on the road to Tennessee and that was the opener and they’ve had a bunch of sellouts, so I think we’ve had a little experience on the road,” Brady said Wednesday. “This place is a little different.”
This place is the “Purple Palace” – the place that nearly ended the Patriots perfect regular season in 2007 on a Monday night, when the Patriots escaped, 27-24, when Brady found Jabar Gaffney in the corner of the end zone with 44 seconds remaining and Mark Clayton was tackled two yards shy of the end zone on a desperation heave at the end of the game. This is New England’s first trip back since.
“We’ve only really played there one time, which was a tough battle, a 60-minute game,” Brady said. “It always comes down to the end with these guys. I don’t know if we’ve ever had an easy game against these guys. They make you earn every yard you get. Certainly, communication is an issue when you go on the road. We’ll be pumping the crowd music in at practice today – you’ll hear that from downtown Foxborough with how loud that is – but we’ll be trying to simulate not being able to hear and still doing a good job of communicating and really being on the same page. That’s part of winning on the road. You’re bringing however many guys with you – 53 plus some coaches – and that’s really all you’ve got on the road and hopefully that’s all we’ll need.”
Other subjects the Patriots quarterback touched on included Deion Branch, Wes Welker, his unfamiliarity with Kellen Winslow, Julian Edelman and the Ravens defense without Terrell Suggs (out rehabbing an Achilles injury).
Q: Can you talk about your good friend Deion Branch being re-signed today and what his role will be?
TB: Well, Deion has just been a great player here for a long time, so it’s always great to see him back. There’s just a lot of stability. He’s that kind of player: dependable, consistent. So, we’ll see what kind of role he plays.
Q: Can you talk about trying to bounce back after last week’s performance?
TB: We hate to lose, obviously, but that’s part of football. You don’t win them all. You have to find ways to be mentally tough, to put it behind you and move forward and try to be better this week, because obviously what we did last week wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to try to find ways to execute better and score more points. We’re playing a very good team that challenges us in all three phases, one of the best teams in the league over a long period of time. It will be a fun game for the players.
Q: Can you talk about that defense? I know you respect Ed Reed and all those guys a ton.
TB: Yeah, I sure do. They’re very, very talented players, they play well within their scheme, and they complement each other well. They’re very physical, they’re very tough, they’re very smart and they really take advantage of bad offensive plays. I think more so than anything, they really capitalize on mistakes, so we’ve got to try to limit our mistakes. We’ve got to try to be really consistent with what we’re doing, communicate well so that we’re all on the same page and really just don’t go out there and hand them the ball like we’ve done plenty of times over the past few years.
Q: What have you seen from former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees? Can it be an advantage for them that he knows you guys as well as he does from coaching here?
TB: I have a lot of respect for Dean. He was a great coach here and he’s got those guys playing well. He’s been in that system and knows those players, and they’ve got a lot of playmakers and I think he’s great at using those guys really doing what they do best. Ray [Lewis] is a big time playmaker, Ed Reed is, Haloti [Ngata]; Lardarius Webb has turned into one of the best corners in the league. They’ve got a lot of great players that can really wreak havoc. I think Dean does a great job of putting those guys in positions where they’re able to make those plays and it’s not so scheme-oriented where sometimes Ray is out of a play – Ray’s in every play. I’m sure that’s just the way he wants it, too.
Q: So it’s not a whole different set of circumstances from what Chuck Pagano did?
TB: I mean, the base of their defense has been the same way for a long time. The coordinator probably has the most different flavor. How they’re going to play us, we don’t know that. They’re going to have their own game plan. I’m sure it’s not going to look like the Eagles game plan. They’ll have probably their core things they do and from week to week some different looks, some different blitz looks. Like last week, we’ll probably have to make some adjustments over the course of the game, because it’s still early in the year and things still haven’t really played out. You don’t have your whole playbook in, so to speak, so they’re just trying to find ways to screw us up a little bit and vice versa.
Q: If Aaron Hernandez can’t play, what does your offense miss on the field and in turn, what are your thoughts on Kellen Winslow?
TB: Well, I just met Kellen yesterday for the first time, so I’m excited to get out there and practice with him today. I think he’s excited to get started, too. Aaron has been a huge contributor for us and every time he’s in there, he seems to be making plays. We’ll see how it goes without him or with him, I don’t know. It’s just a matter of him feeling well enough to go out there and play.
