By Mary Paoletti
SAN DIEGO -- A win is a win, right?
That's essentially what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on Sunday night.
"It feels good to win those games when you don't play great,'' he said. "You have to win these games when you have an opportunity."
He was right. The Pats' 23-20 victory over San Diego wasn't a "great" game by any stretch of the imagination. It was ugly, even. The Chargers shot themselves in the foot again and again -- three fumbles being just part of the problem -- but New England never decisively capitalized on the scoreboard.
Brady was asked about his team's first-half effort.
"What offense?" he responded. "We had a hard time moving at all. We couldn't get into a rhythm at all. The second half was better, but I don't think it was great by any stretch."
He criticized but did it gently. It was the expected response from the Patriots' perfect politician.
"I have a lot of confidence when we play a lot better. We are still working at it. I wouldn't say we are in playoff form. But I will say we are 5-1,'' he said. "We've played some tough teams and defenses. We are just trying to improve.''
Sure thing, Tom.
He made his statements and the reporters all wrote them down. But something was off. His smile held no warmth; the words didn't match the mood. For however thrilled Brady was to have an improved record, he wasn't a happy guy on Sunday night. He answered just six questions, delivered his answers vanilla, and took off.
Nobody had a chance to ask about his accuracy.
Maybe it's because the stats speak for themselves. Brady hasn't had a first half yardage tally as bad as Sunday's 35 since September of 2006 when Buffalo held him to a measly 30. The rest of the numbers were equally disconcerting: 6-for-16 on completions, three sacks, and a 66.7 quarterback rating.
How very not-Tom.
The sacks weren't exactly shocking. San Diego entered the game as best in the NFL in sacks per pass play (21 total). But to that point, the clever Brady met the weekend being dropped just eight times while holding the football.
He finally started rising to his own high standard in the third quarter. It was a similar turnaround to last weekend's come-from-behind win over Baltimore. Slowly and surely, Brady picked away at the Chargers' defense to piece together a 17-play possession that stretched over almost nine minutes and resulted in a touchdown.
"We needed that,'' he said of the drive. "We've done that scoring a couple times right after halftime. But we have to do a better job starting the game and taking advantage of turnovers. I have to do a better job of finding open guys.''
"But like I said, it's great to get the win,'' he added.
There's that bottom line again.
The finish line certainly wasn't where Brady's focus was during the last practice week. On Wednesday Brady said that "In a game like this against San Diego you can't just play 30 minutes of football." Well, the Patriots probably only played a solid eight minutes on Sunday.
But New England won the game.
Brady also said: "There's not one position on this team that can't have their best game." If he had stayed around long enough for someone to ask, the Patriots QB could not have said that he played his best.
But, again, New England won the game.
Not giving up is a good thing -- that much is fact.
"One thing that we've shown is that we are going to keep fighting all the way to the end," the quarterback stated.
You just have wonder how far the Pats can take this season being "good enough."
Tom Brady will undoubtedly think about it. No matter what he says.