Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted

Brady on playoffs: You never take it for granted
January 9, 2013, 7:29 pm
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FOXBORO -- Ten years have passed since a joyfully overwhelmed Tom Brady first hoisted a Lombardi Trophy above his head. 
He's 35-years old, now. He's also a better quarterback than in that 2001 title year. It seems Brady breaks a passing record or leapfrogs three record-holders every game he plays. A win against Houston in Sunday's Divisional Playoff would make him the winningest quarterback in NFL postseason history. 
Looking back on that first Super Bowl win, does he even recognize himself as the player he is today? 
"That was some kid, back then," Brady smiled. "You really don't quite understand what has happened or what's been accomplished until you try so many times and you don't get to accomplish those things. It's very hard to win that final game of the year. We've had a chance and lost a few. It's hard to win this Divisional Playoff game." 
He knows well enough. 
Brady has 22 playoff games, and 16 wins, under his belt heading into this weekend. 10 of those wins, including three Super Bowl championships, came in his first 10 tries. The Patriots have gone 6-6 during Brady's personal ascent. 
That one last win has been elusive. 
"The margin for error is less. You make one mistake, you're going to be watching next weekend. A lot of what we talk about in our meetings is making sure that we've got everything covered. You spend extra time talking about every little detail, every little play. And not that last week wasn't important, but the ramifications are different. We've got to be at our best."
You have to wonder how much the failure to recapture championship glory can tinge a season in retrospect. Falling just short is what makes Patriots fans cringe to look at that 16-0 banner at Gillette Stadium; not a mark of greatness, but a reminder of the ultimate letdown.  
New England has had 10 seasons with 10 or more regular season wins since 2001. The franchise has had 10 playoff berths in the last 12 years. 
But for the players, what does it matter without a title? Who starts training camp hoping to be second-best in the league? 
Brady struggled a bit in addressing the bitterness of being great enough to just barely fall short.
"I think every year -- I said to someone yesterday -- we try to win every game. It's not like I hate to use the word like that season meant nothing. There's always something to be gained from every game, every season. But at the same time I think that when you lose a game, whether it's the first game of the year or the last game of the year no one wants to be on the losing end. I think that you just put everything into it and if you win, great, you continue to move on. When you lose lose, you learn from it. Hopefully it motivates you for next year."
So maybe he doesn't quite recognize that 23-year old kid gripping 2001's Lombardi trophy. But he probably respects the hell out of him now. 
"You certainly never take it for granted; it's hard to get to this point. You've got to work pretty hard. There's a lot of teams that have worked hard, but certain things have to go your way and you've got to win a lot of games, you've got to put a lot of practice in, a lot of preparation to get to this point. It's as exciting as it is."