Melancon's wildest adventures are off the mound

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Melancon's wildest adventures are off the mound

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Mark Melancon comes into a game in the middle of an inning with runners on base and the game close, he's able to put things in perspective.

Sure, the prospect of losing a lead is daunting. But Melancon has faced more thrills and chills off the mound, and that allows him to focus.

Years ago, Melancon and his wife developed a "bucket list" of sorts. They compiled a laundry list of daring adventures they wanted to experience, and slowly but surely, have been checking off the activities each off-season.

This past winter, during which Melancon was dealt from the Houston Astros to the Sox, Melancon and his wife went to New Zealand where Mark was taking part in a program to work with Kiwi teenagers and introduce them to the game.

While there, the Melancons went on a shark dive, heading into deep waters in a protective cage, the better to be closer to some Great White Sharks.

"Shark Week (on the Discovery Channel) plays it up like the sharks are coming out of the water," said Melancon. "We didn't see any of that. It's like a big, huge fish is swimming by. It wasn't ferocious. They weren't coming to eat you, but they were right there, don't get my wrong. If you stick your hand out, it might be gone."

Great White expeditions are merely the latest activity.

"We have the whole gamut there," he said. "We didn't hold back (with the list). We've gone on safari. We have some crazy things. We've already hiked the Grand Canyon and biked the most dangerous road in Bolivia.

"It was as wide as a sidewalk with thousand-foot cliffs and no guard rails and cars coming at you. It's not like it's paved. It's just a dirt road. At that point in time, it was November and I think there were 55 or 56 deaths on that road."

Melancon resists the tag of "thrill-seeker.''

"It's more about getting out and being active,'' he said, "and not sitting on the couch and watching TV."

Nonetheless, the activities help him deal with the pressure associated with late-inning jams.

"One hundred percent, yeah," he said. "I always feel like if I'm out doing something, I'm learning rather than just sitting around. Subconsciously, I think it's there. I don't feel as pressured as someone else might."

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.