The Patriots are managing to stay hot in the cold.
Quarterback Tom Brady, who missed the media portion of today's practice, spoke about how his team continues to excel at this time of the year during his weekly Q&A session at his locker this morning.
"This is football season now," Brady said. "It’s not easy anymore to get out of bed and then to come work and then practice. And everyone’s tired and run down and weather is cold, and there are 25 things going on outside of football with the holidays and your family and so forth.
"This is when the real teams start to shine. I think that the teams that are really committed to doing the right thing on a week in, week out basis, the teams that play the best in December, are the ones that prepare the best. And that preparation is on a week-to-week basis. Once the game ends, it starts all over again. And you’ve got to get up to speed as fast as you can. The game ended in Chicago, the guys got right on to Green Bay and trying to understand what they do, and we’re going to try to out-prepare them this week. I think that’s the goal.
Brady was asked why the Patriots seem to rise up and play some of their best football this time of year.
"I don’t know," Brady said. "There are quite a few teams that play pretty well in cold weather, typically the cold weather teams – the guys that practice in it and prepare for it. Look, some games we play well. Last year, we didn’t play very well in the cold. Baltimore kicked the crap out of us in the cold last year. [It] probably has more to do with our level of preparation and commitment and mental toughness and attitude and conditioning. All those things really play a factor.
"Coach always says the opponent is not the weather. And it’s not. Last week, the opponent was not the weather; the opponent was the Bears. And we had to execute our game plan against them. This week it’s the Packers. I’m sure it’s going to be cold on Sunday night, but whatever it is, we’ll be ready for it."
Following please find the rest of today's Q&A session with Brady courtesy of the Patriots media relations staff:
Q: What type of challenges do Clay Matthews and the Packers cornerbacks and secondary pose for you?
Brady: Quite a bit. Clay Matthews is a hell of a player. [He has] 20 sacks over the last couple of years. He’s had 13.5 this year, 12.5 already. They can rush the passer. And obviously I know a lot about Charles [Woodson]. I played with Charles in college. He was the defensive player of the year last year [and he’s a] great interceptor. Nick Collins is a great interceptor back there. Tramon Williams is a great interceptor. They’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays on the ball. I’m looking forward to this week. It’s one of the best defenses that we’re going to face all year. I think we have a lot of challenges. I think they’re first in scoring or first against the passing offense. What more of a challenge could you want than that?
Q: Can you talk about your 11-2 record, where you are right now, and where you see this team going this game and the games down the road?
Brady: Coach always puts it best to us. He says everything that’s happened this year has just provided us with an opportunity. There is nothing set in stone. Yeah, we’re in a good position, but we can be in a bad position really quickly in a span of two or three weeks. So I think we’ve always focused on the challenge this week, and I think that’s served us pretty well. Green Bay is a hell of a challenge for us. [They’re] a very talented team in all three phases of the game and a very dangerous team. They played well last year. They’re playing well this year. [They have a] great quarterback, great offensive scheme, great receivers, and a hell of a defense.
Q: What has Logan Mankins brought to the table? Does he change the mentality of that offensive line?
Brady: That’s a great mentality that they have. I think Logan is really a catalyst for what we do up there. He’s a great player for us. He’s tough, he’s physical, he brings really a mean spirit to the group. Logan plays until the echo of the whistle. It goes right up to the end, so he’s always in the middle of some altercation or something like that. If there’s a pile up, I know Logan’s involved. That’s just how he plays. That’s his style, and I think he brings a great element of toughness to our offense.
Q: In which ways have you most improved in your 11th season as kind of an elder statesman now and more of a vocal leader?
Brady: I think with any veteran player, you naturally take on more responsibility. It’s not so much about, [like] as a rookie, learning the playbook and learning a routine. Those things are pretty well set in stone at this point for me. So maybe a little bit more mentorship, trying to relate to the younger players and what they’re going through and how I can help them along, as well as continuing to do my job. The most important thing for me is to do my job. Once I feel I’m pretty comfortable in doing that…the leadership role, my teammates elected me as captain and it’s something that I’m very proud of and something that I take very seriously, and I just try to be the best teammate that I can be for them.
Q: How much do you like this locker room because of that? It seems like for 13 games you guys have been consistent on preparation and getting ready during the week.
Brady: Yeah, and I think that’s something consistently that we’ve shown and we’re going to need to continue to show. And I think that’s why you make improvements. We’ve spent a lot of time on the practice field talking about a lot of situations and we’ve gone through quite a few in the games. Sometimes it’s really shown itself; sometimes it hasn’t shown itself. That’s why we’re out here to continue to work at it and prepare for it and prepare for things that maybe we haven’t seen, a new defense that we’re really not very familiar with. We use the entire week for the preparation in order to feel like we can go out and play with a great anticipation and confidence on the weekend.
