Hear what Tom Brady had to say at his locker on Wednesday as he and the Pats return from the bye week and get set for a critical divisional matchup Sunday against the Dolphins. Check it out right now.
Q: You said earlier this week that you are feeling better than any other time. Why do you feel like that is?
TB: Why do I think I'm feeling better? I think, like I said, I don't think I've been hit a whole lot this year. It's just been one of those seasons where there haven't been many sacks. I understand how to take care of my body and get the treatment I need. It's been a good year thus far.
Q: Does that take into account the number of throws you've made and how you monitor that?
TB: Yeah, I think that's part of it. If you're going to throw the ball a lot, like we do, you have to throw a lot in the offseason. I think I probably threw more this offseason than I have in past years. I think that's been important, too.
Q: What can you take from the last two games? Obviously there were a ton of yards and a ton of points, but they were depleted in the secondary. What did you learn about the team from those games?
TB: Well, I think what we've done all year is that when we execute well, we produce points, we move the ball, we get first downs. When we don't execute well and we don't move the ball, we don't convert on third down, we don't get the ball in the red area. If you're a quarterback, and you drop back, and you have guys open and overthrow them by about five yards, you know you're not going to score points. That's understanding plays that we had where we haven't done what we're coached to do. That's just not the way you can play football. In times that we go out and execute well, like what we did against Tennessee, what we did against Tampa, we scored points. I think it's just a much more concerted effort in practice and the concentration to get those things done.
Q: [On hearing early criticism about the offense]
TB: I don't think I've heard a whole lot of criticism. I think I've been very lucky over the years to play on a great team and we've won a lot of games. If that's criticism, then I welcome that. It's been pretty good for me over the years.
Q: Can you talk about this upcoming second part of the season and what do you expect out of this team offensively, going into this "crunch time," if you can call it that?
TB: We had a good week off. I think we did a lot of stuff to self-scout and evaluate where we're at to really improve and get better. For the most part, guys are in the spots where they need to be. We have a pretty good understanding how we're going to attack people. I think everyone's excited for what's ahead. We have some great opponents, a lot of division games - this one's a huge game for us. We haven't played Miami yet. They beat us here, last year, in the worst defeat that we've ever had here at Gillette Stadium. It's going to be important for us to come out and play our best game.
Q: Do you think that the Patriots and Dolphins defenses are pretty similar?
TB: Based on that it's a 3-4 and they play a little 4-3? That?
TB: It's a very different defensive coordinator. [Paul] Pasqualoni's been there for a couple of years. It's a very - as coach alluded to this morning - Bill Parcells-type of team that he's built as general manager. They're all big, they're all physical, they're all tough. They're very stout in short-yardage situations. They're good in the red area. We weren't very good in the red area against them last year; we were 4-of-8. They have their strengths and I think we have to understand ways that we need to try to attack them, and ways that we need to try go out and execute well so that we can hopefully produce points.
Q: They've always been a tough opponent for you. Is it just a matter of personnel, guys like Jason Taylor and Joey Porter?
TB: They've had a great defensive front seven for as long as I can remember and it's still the same, whether it was [Jason] Taylor, [Joey] Porter, Trace Armstrong, [Tim] Bowens, [Daryl] Gardner, over the years, Vonnie Holliday. Now, they've got a younger group that's just as active and puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and, obviously, Jason Taylor, he still is one of the forces in the league. He leads their team in sacks this year, so he's playing really well. We've got to account for him certainly because he had a fumble return for a touchdown last week. He's an explosive player and he really gets them going. You don't want too many situations where he's celebrating in the end zone, or anything like that; that's not going to be good for our team.
Q: You talked about the evolution of the offense last week and how you tried different personnel this year - and looking back to 2007 - you just didn't have the personnel to do what you did then. Has that been one of the best things about this team over the years, that you've been able to adapt and not be so stubborn to change things?
TB: Yeah, I think we've always tried to do that. It does no good to beat yourself up over and over and say, 'We're just not good at this. We're just not good at that.' You're obviously trying to make improvements on the things that you're not good at, but at the same time if you're asking certain players to do certain things they're not the best at [then] that kind of defeats what you're trying to do as an offense. You're trying to get your players in the best position possible so that they can go make plays. Over the years, we have done that. I think that's why I have always enjoyed the later part of the season because your team is what it is at that point. You've really seen what the other defenses can do. In the first couple of games of the season, you're trying some new things out, they're trying new things out. At this point, what we've seen on Miami's defense, that's what it is. That's the way they play. Like I said, they do some things very well. You have to understand the things that they do well and try to keep them from doing those things.
Q: Does it help at all the fact that you've all ready played the Jets this season and seeing what they did against the Jets last week? Does that help in the preparation, seeing it against teams that you've all ready played?
TB: Not really, every week is very different. We beat Tennessee pretty bad a couple of week ago and then they beat Jacksonville pretty bad last week. Each week is different. