Patriots prepare for Saints with situational football

831895.jpg

Patriots prepare for Saints with situational football

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were given the day off on Saturday, but as wide receiver Donte' Stallworth pointed out on Sunday, that day off isn't what it seems.

"The first thing about being here, there are no off-days," said Stallworth after Sunday's session.

With the first preseason game on Thursday night, and practices scheduled with the New Orleans Saints the days leading up to that game, the Patriots certainly can't afford to have any "off-days."

The joint practices will be refreshing for both teams in the dog days of training camp, as Stallworth pointed out on Sunday.

"It's always fun to be able to play against, or even practice against other teams," said Stallworth. "After a while, your teammates, they start to know what you're doing, and vice-versa. Whenever you bring in a new team, it's always good to be able to compete against a different team."

While practicing and competing against their own teammates, Stallworth and the Patriots have been focusing on situational drills to make sure that they are prepared for anything that comes their way. That was evident on Sunday, as Tom Brady tried to work in a fake-spike in the no-huddle offense. His pass, deep down the left sideline, however, was overthrown, intended for Stallworth.

"Bill does a great job of putting us through situations," said Stallworth. "It's interesting, the way he does his training camps. That's why, every situation, we're always prepared for it, because Coach puts us through every single situation that can come up in a game, every situation possible."

Brady's passion was shining bright on Sunday, but not in the way he would have liked. Brady's frustrations with receiver routes and blocking forced him to yell, "What are we doing?!?!" toward the end of practice.

"That's how he's always been, as long as I can remember," said Stallworth. "Nothing's going to be perfect, but if you strive for perfection, then you're going to be pretty damn good. And that's one thing that Bill always preaches to us. And Tommy's that same way. He's a fiery, passionate guy. And when things aren't going right, things that we've done before aren't going right, then Brady's going to let us know. He's the leader of this team, and guys follow his lead."

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.