Q: Is there anything that you have taken out of the Baltimore playoff game last year that has helped this year?
Brady: I think this team has shown a different identity all season. You learn from the losses. You learn from the wins. The things that we need to continue to do are prepare hard and stay focused on doing our job. When we do those things, it looks pretty good out there. When we don’t do them, it looks pretty bad. Like I said, the only spot we’re in right now is we’re in a good position, but really it doesn’t guarantee you anything. There are three games of football left, none bigger than this week. And I’m expecting us to go out and prepare hard today and tomorrow and Friday and be ready to go on Sunday night.
Q: As a captain, how much was the play to Deion Branch at end of the first half in Chicago your way of saying, ‘We need to have a killer instinct?’
Brady: We’re always trying to do that. It’s just those situations don’t come up so often. I think one thing coach has always talked about is situational football and trying to play well in the situation in the game. And I thought we handled it pretty well. It’s not something you expect. And if those situations come up this week, we’re going to try to take advantage of those as well. You try to catch the defense when they’re really not thinking like we’re thinking. That ended up being a big play in the game. Maybe Green Bay will be prepared for that, though.
Q: How has having Deion Branch and Wes Welker in the lineup changed the complexion of the offense in terms of your options and what you’re able to do by having both of them?
Brady: I think they’re both great. They’re great players. They’re extremely consistent, dependable, tough, very skilled. They can run a lot of routes. They have a lot of variation to what they do. We’re always trying to put them in different positions. They both played a huge game last week, and they’re both threats out there. If they’re open, they’re going to get the ball. They both know that. It’s great to have them both.
Q: Bill Belichick has always done a good job of keeping you guys on edge even when you have a good record. Has he had to employ different means to make that happen this season with all the young players?
Brady:Not necessarily. I think we give them plenty of ammunition. We give them plenty of reasons. I don’t think he makes anything up. He just tells us the truth. I know everyone wants to get carried away with an 11-2 record, but I don’t think any of us are really carried away. I think we’re trying to go about our business and trying to become a better football team this week. There is a lot of football left. There are a lot of good teams left on our schedule. And we’ve got to go out there and play well against them.
Q: Could you give me an example of how Bill Belichick keeps you from getting away from that?
Brady: It’s just on a day-to-day basis with him. Basically, when we don’t do things right, he let’s us know. There is nobody that’s off the hook. He holds us accountable on every single play and every single day. When we come into a meeting at 8:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and he’s got questions, 50 questions about the team that we’re going to play. We haven’t had a meeting about the Packers or the Bears, but he’s got questions. And basically, he’s trying to make sure that on Monday and Tuesday, we’re doing what we need to do to be prepared for Wednesday morning. It’s pretty embarrassing if everybody is getting their questions right that he’s asking them and then he asks you, and you really don’t know the answer. So everyone prepares pretty hard on Monday and Tuesday for his meetings on Wednesday. And that’s the way it goes on Thursday. And ultimately on Sunday when that’s our test for the week, when we come in Monday morning, he puts the tape on, and if you’re not playing the way he expects you to play, you’re held accountable. And I think that’s the greatest thing about playing here. When you’re a player, you don’t have to ever hold your teammates accountable. The coach does that. And I think that’s why everyone respects him so much. He coaches an 11-year veteran quarterback just the same way that he teaches a rookie tight end.
Q: Aside for the fact that you guys are scoring a ton of points, are there any similarities to 2007 as far as the way you guys are doing things?
Brady: That’s our job to score. We’re trying to score. We should have scored more points against the Bears, but we sucked in the red area. You go two of five in the red area; we’ve got to get better in that area. Look, everyone looks at a great win, but I look at us like, ‘Man, we kind of screwed some things up there.’ I really do. When we’re in a tight game, we better score in the red area. That could be this week. And I think that’s what we go out and try to prepare for. We don’t [say], ‘OK, that was a great win. Everything is great. Let’s just move on to next week.’ No, we’re trying to make improvements.
Q: You talked about a lack of mental toughness in the offseason. Obviously, this team has changed. How do you see that has changed? Do you think your little prodding helped or is it just with experience?
Brady: Our coaches hold us accountable, and the players respond. I think there is a good mix of players in here that really are listening to what our coaches teach. He wants us to be a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. He preaches that to us. Every day that we come in, that’s what we’re trying to be. Guys take the coaching, and we listen to the best coach of all time. Hopefully you learn something.