FOXBORO — What did the bye week teach Tom Brady ?
“We’ve got to play better than we’ve played and hopefully that starts this week,” Brady said Wednesday during his first press conference since the bye weekend. “[Tuesday] we had a good day of practice and we’ve got to go out there and have a few more good days, but there’re a lot of things we need to improve on.”
That might seem a big odd for a quarterback that is again right in the middle of the NFL MVP debate at midseason. Brady is completing 65.3 percent of his passes for just over 2,400 yards, just under his 5,000-yard pace of a season ago. He’s thrown 16 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
The Patriots have scored at least 30 points in five of their eight games. He put up a near-perfect performance going into the bye, with four TDs, 304 yards and a 131.1 rating against the Rams. Does he feel that he’s close to where he wants to be?
“We’ll see,” was all Brady would commit to on Wednesday. One thing he would commit to a little stronger on Wednesday was his developing chemistry with Brandon Lloyd , who caught just two passes against the Rams, both for touchdowns.
“I hope it keeps getting better,” Brady said. “We just keep working at it, so we go out there in practice and we work on things and Coach [Bill Belichick ] tells us things that we need to do better. We’re always trying to make those improvements. I don’t think you can ever stop improving. I just think you just have to keep going out there to work at it and see if it can be better each day.”
The other area Brady had praise for Wednesday was the offensive line, and in particular Nate Solder .
“Nate played a lot last year too and he’s been very reliable and dependable really since the day he got here,” Brady said of the man who replaced Matt Light . “He’s very mature and I think he’s really asserted himself as a very good player. That’s a tough position to play. You get the best of your opponent every single week, and he’s never really backed down to a challenge, so there’s a lot of comfort there.”
Brady reiterated Wednesday that he knew the offensive line would eventually gel. Evidence of that is growing with every win.
“I’ve never really thought much [or] concerned myself with their job and so forth,” Brady added. “They’re very well coached and they work really hard. That entire group, it’s kind of like their own little subculture within the team they have, the things they do to get ready and they’re coached very hard and Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. It’s just a matter of time. The more you play together, the better you’re going to do, and those guys have continued to work really hard and obviously it’s shown out there on the field.”
Here’s the rest of Brady’s Q and A with reporters on Wednesday:
Q: You’ve used your pocket awareness to time ducks under pass rushes and people. How do you know where that person is coming from? How is your pocket awareness now? Are there plays you look back at and say, ‘Where was the rush on that one?’
TB: I’m not sure. It’s just instinctive; it’s not something you think about much. It’s important not to think back there.
Q: How do you learn not to think? Eventually a quarterback has to think about it.
TB: I’ve never really thought about it. I just try to react to what’s going on and move to the open spot, and sometimes it’s not the open spot and you make mistakes. But hopefully it’s something where you can buy a little more time for your offensive line back there and stepping up and moving in the pocket is always important for a quarterback to do. We work on drills and so forth. It’s just a matter of doing it at the right time.
Q: Even though I know you do study, do you almost feel like you don’t have to study for the Bills since they’re a divisional opponent you play so often?
TB: Well, there’s a lot of familiarity and they have some very good players, guys that really capitalize on the offensive mistakes. It’s different than playing the Rams and so forth like we did a few weeks ago, where you feel like Friday it starts to come together. Hopefully we have a pretty good idea about what works and what doesn’t work, what they do well, what they don’t do well. That’s part of putting a game plan together and going out and seeing how it looks in practice.
TB: Once you’re into the week like we are now, it feels like a normal week of football. You always try to prepare as hard as you can and use all the extra time to study and get ready physically and mentally. There’s nothing magical about it; it’s just a matter of putting the work in like we do every week and going out there and playing well.
Q: During the bye week, how important is it to focus on your personal life?
TB: Well, it’s nice. It’s a nice little break for a few days. Yeah, it came at a good time for us, so hopefully guys used it well and like I said, you come back refreshed. We had a good day at practice yesterday. So guys felt pretty good out there yesterday. Hopefully we feel good on Sunday. That’s the most important thing: to use the week to prepare and not empty your tank on Wednesday and Thursday, but to be ready to go out there and be ready to go on Sunday.
