Tom Brady: ‘As the season goes on, the games only get bigger’
|12.24.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
Even though its the Bills coming to town during Christmas week, the Patriots know they cannot afford a letdown.
Tom Brady acknowledged Tuesday that while the holiday presents some logistical challenges in terms of preparation — the players will get Wednesday off before returning to work on Thursday — there’s too much at stake to risk losing focus.
“We’ve worked too hard for too long to get to this point,” the quarterback said Tuesday. “We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us, and you just don’t want to go out there and not give it your best and put out an effort that’s less than 100 percent of what you’re capable of — because, like I said, it’s been 11 months of work to get us back to this point.
“We always say as the season goes on, the games only get bigger and bigger and bigger, and I think that is this week too,” he added. “I mean, it is Christmas week, and there’s nothing that anyone can do to change it, this is just the way it is. But every team is dealing with it to a certain degree, so it’s just, when we’re here, the mental and physical preparation needs to be at its best.”
Brady and the Patriots are fully aware of the fact that a win over the Bills would at least guarantee the No. 2 seed in the AFC. (If they beat Buffalo and Denver loses to Oakland, that would give New England the top seed.) However, a loss, combined with a Bengals win, would drop the Patriots to No. 3.
“It’s going to be a huge game for us, so I think we’ll need our best effort,” said Brady. “I think we showed last week what we’re capable of if we can play four quarters of football, and that’s what we’re going to try to do this week, that’s what it’s going to take.
“We’re playing one of the best defenses in the league, a team that’s sacked the quarterback more than anybody in the whole league. They’ve got, I think, [the] second-most interceptions, so they put a lot of pressure on you offensively, and we’re going to have to find ways to answer, because they do a really great job.”
Brady has enjoyed great success in his career against the Bills — he has a 21-2 mark against Buffalo, including 11-0 at home. In those 23 games against the Bills, Brady has averaged the following stat line: 21-for-32 for 248 yards, with 2.3 touchdowns and less than one pick per game.
Despite those numbers, there’s no sense that Brady is taking this game for granted.
“There’s a lot to prepare for, no question,” Brady said of the Buffalo defense. “It’s one of those defenses that does a lot of different things. Similar to how when we played the Jets; they’ve got a lot of calls and a lot of looks, and they try to confuse you. They’ve got a lot of coverage looks, a lot of front looks, a lot of blitzes, so they put pressure on you in a lot of areas.
“I think it’s just ‘ you’ve got to study what they do, kind of like we do every week. It’s just a lot of mental preparation, and it’s the holiday season, but at the same time, it’s the most important game of the year. So I think when we’re here, we’ve really got to focus on what we need to do, which is play our best game and be on top of things right from the kickoff all the way through the fourth quarter.”
Here are some other highlights from Brady’s Tuesday Q&A:
It seemed like there was a tone before the Baltimore game that you guys expected to win and get that kind of effort. Has there been anything going on internally that would lead you to believe that effort was on its way?
“I think we’ve been pretty competitive all season with the teams that we’ve played, and even our losses have been competitive right up to the end. We feel like if we go in there and play the way we’re capable of that we’ve got a great chance to win. We really haven’t done that for 60 minutes in all three phases of the game. We had a great game on special teams, we did a great job defensively, and offensively we did some good things to get us off to a good start, so that’s what it’s going to take again this week. You can’t expect to play 20 minutes of football and win games, not at important times here, not against the best teams and the best defenses. This is a team that really challenges us in a lot of ways, and it’s going to have to be the same type of effort. It can’t be anything less than that.”
How important is it to have a dependable third-down back in your offense? It seems like the offense tends to struggle when Shane Vereen isn’t out there.
“Well, yeah. I think it’s definitely ‘ he’s a big part of our offense. Any time you’re missing really good players, it affects the offense, and Shane’s one of the good ones, one of the best that we have on our team. Everyone has a lot of confidence in what he’s able to do, and when he’s out there and playing well and part of the offense, our offense does a much better job. We need all the guys at this point to do the best they can do. We need all of the receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen ‘ we really can’t afford to miss anyone at this point. The games are too important, the margin of error is too slim, and we’d really like to be at our best.”
Legendary University of Michigan equipment manager Jon Falk is retiring after 38 years on the job. What did he mean to you? Do you have any fond memories of him?
“Sure. Yeah, a lot. He’s just a great man who did a lot of great things for the school, and every player that came in and out of there was influenced by him in some way. He’s a great representative for the school and touched a lot of people’s lives, so it will a big loss. It’ll be hard shoes to fill. He’s a great man.”
Any funny stories or memories?
“Yeah, I mean there’s always ‘ I’ve got a lot of stories. But yeah, those are all pretty personal. He’s just a great man.”
There was a story that you shared with NFL Films about Falk’s favorite championship ring being the next one. With 14 years of experience and with so much success early in your career, is there a deeper understanding of the meaning of that story?
“Yeah. You’re always striving to do better, and I think in this game you never really have everything figured out, so you’re trying to make improvements in your career over the course of every season, every practice, and it’s just a constantly changing game. It evolves with the players you have, the players you’re playing against; you never can really take things for granted. It’s a challenging league, and as you can see this year, there are a lot of good teams. A lot of teams are still in position to get into the playoffs, so we’re one of those teams that our whole season’s ahead of us. You’d think that we’ve played for 15 games, but there’s still a lot to be seen with this team, and I think that’s an exciting part for us.”