With uncertain schedule, Brady returns to familiar territory

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With uncertain schedule, Brady returns to familiar territory

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady wasn't present at the start of Tuesday's practice, but the angst level in Patriots Nation -- so high two weeks ago when Brady missed his first practice -- is non-existent. After all, the Patriots' quarterback has missed the last two Wednesdays and still played, and played well, in the next game.

More of a concern is the fact that the team's preparation schedule is all over the place with only three days between Sunday's win over the Colts and Thursday's Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions. Brady even pushed up his day to speak to the media in this compressed week.

"I think it has its physical challenges and its mental challenges," Brady said of the short week. "We got after it pretty good yesterday. No one is really sure what day it is around here. It doesn't feel like a Tuesday, I'll tell you that. But as football players, we adjust. We do what we've got to do. We put a lot of installation in and try to understand what they do well, and what they don't do so well, and try to go out there and execute well on game day."

Brady pounded home the notion that coach Bill Belichick doesn't allow for any type of psychological letdowns. And the Pats -- a couple of of them, at least -- have been through this before; they defeated the Lions, 20-12, on Thanksgiving Day in 2002.

"It was a very inconsistent day on offense," Brady remembered. "Tedy Bruschi had an interception return for a touchdown. I hit Troy Brown on a late third down that helped seal the game, but other than that, we didn't do much offensively.

"You've got to get up, ready and early. It's an early game, earlier than we normally play 12:30 p.m. instead of 1 p.m., and it's about 48 hours away, so we've got to really get excited for the game and understand what we're going into."

The good thing is, the Lions have to deal with just as quick a turnaround as the Patriots do. They're just able to do it without much travel.

But going to Detroit isn't entirely foreign territory for Brady. His days playing at the University of Michigan always bring back positive memories.

"I think it was very rewarding for me," said Brady on his time as a Wolverine. "I had so many great friends and coaches over the years. It's a very tough football program and I think our head coach, Lloyd Carr really demanded the best out of us every day in practice, very much along the lines of what Coach Belichick does. That taught me about competition and what it means to be a leader.

"That was always a big thing we talked about at Michigan, was our leadership and our effort and our toughness. That definitely prepared me for playing for Coach Belichick. It's a great school, and it's always fun going back there and seeing a lot of my old friends."

Brady admitted that he couldn't play in Michigan's current system, under coach Rich Rodriguez, who utilizes quarterback Denard Robinson as more of a "wildcat" type QB.

"I'm the slowest guy out there on the field, so, yeah, it's a little different watching them now," said Brady. "Whatever it takes to beat Ohio State, not that we've done that very often lately, but hopefully it's our year."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.