Q: What do you remember most about the first game against the Bills? You were down 21-7 and then all of a sudden the offense clicked in the second half.
TB: I think everybody clicked. I think the defense clicked. I think the special teams clicked. I think everything does and it’s complementary football and capitalizing on turnovers. We didn’t play very well in the first half so we were down 21-7 and it was a little bit of an adverse situation for us and we found a way to dig ourselves out of it. Hopefully we don’t have to dig ourselves out of it this week.
Q: Going into the second half of the season, is the emphasis on playing complementary game going forward, not just the offense?
TB: Yeah, no question. I think that you have to play well in all phases, especially against teams that are playing well on a particular day. You don’t have many games where the other team just plays terrible and you play not your best game and you still win. I think as the season gets going, you realize there’s less margin for error and every game is more important and then you try to play better each week. Hopefully we’re playing better now than we did at the beginning of the year, but we’ve got to go out there and do it. I said that yesterday, but is; about going out there and proving it.
Q: Coach Belichick said yesterday that the best thing about the bye week is that you don’t have that game plan hanging over your head. When you win a game and you have to immediately shift to the next game, does that game plan get to be almost too daunting?
TB: Well, that’s part of the challenge that every team faces: you have seven days to prepare for the game. So when the game ends, the clock is ticking on the next week. If you waste time practicing things that you’re not going to run or focusing on things that you shouldn’t be focusing on or being distracted by things you shouldn’t be distracted by, then you’re wasting time gaining on your opponent. So when you don’t have a particular game plan, you can take some time to do some special projects that the coaches did to figure out how we can improve this second half. That’s really where a lot of the time was spent.
Q: You’ve mentioned that good teams are able to string wins together. As you enter the second half, is there a heightened awareness to that, especially with a lot of division games left?
TB: Yeah, this is a very important game for us. if we win this we’re 2-0 over a division opponent which is very critical. It’s a team that we’ve played a bunch of times and there’ve been some different types of games against this team. Like last year, we were down 21-0 here and then I don’t know how many points we scored ‘ 45 or I don’t know what that final was, 52 unanswered or something like that ‘ and it was the same thing down 21-7 and we win kind of going the [same] way there at the beginning of this year. In our first game last year, we were up 21 points and they came back and won. There have been some kind of wild swings and I think that shows the inconsistency that we’ve played [with] against them. hopefully we can go out there and play consistently for 60 minutes.
Q: Bill said yesterday that it’s important this time of year that you not waste any days. Based on the youth of this team, do you think the team gets the importance of each day?
TB: Yeah, and Coach talks about that a lot with us. He stands up there and tells us what we need to do each day and what we need to accomplish. He did that this morning. It’s up to the guys how much information you retain and whether you can apply that information, but that’s really our goal: to go out there and play very disciplined, very smart, very tough. If you do that, then we expect to go out there and play very well. If we don’t, then it’s not going to turn out very well.
Q: You’ve had some good numbers so far this season. Obviously you want to play better, but are you happy with how you’ve played so far?
TB: I’d like to play better over the second half and there is always room for improvement. There are certain areas where I need to improve and it’s been really a point of emphasis, so we’re going to try to do those things.
Q: We saw that you were at the Aerosmith concert the other day.
TB: I was at the opening. I didn’t stay for the concert.
Q: Sometimes you dress kind of weird.
TB: Thank you.
Q: What’s going on there? Who does that? Do you lay that out?
TB: I have no response to that [laughs].
Q: Is Aerosmith a band that you listen to in order to get pumped up for games.
TB: They have some songs that I like, yes.
Q: Being a two-time father, did you have any words of advice for Aaron Hernandez , who just became a father?
TB: Yeah, I saw him in the locker room, so I was very excited to hear. He’s a great friend of mine and he’s going to be a great dad.