The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs to advance to a rematch with Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. And they won despite losing running back Danny Woodhead and more importantly tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Despite missing 5 games this season Gronkowski was headed for another great season. He had caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns in his injury shortened season.
Tom Brady went on a Boston area radio show called “Dennis and Callahan” on WEEI to address the injuries and toughness of the Patriots to advance to the AFC Championship game.
“We’ve played a bunch of games now; we’ve never really been fully healthy yet — and obviously now won’t be — but you know what? We’ve still got a very good team,” Tom Brady said, via sportsradiointerviews.com. “When there’s different guys that step up and make those big-time plays — whether it’s Wes [Welker] or Brandon [Lloyd] or Deion [Branch] or Shane [Vereen] or “Rid” [Stevan Ridley] or Woody. Aaron Hernandez had another big game — they’ve got to stop all of us. And I think that’s what we have to continue to do this week.”
As if seasoned veteran Tom Brady needs any motivation headed to the AFC Championship game against the Ravens, who are riding the “Ray Lewis’ last ride” motivational train, a Ravens playerBrendon Ayanbadejo, took to twitter to supply it.
“We’ve had a lot of people comment about our team and our players this year. I think the best thing that we do is we ignore the noise, we go out and we try to prepare,” Brady said. “Nothing, really, that anybody says or does is going to affect what’s going to happen next Sunday. I think it’s best for us just to focus on what we can do, and that’s prepare and work and do what we’ve done all season. People want to say things or write things — they have the liberty to do that — but it doesn’t really have any bearing on what we do.”
Brady isn’t discounting though that the Ravens will be a tough match up.
“They’re playing their best football right now,” Brady said. “I did see a few of those Torrey Smith catches, and those were incredible. He had a great game against us [in Week 3], and he had a great game on Saturday. They’ve got a very good offense, very good defense, they’ve got some Pro Bowl special teams guys. They’ve got a great team and they’re very well-coached. That’s why they’re in the same position that they were last year.”
But don’t mistake that for fear. That’s a veteran savvy player giving an opponent their due credit and avoiding giving up the “bulletin board” material he downplayed. But he thinks the Patriots still might have the edge.
“I feel the same way about us,” Brady said. “We’ve got, I feel, the best coaching, we’ve got a lot of mentally tough players and physically tough players that are going to be facing our toughest challenge of the year. And I know we’ll be ready for it when the ball’s kicked off next week.”