By Mary Paoletti
FOXBORO -- It wasn't pretty. But Tom Brady wasn't concerned with style points.
"A win's a win. It doesn't really matter if you win by 50 or by one,'' New England's quarterback said Sunday. "Because the following week, it really makes no difference how you did the previous week. It's like a chapter. Once this chapter's over, you move on.''
And so the Patriots will move, right on down the coast to meet another AFC East foe, Miami, in a Monday night matchup. Thing is, Brady knows it can't be a clean break from Week 3 to 4. He stood at the podium after New England's 38-30 win over Buffalo and he smiled and nodded; he even laughed when asked about visibility issues with the undersized Danny Woodhead. ("It's hard. He crouches down. He's tucked in there behind the center.'')
But Brady also fidgeted a bit. When asked if he feels more pressure to perform opposite such a young defense, the NFL veteran crossed his left leg over his right, needling one foot with the other.
"As a quarterback, that's a big responsibility that you have. You've got to be consistent. You've got to always be prepared and always into the game,'' he said. "There's no practices off. You can't not bring the enthusiasm or the energy. I wouldn't say it's different having younger guys. I've got to do it regardless, along with the other veteran players, too. I think that's the responsibility.''
So there among the usual praise of Randy Moss, the more recent nods to strong tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, talk of overcoming adversity and looking ahead to the next week, was something different: Brady feels pressure. It was a nakedly honest response. When considering the mantle Tom Brady has assumed for the New England Patriots, it's not surprising that he gets tired under its weight. It's just that he didn't want to shrug it off this time.
"It's a daily basis; it's practice, it's meetings, it's walkthroughs, it's games, it's Mondays, it's Tuesdays. It's not like, 'Hey guys, everything's great.' And the next day, 'Everything sucks.' And then, 'Everything's great.' And then you ride that roller coaster. You can't do that.''
He has to hold them up.
And the gravity of Sunday's game was further weighted with the loss to the Jets in Week 2. Brady had to steer the Patriots toward a bounceback. He did.
He went 21-27 for 452 yards, 3 TDs, and a 142.6 QB. He took his time, he used the clock. Instead of forcing plays through the air and leaning on Moss as he did in New York, he established a methodical ground game.
Brady even ran nine yards out of a scramble for a first down. After he slid under Buffalo's tackle, he jumped up and roared as he pumped his fists. The crowd roared back at its toiling Tom Terrific.
"I was just excited. I always say I'm the slowest guy on the field, so it was probably the last thing the Bills worked on. They were in man coverage, and I got flushed a little. It turned out to be a good play for us,'' he said.
It's silly phrasing when you think about it: "turned out to be." When you're an NFL quarterback you don't leave things to chance. You don't throw the ball in the air and hope it lands near a receiver. You don't take just risks and keep your fingers crossed. Every decision has to be walled with confidence, every play carried out has to be the best play for the team. If Brady runs the ball nine yards it's because there is no option that's better. Period.
Imagine the exhaustion of always claiming certainty. Especially when the plan fails.
The plan executed against the Jets did fail; the Patriots lost. This Sunday it was the Bills who went home unhappy and that meant success for Tom Brady. So that's why those style points don't mean a damn thing to him. The amount of time and energy he spends on leading his team to a win is more than enough. You can't blame him for fidgeting a little. And you can't blame him for circling back to the expected answers in the end.
"It was a good win,'' he smiled. "This week will be a great week.''