FOXBORO – Last Sunday against the Browns, the final five possessions for the Patriots went field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown.
Second-half possessions the week before at Houston? Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, punt (with seven seconds remaining).
Second-half possessions against Denver? Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, punt.
So, in terms of game-closing possessions in the past three weeks, the Patriots have 10 touchdowns, five field goals and two punts. And they’ve won the three games by a total of seven points.
I can promise you, you will never see anything like this again from this team. Mainly, because it’s taken 14 seasons for Tom Brady to do this and there will never be another Tom Brady here or anywhere.
The comebacks are a blast, Brady said Wednesday. Still, they are a sign of bad business earlier in the game.
“I’ve said after these games, ‘It’s not like there’s any special plays that we’re calling.’ It’s just that our execution needs to be better as players. I mean, [if] we’ve got guys open, we’ve got to hit them. The first play of the game last week, I had Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] open in the seam, I’ve got to hit him. Early in the Miami game, I threw an interception; you can’t do that. Not if you want to get out to a lead. So that’s what we need to start playing from, ahead. See if we can put the other team in some of the positions that we’ve been in, see if they can be perfect for the last few minutes of the game.”
Porous as the Patriots defense can sometimes be, there’s little chance another quarterback could be as hyper-focused and perfect down the stretch as Brady’s been. Asked if he feels his focus intensify when he realizes he’s the margin for error has evaporated, Brady said he doesn’t believe it’s different. But he didn’t sound totally convinced either.
“I try to go in there with all the confidence in the world that we’re able to do whatever we need to do, so I don’t feel like there’s a third-quarter Tom Brady and a fourth-quarter Tom Brady,” he said through a smile. “I mean, I feel like I try to always do the same thing. Now, you’re not going to make every throw in the first quarter or the fourth quarter, but I think it’s pretty cool that we’ve been able to come back all these games and win, that’s been a lot of fun. So I think there’s a lot of confidence that we can do that, and there’s been a lot of confidence that we can do that for a long time based on the guys that we’ve had in the locker room. You’ve got guys that can make clutch plays at clutch times, and that gives everyone a good feeling if you’re in that situation that you can pull it off.”
For weeks, observers have noted the Patriots can’t keep falling behind. That there will come a game...blappity, blap, blap, blah. Mmmm, hmmm. Everybody knows that. Brady pointed out the reasons for sluggishness are traceable to turnovers.
“All our turnovers have been early in the game,” he pointed out. “We wouldn’t have been able to close the game well and finish well if we had been making mistakes there at the end. It’s not like we’re turning it over four times a game, we’re just turning it over once or twice, and against Denver there were three times there in the first quarter. A lot of it is just us executing better."
Looking at the big picture, the 10-3 Patriots have no room for error either in the playoff race either. If they want the No. 1 seed, they probably have to win out to catch Denver (11-2). If they lose, they are in danger of falling to the fourth seed by winding up tied with Cincinnati (9-4), a team New England lost to.
But there isn’t a single quarterback – including (especially) the one in Denver – with a better grip on game-end situations and the poise to execute them than Brady. He is, right now, Tiger Woods, circa 1997.
“You make one mistake and you’re down 12 points with not a lot of time left, you make one mistake, that’s the game,” Brady said. “So you just put a lot of pressure on yourself to do it. You’d like to have some cushion there because it’s not always going to turn out where you can be perfect that last three or four minutes of the game.”