Another pair of pass rushers for Brady

603874.jpg

Another pair of pass rushers for Brady

FOXBORO -- The reeling Redskins look like yet another easy mark for New England. Of course, that doesn't mean Tom Brady will make it through the game unscathed. Quite the contrary. For the second week in a row, Brady and the Patriots offensive line is going up against a monster pair of pass rushers -- last week Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis of Indianapolis -- this time, linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

"I feel like every week we're talking about pass rushers, but we've played quite a few good pass rushers this year," Brady said before Wednesday practice. "I think Orakpo and Kerrigan are right up there in terms of their ability to set the edge in the running game, to collapse the pocket, to strip sack the quarterback. Even if they're not sacking the quarterback, they're forcing the ball out quickly.

"I think they're the key to the whole defense."

Defense is one of the few things Washington is doing well.

The Redskins have racked up 33 sacks this season for fifth-most in the NFL. Unfortunately for their victims, they're coming in from all angles; Washington is one of only three NFL teams with four different players having at least 4.5 sacks on the season. Kerrigan has 6.5, Orakpo 6.0, Adam Carriker has 5.0, and Stephen Bowen 4.5.

Keeping Brady upright will make for one hell of a day for Matt Light and the rest of the offensive line.

"Orakpo and Kerrigan play within that system really well," Light said. "I think both of them are very good at being relentless up the field. Mobile, mover type of guys; they've got great motors."

The respect inspired by these bookend partners is even more impressive considering how young they are. Orakpo has just two seasons under his belt. Pro Bowls? Two. Kerrigan, Washington's first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, has 61 tackles (seven for losses) and 26 quarterback pressures. His four forced fumbles is tied for third in the NFL.

The point of all the numbers is simple: they determine the degree of difficulty Brady will have with execution. When it comes to pass rushers, he said, a quarterback understands they're going to find him at some point. Brady won't have all day to figure out the best play possible. Routes will have to be coordinated with the protection and the protection will have to be excellent.

"Not sure if "fun" is the technical term for this match up," Light laughed. "Challenging... yeah, yeah sure. 11-years worth of being challenged. It's getting to be... "

Well, let's just say some of the thrill has gone.

Oh, but the Redskins could provide a few thrills with their versatility. Washington's pass rush has helped produce one of the league's top third-down defenses: 104 of opponents' 164 opportunities have been third-and-6 or longer, and only 25-percent of those (26 chances) have been converted.

No big deal, says Brady. The Patriots will just have to prepare for... everything.

"That's the challenging part from the quarterback standpoint is they do a lot of different things in their nickel groupings, so you have to be prepared for a variety of looks. They can pressure the quarterback, they can play a lot of double coverage, and everything in between. So you have to prepare for a three-man rush, you prepare for an eight-man rush at times.

"I think that's the thing that really keeps offenses off balance is that you're really not sure what you're going to get from down-to-down. They really seem to mix it up."

Another predicted win for the Patriots? Yup. It just might be another ugly one.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.