FOXBORO -- Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in Sunday's Divisional Round.
But that didn't impress some Patriots.
No offense to Vereen. Because it isn't a knock. It's actually a compliment. The Patriots -- offensive players at least -- already knew what Vereen was capable of doing on the field.
They knew he just needed an opportunity in a game to be able to show it.
"This may sound crazy, but I wasn't impressed," said veteran wide receiver Deion Branch after Friday's practice. "This guy, we see this every day out on the practice field. It's just all about the opportunity that guys get. Not only him. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, give them the opportunity and we know that these guys can do it . . . But I've seen Vereen do those things at practice every day."
Vereen saw time lining up as a wide receiver against the Texans on Sunday. And he was targeted six times in the air, making five receptions for 83 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Still, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn't willing to give up any secrets as to how much playing time Vereen would get in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens.
"Its hard to have all of them in there at once but whichever ones have been in there, theyve all done a good job and performed well," said Belichick about his running backs. "At times we go into a game with different packages or different groups of personnel. Sometimes it depends on how the game goes as to which group winds up being in there more or how it goes. So . . . I dont know, he might have a big role. Im not sure what anybodys role will be. Well have to see how it goes. One thing about Shane is he works hard, hes smart, hes well prepared and when weve called on him, hes come through for us. Im sure hell do the best he can to put himself in that position again this week."
Tom Brady wouldn't take the bait following the AFC title game. He was told that he must've heard the "Where's Roger?" chants, and so then he must've had a reaction.
"I didn't hear that chant," Brady replied.
WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show took another run at the Patriots quarterback's relatonship with commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday morning. Had Brady thought about what he might say should he come face-to-face with Goodell at Super Bowl LI?
"Hopefully we’ll finish the deal," Brady said. "Hopefully we can finish it off, and we’ll see. Maybe I’ll tell you after. But I don’t want to get into winning something before we’ve won it, because it’s going to be hard to win this thing."
Should the Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl title, Brady probably won't be accepting the Lombardi Trophy from Goodell. That exchange usually takes place with the owner at center stage. Perhaps there's a scenario in which Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft allows Brady to take the stage first, but it would go against what has been Super Bowl protocol.
Brady and Goodell could be forced to share the spotlight on the morning after the Super Bowl, however, when the MVP trophy is handed out. It's a ritual they carried out together on the morning following Super Bowl XLIX, when Deflategate was in its nascent stages.
One would think that the embrace they shared that day -- long before the Wells Report was published and long before Brady and the league were pitted against one another in federal court -- will be the last thing that either man wants to recreate two weeks from now.
During his weekly interview with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Tom Brady highlighted the thought process that has helped make the Patriots such a successful team under Bill Belichick, and in the process of complimenting his boss, Brady also may have taken a little inadvertent shot at the Steelers. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin noted immediately after the Divisional Round that the Patriots had an advantage in preparing for the AFC title game because they had more time to rest.
"I would say in general on our team we have a sign on our wall that says, ‘Doing the right thing for the team when it might not be the right thing for you.’ That’s just putting everything aside," Brady said. "Ignoring the noise, the positive things people may be saying about you, or the negative things people may say about you. Just believing in yourself and not making excuses.
"There’s always an excuse you can build into why you lose a game. 'We’re only playing on six days rest, we have this person hurt, or we didn’t get that call.' There are a million of them, and they’re all built in and you can pick them all off before the game. I think our coach does a great job of never buying into the B.S. He never makes it about one player. He never makes it about one play. He never makes it about one call, or one situation. It’s all about all of us collectively trying to do the best thing we can for the team to try and help us win. He never lets his foot off the gas pedal so when it comes to our team, you’re brainwashed. That’s just the way it goes."
The numbers support Belichick's approach: He'll be coaching in a 10th Super Bowl, and seven of those have come as the head coach of the Patriots. Both are NFL records.