THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Right now, Brady is in a good place

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 7, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH - He has not lost a game on Route 1 since 2006. That was before Gisele, before Spygate, before Bernard Pollard.

Tom Brady is almost perfect at Gillette Stadium. The last time he lost any home game was back when we still took Eric Mangini seriously: Nov. 12, 2006 (Jets 17, Patriots 14). Brady has won 22 straight at the Razor, and he has never lost a playoff game in Foxborough.

“We’ve played really well over the years here, and we’ve played pretty well in the playoffs, too,’’ Brady said yesterday. “And I think we’ve always played well in the cold weather, because we’re all out here practicing every day and we get used to the conditions. The crowd gives us a big boost, no doubt.’’

All the streaks will be on the line Sunday when the Patriots play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Wild-Card Weekend. The Patriots have won 11 straight home playoff games and went 8-0 at Gillette this year. They are 5-0 lifetime against the Ravens (the forefathers of the Ravens - the Bill Belichick-coached Cleveland Browns - beat Bill Parcells’s Patriots on New Year’s Day in 1995).

Brady is 14-3 as a playoff quarterback. The rare losses, like the Super Bowl wins, are easy to remember. There was the “Champ Bailey Game,’’ a second-round loss at Denver in 2006. There was the excruciating 38-34 AFC Championship loss at Indianapolis in 2007. Oh yes, and then there was the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., two years ago.

Sunday’s game represents New England’s first appearance in the playoffs since the shocker in the desert. The losses stay with Brady, especially Super Bowl XLII.

“I think that one always sticks with us,’’ he said. “I think the thing you take from it in a positive way is that [the Giants] were a team that didn’t look like it had as good a chance as other teams to advance that far. They were a 6 seed, I think.

“It really means any team is alive, whether it’s the 6 seed Ravens or the 3 seed Patriots, right on down the list.

“It’s pretty cool to be in this position to have the opportunity to play. A lot of teams’ seasons have ended. Guys are home. We still have the good fortune to be a team playing.’’

Brady looked and sounded pretty chipper for a guy who’s supposed to have three broken ribs, a broken finger, and a touch of the bubonic plague. He shot down the injury reports earlier in the week, but we know by now we’re never going to get the real scoop on his health.

He said he spoke to fallen teammate Wes Welker, who last Sunday suffered the same injury that felled Brady in the first game of the 2008 season.

“I said, ‘Things kind of change and evolve in your life a little bit when you have an injury like that and I think you just really appreciate the game.’ Every time you walk off the field, you feel very blessed. You feel good to get on the bus healthy - win or lose.’’

Brady’s recovery from the Pollard hit resulted in him winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, an honor he was unaware of until he was informed by the media yesterday afternoon. During this comeback season, there have been questions about his accuracy, his health, and his ability to engineer fourth-quarter rallies. Despite all that, he finished with 28 touchdown passes and 4,398 passing yards - totals he exceeded only in the epic campaign of 2007.

His presence gives the Patriots a puncher’s chance in these playoffs. It has become clear that there is no dominant team in the NFL, so the Patriots need to adopt the “Why Not Us’’ motto employed by the 2004 Red Sox.

A rare bit of truth and emotion spilled out of Belichick yesterday. The coach was asked about a comment he made in which he held that playoff experience did not matter much.

“Does that also apply to young quarterbacks,’’ Belichick was asked.

“It didn’t in 2001,’’ said the coach.

Great answer. This was Belichick reminding us of 24-year-old Tom Brady and the playoff run that changed everything around here.

“You tend to remember things in all of them,’’ said Brady. “Whether it’s the Snow Bowl [a.k.a. ‘the Tuck Rule game’] or . . .

“We’ve had so many fun games around here this time of year. They’re all really meaningful and they all stick out.’’

The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-20s Sunday. It’s Foxborough in January. Where Tom Brady and the Patriots are unbeatable.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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