Those fans who chose to remain at Gillette Stadium might have been nervous when the Patriots offense took the field with Sunday’s game on the line against the Saints: no timeouts, 70 yards to go, touchdown required, 1:13 left.
If Tom Brady shared that nervousness, he didn’t show it, and hasn’t shown it since he became the starter in the 2001 season. Poise, according to coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, remains one of Brady’s greatest strengths.
“I’d say that’s pretty much always been a trademark of Tom,” said Belichick during Tuesday’s conference call. “Even going back to the first year, we were in some really tight games throughout the year but particularly at the end of the year — the Oakland game in the snow, obviously the Super Bowl.
“I think Tom showed a lot of poise and composure in those games, which is as big as it gets. Throughout that year, when he first took over for Drew [Bledsoe] and started to become a regular player, we were in a lot of tight games — some we won, some we lost — but I never felt that there was a sense of panic or discomfort or anything with Tom.”
True to form, Brady guided the Patriots on a game-winning drive Sunday, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left, giving the Patriots a pulsating 30-27 win. Brady was 5 for 7 on the final drive, which goes in the books as the 38th time he’s led the Patriots to victory after the team was tied or trailing in the fourth.
Not being rattled is one thing. But Belichick said Brady is able to pick up things on the field that can help later. Say, when a drive needs to be executed and a game needs to be won.
“It could be a bad play that happened or an interception or a turnover or something,” said Belichick. “He would come to the sideline and say, ‘OK, let’s talk about what happened on that play.’
“He would very clearly say, ‘This is what I saw. This is what happened. This is what this guy did, this is what this guy did, this is what the safeties did, this middle linebacker was here. This is what I saw on the route.’
“Then you go back and look at the film and all those things happened. The six, seven, eight, nine things that he described were pretty much the way the play unfolded.
“I think that’s something that really was one of Tom’s greatest strengths, is his ability to see the field, remain calm, remain poised even though the stadium may be going crazy if we’re on the road or the situation . . . we may only have couple seconds to work with or whatever the circumstances are.”
McDaniels might work closer than anyone with Brady, and he has seen him fiery and emotional on the sidelines, at practice and during games. For the most part, though, and especially when the pressure builds, McDaniels knows his quarterback will remain level-headed.
“I think Tom is pretty steady at all times,” said McDaniels. “Whenever there is a situation like unfolded Sunday, I don’t think poise and composure are something that we need to concern ourselves with, with Tom.
“He has always done a great job of handling those situations and directing the offense in those pressure situations at the end of games.”
Brady’s quarterback rating on Sunday (74.7) was well below his career average, and was below his season average coming into the game. Yet he has said that it’s one of the biggest regular-season victories the Patriots have had in some time. Made possible, at least partly, by the quarterback’s poise.
In a hurry
The Patriots hadn’t used much of a no-huddle offense this season, but they consistently went up-tempo against the Saints, especially early. It worked well, with the Patriots scoring on three of their first four possessions and building a 17-7 lead. It’ll give the Jets one more thing to worry about heading into Sunday’s game.
“We just felt good about using it last week,” said McDaniels. “It always helps give you some advantages when you play well and when you do things well. When the guys execute as they did and you gain first downs and gather some momentum and some rhythm, then it always seems to be something that was a good idea.
“Using the tempo is something that we will always consider as we prepare for each team. It was definitely something for that game plan we felt strongly about.”
The sixth men
Belichick said no decision had been made on whether defensive lineman Armond Armstead or receiver Mark Harrison will be practicing this week. Both players were placed on the reserve/non-football-injury list before the season, which means that neither could play in a game or practice until after the sixth game. That point has been reached, so both are now eligible to come back . . . How productive has Julian Edelman been? He has 41 receptions for 411 yards; both are already career highs for Edelman, who had 37 catches for 359 yards as a rookie in 2009.