FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady linked arms with Phillip Dorsett and placed his hand over his heart during Sunday’s national anthem.
But that’s as far as Brady is willing to go with any public message outside of football.
He isn’t here to take a knee during the national anthem, or to speak out against the president of the United States. He’s not one to rock the boat.
“I’m not getting into any of that,” Brady said Sunday afternoon following the Patriots’ 36-33 win over the Texans. “I speak for myself. I believe what I believe. You guys know me. I’m a very positive person, so I try to just live by example and say positive things about people.”
Brady just wants to sell electric foam rollers and play ball. And while the afternoon began with a memorable demonstration by more than a dozen of Brady’s teammates, the lasting memory from Sunday’s wild win will be Brady once again leading his team to an improbable comeback victory.
“He did it again, huh? He’s a good player, isn’t he?” receiver Danny Amendola said. “We’re just out there trying to make plays, and Tom makes it easy on us, getting us lined up, staying aggressive. He’s the man.”
Nothing will ever top Brady’s comeback effort over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, but Sunday’s win adds another incredible chapter to his storybook career. It marked the eighth time he threw a go-ahead, game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of a game, and the first time he had done so since pulling off miracles against the Saints and Browns in 2013.
Brady gritted out a great performance against a stingy Texans defense, throwing for 378 yards and five touchdowns, the last of which was a 25-yard strike to Brandin Cooks along the edge of the end zone to put the Patriots ahead with just 23 seconds left in the game.
“Those are the throws that you’re just like, ‘Come on, hurry up and get to me,’ ” Cooks said. “But it was a perfect throw, perfect timing, and I expect nothing less from Tom.”
Brady was heroic on the final drive, completing 5 of 7 passes for 93 yards and overcoming a holding penalty and a sack. But it wasn’t as if Brady zipped the offense down the field on the final drive, either.
Watch: Ben Volin and Jim McBride break down the Patriots’ win
He was sacked and fumbled at midfield, but center David Andrews pounced on the ball. Brady faced a third and 12 but was able to find Rob Gronkowski for 15 yards. And he faced third and 18 with just 54 seconds left and found Amendola over the middle with a 27-yarder to move the chains and keep the Patriots’ hopes alive.
One play later, the Patriots pulled off the miracle.
“We kept making it hard,” Brady said. “I mean, we had penalties, and then the sack and the fumble and it just kept feeling like we were going backwards. We were running low on time. I hit Danny on that pass, looked up at the clock, and it was like, whatever, 30 seconds left or something. I thought we had a little more time than that.”
This was no easy day for Brady, even though the Patriots scored 36 points. They had just 311 yards of total offense before the final drive. The Texans’ relentless defense sacked him five times, forcing two fumbles and returning one of them for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, the Patriots twice failed to convert third and 1.
The game looked bleak when the Patriots took over with 2:24 left, and even more hopeless when Andrews was called for holding on the second play of the drive.
But then Brady snapped his fingers, and everything fell into place.
“We thought we had them on the ropes,” said Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who had two sacks and a touchdown. “But we didn’t finish. Hats off to the Patriots, they beat us.”
Patriots fans have seen this time and again from Brady, most notably last February in Houston, but some of Brady’s new teammates were amazed.
“He’s just a legend,” rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise said. “You kind of got to get behind the scenes in the sense of you seeing his leadership and what makes him — him. You see it in practice and then you see it in the game. It’s awesome.”
Brady can talk all day about pliability and hydration. He’ll happily tell you what he saw on the final touchdown pass to Cooks.
“They were playing a two-high defense, and we got Cookie behind the corner,” he said. “We had Danny going up the middle of the field, so I tried to stare down the middle and then put it up, and didn’t really see the end of it until I saw it on the scoreboard.”
But he’s much less comfortable talking about issues outside the white lines.
Football seemed like an afterthought for much of the day following the president’s comments over the weekend, and the number of demonstrations held by players around the league.
For Brady, locking arms with Dorsett during the anthem was about as political as he gets.
“I just think there’s just a great love for my teammates,” Brady said.
He doesn’t want to talk about Patriots fans booing his 16 teammates who took a knee.
“Like I said, I’ve got a lot of love for my teammates,” he repeated.
And he definitely doesn’t want to talk about the president. Brady, who once displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker, quietly skipped the Patriots’ visit to the White House in April to avoid all talk of politics.
“Everybody could do whatever they want to do,” Brady said of the demonstrations. “I don’t care what the owners do. I care about my teammates, and like I said, the belief that I have in them and the love I have for them. We get to play a great game. I love playing. I never take it for granted to come out here and play in front of our fans, and to play in my 18th year is a great lesson for me. So, I don’t take it for granted. We’ll do the same next week.”
Brady is happy to let his play do all the talking. And Patriots fans are certainly happy to let him.