Sept. 29 was a long time ago for the New England Patriots.
“Honestly, I think at those moments, you’re not thinking about months ahead,” quarterback Tom Brady said in his weekly radio appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Monday morning.
It was then, on a Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium, that Brady and the Patriots were delivered a 41-14 loss by the Kansas City Chiefs. But on Saturday night, as the top-seeded team in the AFC delivered a 35-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium, it was evidenced how much four months changed things.
Yet not everything changed.
“I think we’ve always just tried to focus on the days ahead, and what we needed to do to make improvements,” Brady said. “I do remember at that time, we still had a lot of confidence in one another. We weren’t 0-4, we were 2-2. We lost to a good team on the road on a Monday night when we didn’t play well. And at that point, you’ve got to just rally around each other.”
Brady and the Patriots have since rallied to make it back to the AFC Championship Game for the ninth time in the quarterback’s 14-year career. To get there, the team had to overcome two 14-point deficits, which saw Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throw for four touchdowns and running back Justin Forsett rush for 129 yards.
The tides turned in the second half, however, as New England posted 21 points to Baltimore’s 10. The preparation from the coaches and players were the reason why, according to Brady.
“Coach [Bill Belichick] puts a lot of pressure on us on a daily basis to execute at a high level, concentrate for extended period of time, and that’s what he demands. So the guys that end up making it, sticking it out, are the guys that you depend on in the biggest moments of the year like we had the other night.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown versus Baltimore, while receiver Danny Amendola caught five passes for 81 yards and two more scores, with one coming on a 51-yard pass from former College of San Mateo and Kent State QB Julian Edelman with four minutes left in the third.
It tied the game at 28 apiece.
“Just what a great contribution, he and Danny got a great connection. For those two to hook up like that was pretty sweet. It was the perfect time to call it, we got the perfect defense. Jules made a perfect throw, Danny made a great catch and run. That’s why you draw ’em up.”
Brady’s own touchdown throw with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter was another one New England drew up. It called upon first-year Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell to reel in a 23-yard pass down the right sideline, and it gave New England a four-point lead that would not be relinquished over Baltimore’s final two possessions.
“I thought it was a better catch than it was a throw,” Brady said of LaFell’s play. “To see what JoJo did, the way he contributed, it was just an incredible performance by him, just to be able to contribute the way he did. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever played with. He’s just a phenomenal player and adds so much toughness to our team.”
But the Patriots’ contributions were throughout.
“In the biggest game of the year, like I said, you have the most dependable guys, the guys that the coaches trust and count on the most,” Brady said. “And the players trust and count on each other.”