FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is a future Hall of Famer, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Yet Brandon Lloyd, Ryan Wendell, Michael Hoomanawanui -- any Patriot who plays, really -- can be at ground zero on the play that alters the team's 2012 season.
Football is unique because -- even when it "comes down to" a team's most important player -- successful performances are contingent on others doing their jobs well. There is no "clearing out" as there is in basketball. You can't make an end-to-end rush as in hockey. No one man can throw a shutout as in baseball.
Where would Eli Manning be without David Tyree, Mario Manningham or Asante Samuel?
Where would Brady be without Adam Vinatieri?
Brady is demanding during games. You can see that in his demeanor between the lines and when he reaches the bench. He'll go to the verbal whip to push his teammates to perform at a higher level.
On Wednesday, I asked Brady about toeing the line with his teammates between criticism and support as the Patriots come off an uneven performance and head toward the playoffs.
"I'm only as good as the guys around me and they're only as good as I am," Brady said Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium. "Part of that is motivating each other so that we can all be on the same page and all be at our best."
Remaining at the top in a league rigged to bring everyone to the middle requires a different mindset. There is no "good enough."
"We get that from our coaches," said Brady. "We take the lead from our head coach who talks about getting better and making improvements and certainly not focusing on the things we're doing well but on the things we need to improve."
The Patriots don't muddy the water with a lot of different notions having to do with progress or checkpoints. Billl Belichick said before the San Francisco game that every decision is made with winning in mind. "What else is there?" he asked. "What else is there to talk about?"
Well, in professional sports there are now -- and have always been -- myriad other dynamics that can detract from the bottom line of winning.
Among them? Feelings. Finances. Distractions.
Who's getting paid too little or too much? Who's being put out to pasture or played more than he deserves? Who's paying attention to his personal statistic and who needs to be more selfish and assert himself? Who shows up late and doesn't lift as hard as he should because he wants to get home? Who blows practice assignments?
Can a 35-year-old future Hall of Famer translate his feelings into words usable to a 23-year-old fringe player?
"We all have our own feelings about how things are and we express those in different ways," said Brady. "It's all in hopes of winning games and to be at our best when we need it the most.
"Every team is different, every player is different and the motivations are different for different players but obviously, we're all here to win," he added. "That's what our ultimate motivation is as a team. And part of being part of a team is being selfless and giving up whatever individual goals you may have for the benefit of the team. It's all about teamwork and what we can build together."