Q: Did their defense seem to just step up and play without Terrell Suggs? He’s hard to replace, but they seem to be staying on the right track.
TB: You know, their defense, it’s interesting because over the years they’ve lost key players and they fill different guys in and different guys play different roles. He’s a phenomenal player and he’s been very durable over his career. We’ve played him multiple times. But they’re still getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and applying different blitz schemes to get pressure. Haloti Ngata is almost impossible to block at times. They like to get their safeties involved. They like to get Lardarius Webb involved. Everybody is a blitzer and that’s the kind of scheme it is. There’re different playmakers and they know how to use them and they know what they like. I’d like to blitz a lot of those guys, too, if I was how good they are at getting to the quarterback.
Q: Why do you think this offense hasn’t hit the ground running like it has in other years?
TB: We’ve just been inconsistent, I’d say, with our execution. I think there’re plays out there that we’ve made that we’re trying to make. I don’t think it’s through lack of effort; it’s just a matter of execution. Hopefully we can improve this week in practice and put on a better performance this week as opposed to last week.
Q: Do you think too big of a deal has been made out of the Wes Welker stuff?
TB: I don’t pay attention to it. I love Wes and he’s a great player on this team and has been since the day he arrived, so nothing has changed in my mind.
Q: In terms of the challenge of mixing run and pass, it seemed like you guys had a really good balance in Week 1 but maybe not as good in Week 2. How big of a challenge is it mix the run and the pass this early in the year?
TB: We’ve got to be able to do both effectively. I think when you run the ball well, that sets up the pass. When you pass it well, that sets up the run. I think if you become really one-dimensional it’s a problem for an offense because it’s just too easy to defend. In the second half last week, we were pretty much forced to throw it a lot more than we would have liked, but that’s what, really, the situation dictated.
Q: What’s the ideal mix for you and the offense at this point in the season?
TB: I don’t think there’s room in the stats book for ratios; I think it’s wins and losses. I think that’s the only stat in the end that really matters. So, whatever we need to do to win, that’s what’s important. It’s not how many runs or who gets the passes or who gets the yards, whether it’s a running back…it’s ultimately about scoring points and whatever we need to do to score points, I think that’s what I like doing the best.
Q: With Josh McDaniels, it seems like it hasn’t just been like turning the key and everything is back to where it was when he was here before. Do you feel like there’s an adjustment period of trying to reestablish the connections?
TB: Yeah, well, I think you work at it as hard as you can every day and at the end of the year you can probably finally weigh where your comfort is, but at this point, Josh and I are always communicating and we’re trying – I ,as a quarterback, am trying to do what I need to do and he, as a coordinator, is trying to do what he needs to do. When you score 18 points and really it’s from not converting on third down and not being great in the red area, it’s not that we’re not moving the ball. We had quite a few yards last game and the first game; it’s just a matter of taking advantage of really critical opportunities on third down in the red area and putting touchdowns on the board instead of field goals. That’s how you score a lot of points. You kick six field goals and that’s 18 points; six touchdowns is 42 points – plus the extra points. You have to be able to score touchdowns. I think that’s how you eventually really get in a flow as an offense is when you get the ball in the end zone.
Q: Can you talk about Aaron Hernandez and what he brings to the team? When he’s not in there, how does that change what you guys do?
TB: I’m not sure. We’re going to have to see how it plays out. I don’t know. He missed a few games last year at Buffalo, right? We lost that game. He’s a great player for us and provides a lot of versatility. We’ll have to see what happens with him out there, him not out there. I don’t know what his situation is, but the more guys we have healthy and the more guys we have contributing and playing a role, the better it’s going to be for our team.
Q: We saw Julian Edelman a lot last year on defense and really all over the place. What has he done to become a bigger part of the offense this year?
TB: He’s really worked hard and put himself in a position to get opportunities. I have a lot of confidence in Julian and his abilities. He made some really key plays for us last game along with Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and along with Wes [Welker] and along with Brandon [Lloyd]. It’s really the skill guys that are out there that have opportunities to catch the ball and that are playing, we need to be able to make those plays. All those who are out there are doing a good job of that.
Q: Do you think Edelman’s hard work is being diminished by all this talk about Wes Welker? It seems like he’s not getting much credit.
TB: I don’t know. That’s what you guys talk about and certainly not what I think about. I‘ve got to focus on being a good quarterback and doing my job. I’ll let you guys write the stories.
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