Curran: Patriots put selves in position to sit pretty

972939.jpg

Curran: Patriots put selves in position to sit pretty

FOXBORO If you think the Patriots were lucky to get a little help from the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, theres an old saying to remember. You make your own luck.

Everything broke right for the Patriots on the final Sunday of the 2012 regular season (with the exception of whatever broke or was injured in Rob Ninkovichs hip). But they were in position to benefit from whatever slip-up the staggering Texans executed by being the best team in the AFC in 2012.

The Patriots played four of the other five playoff entrants in 2012. They beat Denver and crushed Indy and Houston. They lost to the Ravens on the road in a game that was impacted by the nearly-forgotten blight on this year, the replacement officials.

For their troubles, the Patriots get a week of rest before they saddle up a week from Sunday for the final game of the Divisional Playoffs.

On the line then will be a trip to their seventh AFC Championship game since 2001. The likelihood is high that it will be another epic matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Its a damn long way from 3-3, which is what the Patriots were after they lost in the rain out in Seattle, 24-23.

Well, weve won 10 of 11, so its pretty good, noted Tom Brady. We were 2-3 at one point (Editor's note: Patriots have won 9 of 10, were 3-3 at one point - not 2-3), and we had some tough games early in the year. We won 10 of 11 and the only loss was a against a pretty good football team where we turned it over four times. So if we dont turn it over four times, I like our chances.

Their chances of getting where they want to be Louisiana in early February ballooned when Houston lost and the Dolphins took their tentative steps into the cold air of Foxboro and raised the white flag.

Then, the Patriots werent playing just for the intangible seed but a very tangible need. The need for rest.

Talking to Brady briefly at his locker after the game, he immediately ran through a litany of teammates who will benefit from the extra time off. He started with the secondary, mentioning Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib first. Brady knows that in the playoffs a steady defense will keep you in the game no matter how of a rock fight it becomes.

And the rock fights are coming.

Everything rises to a whole other level now, said Vince Wilfork. Every team you face is a good football team. You're not playing any teams that are below average; you're playing all top quality teams, so we have to be at our top. We have to be at our best every play, every situation for 60 minutes sometimes it might be more. Every time we take the field, we have to understand that we have to make a play. These guys have done a really good job all year. Theyve done a really good job all year and I'm expecting for them to do the same thing, but just raise our level of play just a little bit each week. More and more each week and hopefully it will get us where we need to be.

If the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak or wounded taking it up a level is a tall order. But with another week to heal, the best quarterback-coach combo of all-time and the knowledge in their pockets that they can beat any team in the AFC field, the odds-on favorite to be in Nawlins next month has now become the Patriots.

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he'd received a phone call from Tom Brady, Brady's response when questioned by reporters at a mass press conference was "Let's talk about football."

This morning, during his weekly interview on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady shed a little more light onto the subject.

Though not a whole lot more.

"I have called him, yes, in the past," Brady said when given the chance the confirm or deny the call.  "Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

He also explained why he chooses to dance around this topict . . . and a lot of others.

“I’m a pretty positive person, so I don’t want to create any distractions for our team and so forth,” he said. “I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity. Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach … I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host."

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."