BOSTON (CBS) — Before Tom Brady even left his home for Gillette Stadium on Sunday, the report was out there on ESPN: The veteran quarterback was getting sick and tired of the way the Patriots were doing business, and the end of his time in New England was possibly nearing. According to the ESPN report, Brady’s confidence — in the team, in himself — was wavering. Meanwhile, a CBS report discussed the possibility of Brady being traded from the Patriots.
It took Brady all of five minutes on Sunday night to put the story to bed.
Brady came out roaring, completing a 20-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. He showed he was willing to do it all by breaking out for a rare scramble, picking up six yards in the process. Later in the drive, he ran quarterback sneaks on consecutive plays, the first to convert a fourth-and-1, and he was visibly fired up from the moment he took the field. He handed to Stevan Ridley to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead, and Brady and the Patriots never looked back.
It was not “wavering-confidence” Brady or “looking-to-be-traded” Brady. It was, simply, vintage Brady.
The quarterback smartly, confidently and calmly led the offense, handing to Ridley and Shane Vereen when needed and spreading the ball around to Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright and Julian Edelman when necessary. And in the wake of all the criticism from fans and media this past week, the 68,756 fans at Gillette Stadium showed their appreciation for the future Hall of Famer by showering him with chants: “Bra-dy! Bra-dy! Bra-dy!”
“That was awesome,” Brady said of the fans’ chants. “I mean, I’ve been here a while. We’ve got great fans, we get great support. It’s great to play well and play in this environment. I’m a very lucky guy.”
After the 43-17 victory, Brady was asked about the report of the growing “tension” between him and the coaching staff. The quarterback began to answer the question with a smile, but he quickly turned serious.
“I love all of those guys, all my coaches, and I’ve never had any tension with any of them, truthfully,” Brady said “It’s unfortunate that some things get said and talked about, especially when they don’t come from me. I think that’s … especially when you’re in the middle of a real tough week for our team, to deal with things that are really outside of football, and are very personal — very personal relationships I’ve built up for a long time. I’ve got a lot of love and trust for everybody in this building, because we all count on each other, we rely on each other.
“I think the great thing about this team is when we win, we always spread it around to everybody, and when we lose, we always take it to heart,” Brady continued. “And I think that’s different than probably what human nature is. I think a lot of times when you lose, people start pointing fingers, and instead, we tend to blame ourselves, which is probably a great thing for us. We can learn from our experience, we can learn from our mistakes, we can move forward trying to be a better teammate, better player, and certainly controlling what you can do, which is go out there and play your best. And a lot of guys did that tonight.”
Brady admitted that he heard the chatter this week after the 41-14 loss on Monday Night Football, which included Steve Young and Trent Dilfer saying the Patriots organization has not done enough to build a competitive team around him. But he claimed to not be bothered too much by such talk.
“Well, it’s hard to be oblivious to things,” Brady said. “We all have TVs or the Internet, the questions I get and the emails that I get from people that are always concerned. And I’m always emailing them back like, ‘Nobody died, everything’s [OK], it’s just a loss.’ I think we’ve always done a great job of putting losses behind us quickly and trying to move forward. It doesn’t always go right — football season, you don’t go undefeated every year. We’re trying to build something that will be tough to compete with.”
While Brady didn’t want to put too much stock in the off-the-field criticism, Gronkowski was willing to admit that he put forth extra effort to show that he had his teammate’s back.
“Yeah, yeah, definitely. I told my brother before we came to the game, I go, ‘I’m gonna make 12 look like Tom Brady again tonight, baby.’ And I went out there with my teammates, and we made Tom Brady look like Tom Brady after you guys were criticizing him all week — the fans, everything,” an emotional Gronkowski said with his voice cracking, eye black still smeared across his face. “And it feels so good, and he’s such a leader, and he went over 50,000 yards tonight. He’s an unbelievable player and I’m so glad to play with him.”
Gronkowski, who caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, caught the pass on the play that got Brady over that 50,000-yard mark.
“It’s an honor. I’m humbled about it. It’s great to even play with him,” Gronkowski said. “He’s such a leader and he helps make me the player I am out there, with coaching me and throwing the ball to me. He deserves every honor he gets, and I’m just proud to be out there playing with him.”
Gronkowski was arguably more pumped up from the fans’ chants than the quarterback himself.
“Exactly, that’s why it was so great, seeing all the Brady chants and everything,” Gronkowski said. “After the first couple of games, we were a little shaky. It’s great to come back strong, and [Brady’s] showing that he’s still a young buck, and he has a lot in his tank left. And I’m proud to be playing with him.”
Brady admitted that he was emotional on this night, as was evidenced by his sideline game of hot potato with Edelman which preceded his emphatic spike, though he curbed the statement by saying he’s always emotional when he takes the field. Yet it was clear that Brady was a man on mission when he suited up on Sunday night. He heard the criticism all summer long, and it only grew louder as he struggled through the first four weeks of the year behind a shaky offensive line. It intensified after last week’s loss, and it came to a head with Sunday’s report about Jimmy Garoppolo taking over for Brady “sooner than later.”
Garoppolo’s day is going to have to wait. This remains Brady’s team.
When Brady stepped onto the Gillette Stadium turf, his focus was not on bad decisions by the front office or coaching staff, and it was not on wanting a trade. Brady just wanted a win. And he got it. Convincingly.
To be sure, all of New England’s problems have not been fixed overnight. But if the 3-2 Patriots hope to find a long-term solution, it’s clearer than ever that finding a solution will begin by first looking at No. 12.
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