This past Sunday the New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins, 28-0, clinching the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye after the Colts defeated the Texans earlier in the day. It’s just another day in the office for Tom Brady. It seems like every January the Pats find a way to clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. No.12 isn’t taking anything for granted. Brady makes another quest for his 4th Super Bowl ring next week. He believes the Pats are getting healthy at the right time. Tom Brady joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan to discuss his evaluation of the New England Patriots regular season, the Pats knowing the Colts defeated the Texans before they took the field on Sunday, the return of Rob Gronkowski to the Pats offense, defensive coverages changing when Rob Gronkowski enters the game and the Pats taking advantage of the opportunity they have in front of them in the playoffs.
So you get a little Christmas present over the weekend with the number two seed in the playoffs. What’s your evaluation of this regular season?
“We’ve definitely made some improvements over the course of the year, which we always hope to do.We were at one point 2-3, not feeling very good about where we were at. To finish 12-4 is pretty good considering where we started. And the four games we lost were all real competitive games. If we can just keep getting better and continue to improve, we’re as competitive as any team left. I think that gives us a lot of confidence here heading into the playoffs.”
When you took the field on Sunday did you know what happened in Indianapolis with the Colts beating the Texans?
“Yeah, I think most of the guys knew [the Texans lost]. I think some guys were following it a little bit as the game went on. But coach [Bill] Belichick made a great point to all of us. He said, ‘Look, there’s nobody that can help our position other than us. Why don’t we focus our attention on going out and winning the game, and whatever happens, happens.’ So had the Colts not won yesterday and Houston won, I think we’d have approached the game the same way and tried to go out there and execute really well. I think that’s what’s most important. I think that was the gratifying part, that guys were really mentally into it. It was a cold night, it was a windy night, but the guys really hung in there and played well the entire game.”
Explain how much different the Patriots offense looks with Rob Gronkowski in it?
“He’s one of the best in the game right now. When he’s out there it makes a big difference. He had two pretty important catches yesterday. Those explosive plays in the passing game and his ability to stretch the defense down the field is very important. Aaron [Hernandez] did a great job yesterday. He’s obviously feeling a lot better from the bumps and bruises that he’s accumulated over the course of the year. And Daniel Fells and Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] have really stepped in and played a very critical role in us doing some things yesterday also. It was great to have everybody contribute.”
How different are the defensive coverages when Rob Gronkowski is in the game?
“He’s always just a mismatch. He’s got really great speed. He tracks the ball really well in the area. He’s got great hands. And he’s very tough. He’s very quick out of his breaks. He does everything well. When he’s out there, it’s just a tough mismatch for the defense. He’s got a really unique skill set. That’s why he’s been so productive since the day he got here. So, it was great to see.”
How do you balance not taking the playoffs for granted yet also taking advantage of the opportunity?
“Well the only thing we have is now. There’s no next year. There’s no last year. Only thing we can take care of is what we have ahead of us, which is two weeks from yesterday. The expectations are high around here. I don’t think we go into the season saying, ‘Man I hope we win eight games this year.’ We go in saying we hope we play well enough and put ourselves in a good position once it becomes January. We’re in a decent position. We’re playing hard, we’re playing tough. We won some close games, we lost some close games. I just hope that still our best football’s ahead of us. I really do. We’ve been waiting for our guys to get healthy. Hopefully we can be as healthy as we can be here in two weeks. I’d love to see what that looks like, when we can finally get everyone out there at one time and put our best out on the field for 60 minutes.”