FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady knows all about comebacks this season, guiding the Patriots to last-second wins over the Bills and Saints, directing two touchdown drives in the final 61 seconds to beat the Browns, and helping overcome a 24-0 halftime deficit in an overtime win over the Broncos.
Impressive all of it, part of a 41-game collection over his career in which Brady has led his team to victory after trailing in the fourth quarter.
But Brady has never faced a 28-point second-half deficit in a playoff game, something the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck were staring at Saturday against the Chiefs. At home, even. Then Luck orchestrated a comeback for the ages, leading the Colts to a 45-44 wild-card win, and sending them to Gillette Stadium, where Brady and the Patriots will be waiting.
“Once you get some momentum going on your side, it’s pretty remarkable to be able to do that,” Brady said Tuesday after practice. “Down 28 points there in the third quarter — they just made a bunch of good plays.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games, they’ve been in a lot of close games, probably more than anybody in the league. They find a way to win them. That’s how they got to this point. Hopefully we can go out and be the team that goes out on top.”
Though he’s in just his second season, it was the 11th time that Luck has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. None were as dramatic as Saturday’s, which gave the Colts confidence as they get ready to face the Patriots. Or maybe their body of work this season, with wins over San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver, already has them confident.
“They’ve had a great year and been tough to beat,” said Brady. “They beat some of the best teams in the league — teams that are still in the playoffs now. They can play with anybody. There’s no question about that.
“They have plenty of skill and plenty of playmakers on offense and defense. They have great special teams, one of the best kickers of all-time [former Patriot Adam Vinatieri].”
The old Branch office
Bill Belichick had the day off from addressing the local media, but he did participate in a teleconference with reporters who cover the Colts. Belichick wasn’t asked what he thought about Indianapolis signing receiver Deion Branch, who spent six-plus seasons with the Patriots, but he was asked what Branch brought to the team when he played in Foxborough.
“Deion had a great career here,” said Belichick. “Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we’ve had here in terms of off-the-field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things.
“He had some very productive seasons here. He’s a tremendous person. He’s had a great career.”
Branch, who lives in an Indianapolis suburb, was signed Monday. Speculation, naturally, was on whether the Colts signed the 34-year-old because of the information he might be able to provide on the Patriots. Not so, said Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
“No, not at all. We had worked out Deion three or four weeks ago,” Pagano said. “Again, every decision we make is based on two things: What’s best for the team and what helps us win, and we feel like we got a guy that’s a former Super Bowl MVP that’s played a lot of good football at a high level, so he can help us.”
Luck said he hadn’t had a chance to work out with Branch yet, but “I definitely will pick his brain.”
Surgery is set
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, a league source confirmed. Gronkowski will have the surgery almost exactly one month after suffering the injury Dec. 8 against the Browns. Dr. James Andrews, who consulted with Gronkowski on his forearm injury last season, will perform the surgery in Pensacola, Fla.
While his availability for the start of training camp in late July is in question, Gronkowski hopes to be healed by the start of next season.
This will be the sixth surgery for Gronkowski since November 2012. He had four surgeries to repair a broken bone and clean out an infection in his forearm, and back surgery in June to repair a herniated disk. He played in seven games for the Patriots this season.
The limited number of tickets for Saturday’s game that went on sale Monday morning have been sold. Only single seats were available, mostly in the upper deck and in the lower portion behind the enclosed end zone.
The price range, set by the NFL, was $100-$230. That’s if you wanted to buy tickets through Ticketmaster, the only official ticket distributor.
According to SeatGeek.com, which tracks the secondary market, the average ticket price for Saturday’s game is $223, which is the cheapest average of this weekend’s four games. The average price for the others: $415 for Saints-Seahawks, $352 for Chargers-Broncos, and $277 for 49ers-Panthers.
Secondary-market demand for Patriots playoff tickets appears to be dropping. According to SeatGeek, the $223 secondary-market ticket average is 12 percent lower than last year’s divisional-round game against the Texans. Divisional-round prices for games at Gillette Stadium have come down each of the past three years: $302 in 2011 against the Jets, $271 in 2012 against the Broncos, and $254 last year.
Strength in numbers
Count Pagano among those who are impressed by the Patriots’ running back-by-committee approach. Stevan Ridley (773) and LeGarrette Blount (772) finished with nearly identical yardage totals, while Shane Vereen added 208 yards (plus 427 receiving yards) and Brandon Bolden 271. “It’s a heck of a challenge,” said Pagano. “They’ve got a stable of guys that are all more than capable. LeGarrette is a big, strong, physical, downhill runner. He’s always falling forward, he breaks a ton of tackles, he’s got a lot of yards after contact, and Ridley is the same way. Then a guy like Shane Vereen comes in, and he’s so dynamic, it’s almost Marshall Faulk and Kevin Faulk, you go back to all the great ones, third-down guys.”
Dobson not spotted
Receiver Aaron Dobson was the only player not spotted at Tuesday’s practice, which was moved inside the climate-controlled field house. Dobson missed three games late in the season because of a foot injury, returned to action at Baltimore, but aggravated the injury in the finale against the Bills. Left guard Logan Mankins and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who like Dobson missed last week’s practices, were back on the field. The Patriots were not obligated to issue practice participation reports last week, and did not need to issue one after Tuesday’s workout, either. Injury reports will come on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday . . . There was a new player on the practice field. Receiver Reggie Dunn was signed Tuesday to the practice squad, and was wearing No. 84. Dunn, an undrafted rookie who played at the University of Utah, has spent time this season on the practice squads of the Steelers, Packers, Browns, and most recently the Dolphins. He’s a fast receiver, and physically the same size as Colts star wideout T.Y. Hilton. Expect Dunn to assume Hilton’s role on the scout team . . . In addition to signing Dunn, the Patriots promoted linebacker Ja’Gared Davis from the practice squad to the 53-man active roster. Davis has spent most of the season on the practice squad, but did play against the Bengals on special teams . . . Brady admitted to fighting a cold. “I’ll live,” he said. “I’ll be there. Hopefully not on the injury report. I’ll try to talk my way out of that one.”