Brady concentrates on ending this streak
FOXBOROUGH - Losing streaks rarely have been part of Tom Brady’s biography since he made his debut as a starting quarterback with the Patriots in Week 3 of the 2001 season.
Brady’s teams have lost consecutive games five times: a four-game slide in 2002, and two-game losing streaks in 2002, 2006, 2009, and this season.
There’s another kind of losing streak, though, one that’s much more painful, which Brady will attempt to put to bed Saturday night, when the Patriots welcome the Broncos for an AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Ignored or forgotten by some amid the three Super Bowl trophies and 14 playoff victories since 2001 is this sobering reminder: Brady and the Patriots are 0-3 in their last three playoff games.
The streak started with a 17-14 loss in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008, and continued with season-ending losses the past two years, to the Ravens (33-14) in 2010 and the Jets (28-21) in 2011.
“It’s been a short week, so I’ve been thinking about playing quarterback and what I have to do, and not thinking about ’07 or ’01,’’ Brady said. “I haven’t thought about last year or last week. I’m just thinking about what we need to do to win and how we need to prepare and execute.’’
There is no better time to end the postseason skid than now, with the Patriots owning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and Brady having one of his best statistical seasons. He threw for 5,235 yards, the second-highest season total in NFL history. He had 39 touchdown passes (second-best total of his career, after the 50 in 2007), and built a passer rating of 105.6, the third-best mark in his career. The two seasons that were better (2007, 2010) saw Brady take home NFL MVP honors.
In true Patriots fashion, Brady said what has happened so far means little when the second season starts. To an extent.
“You get to this point by playing a certain style,’’ Brady said. “They’re going to continue to play their style, what they think they do very well. And we’re going to try to do the things that we do well.’’
Saturday’s opposing quarterback might be generating more headlines, but Tim Tebow looks at what Brady has done and sees plenty of attributes - and accomplishments - that he’d like to acquire.
“He’s won a bunch of championships,’’ said Tebow. “Ultimately as a quarterback, that’s what you want to do and that’s what you want to accomplish.
“The three championships that he’s won, he’s played great and almost had the best season ever when they lost in the championship game.
“For me, being able to watch a quarterback like that, how he handles himself, the emotion that he plays with but at the same time the calmness that he plays with, the accuracy, the leadership, the way he motivates his players, the way he gets in and out of great plays, the way he’s able to handle any situation. Those are definitely things for me as a young quarterback I can definitely learn from and he’s someone that I’ve watched for a long time.’’
The calmness that Tebow noticed has been apparent since Brady’s second season, when he led the Patriots on an improbable run that led to the first of three Super Bowl wins. It also began a stretch of 10 consecutive playoff wins for the Patriots, snapped by a 27-13 loss in the divisional round of the 2005 season - in Denver.
With so many weapons to throw to - tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch have combined for 85 percent of Brady’s completions - staying patient and waiting for someone to get open usually results in positive yardage.
“It’s Tom’s job to try to recognize what the coverage is based on the play we have called and get the ball to the player who has the best opportunity, whoever that happens to be,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “We don’t know who that is, he doesn’t know who that is until after the ball is snapped and the play starts to declare itself.
“Tom will try to make the best decision he can and get the ball to who has the fewest defenders in that space.’’
He might look calm, but Brady can be vocal, and direct a little heat at receivers or the occasional coach, as Bill O’Brien can confirm. Passion is rarely a bad thing, especially in the playoffs.
“There’s definitely a heightened sense of intensity because you’ve got one game and there’s no next week. It’s really a one-game season,’’ Brady said. “Trying to control your emotions to the point where it doesn’t interfere with your level of execution is important. But sometimes you can’t control that.
“Emotions will be running high and I’m sure the stadium will be very loud, playing on a Saturday night. It’s special. It’s the playoffs. It’s why we’ve worked so hard to get to this point. Hopefully we can go out and play well.’’