Willie McGinest noticed chip on Tom Brady's shoulder from the beginning

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Willie McGinest noticed chip on Tom Brady's shoulder from the beginning

Maybe it’s revisionist history, but former Patriot Willie McGinest said he had an inkling about Tom Brady, all the way back to Brady’s rookie year in 2000.

“He didn’t talk a lot but he had a chip on his shoulder, “ said McGinest, who was at the Pats joint practice with the Jaguars as an employee of NFL Network .”He felt like he was overlooked in college, which he was. He outperformed the guy {Drew Henson} who played a little more than him so when Tommy got his opportunity on this level, he wasn’t going to look back.”

17 years later, Brady is still carrying that chip. It’s something he - and the organization - refuse to grow complacent. McGinest saw that up close as a player under Bill Belichick and with Brady for six seasons, and still sees that same edge during the 2nd week in August here in 2017.

“Starting off as an underdog, you always keep that in the back of your mind,” he said, “and I think this franchise and this organization has been so good over the last decade plus because no matter how much success we’ve had - or they are still having - you find ways to motivate and turn yourself into the underdogs. I think that’s hard to instill with so much success but they’ve been about to do that here and it’s special.”

We’ve heard Brady talk numerous times of the last couple years about his desire to play well into his 40’s. We’ve discussed and debated it on television and the radio and in print and on blogs. McGinest smiles at the notion.

“I see a lot of motivation now because people keep throwing that number around {40} and all the players i’ve talked to, or people who really understand the game of football, we don’t really measure the games by numbers,” he said. “It’s more about production, what you’re doing on the field. It’s easy to talk about his age, but if you look at a player who’s involved, who keeps getting better, who’s setting records in the Super Bowl, the biggest game of his life, and people are comparing him to nobody now because he’s accomplished so much.”

“At the age of 40, he was still 1-2 for the MVP award, which he probably should have got. He was voted by players in our top 100 - voted by the players, not us - they voted Tom the number one player in the league. How could you be talking about age, or when he’s going to retire, or when he’s going to be done or any of that stuff? i just think you look at the production, look at what he’s doing on the field. I’m not sitting here saying he’s gonna play another 10 years but I don’t think we should start talking about retirement any time soon.”

We will continue to do, but it’s more than likely an exercise in futility.

Patriots 'got to play to the last second' in win over Texans

Patriots 'got to play to the last second' in win over Texans

Tom Brady bailed the Patriots out again. With just 29 seconds left in Sunday’s game with Houston, the 40-year old quarterback/surgeon dropped back, froze the safety with his eyes and delivered the game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Gillette Stadium erupted.

“They were playing a two-high defense and we got Cookie (Brandin Cooks) behind the corner,” said Brady shortly after the game. “We had Danny (Amendola) going up the middle of the field, so I tried to stare down the middle and then put it up and didn't really see the end of it until I saw it on the scoreboard. It was close, and then they reviewed it. I'm glad we got the two-point play. It was a great win. Got to play to the last second.”

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The review was necessary because Cooks was awfully close to being out of bounds. But the third-year pro had the wherewithal to know his position on the field and what his feet and body needed to do.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really work on in practice,” said Cooks on keeping his feet inbounds. “It happens in practice but it’s more of a natural instinct.”

The effort was appreciated.

“It was awesome,” said Rob Gronkowski. “I was just jamming [on] that play. I saw Tom [Brady] release the ball and [Brandin] Cooks open. I was like, ‘Please have this complete for a touchdown’. I was like, ‘I see Cooks wide open,’ and it was a great throw.”

“Cooks, obviously, on the last play against Cover-2 down the sideline made a great catch there.” said Bill Belichick. He wasn’t smiling but you know he was - somewhere on the inside.

Of course, the ending almost didn’t come to fruition. The Pats had a couple of bad three-and-outs earlier in the 4th quarter, and then decided to add an extra 10 yards to what goes down in the record books as a 75-yard drive but actually covered 85 thanks to a David Andrews holding penalty.

“Yeah, we kept making it hard,” recalled Brady. “I mean, we had penalties and then the sack and the fumble and it just kept feeling like we were going backwards.”

“We played bad for a lot of the game,” admitted left tackle Nate Solder. “Not up to our standard, but when you win and pull off a win in tough circumstances, there’s something to be said for that. It’s building block.”

The drive didn’t have life until the first of two third down conversions. Brady hooking up with Gronkowski short of the sticks. Gronk willing his way to move the chains.

“I know a lot of people look up to me to get the drive going, to make the first play to get everyone rolling,” said the tight end. “It was about third-and-12 I would say and I just knew that – I saw the defense, I saw the coverage and I knew that I had to make a play there. Tom [Brady] read it pretty good and threw a really good pass and I just made the catch and I saw where the first down marker was and I knew I had to get it to get us rolling in that [two minute drill]. Everyone did their job from there on out.”

Brady then hit Cooks for 18 yards to move the ball past midfield. But then came the next roadblock. Brady was sacked and fumbled the ball. Andrews alertly recovered it, but now the Pats were operating from their own 48. An incomplete down the deep middle to Cooks on 2nd down had the Pats facing third-and-18 with just 54 seconds to play. Enter Danny Amendola. 

“They were playing kind of a deep man coverage/ zone that turned into man after 25 yards,” recalled Amendola. “I had a deeper route. Me and Hoagie {Chris Hogan} crossed. I came out the backdoor and it worked out.”

“Danny made a really awesome catch,” added Hogan.

That set the stage for Brady to Cooks. 

“Tommy Ice came out and did his thing,” said defensive end Cassius Marsh.

“I mean, that’s the way you write it,” said Hogan, smiling. “it was a great drive by everyone on that offense.”

Inevitable, it seemed, but the reality was far more difficult.

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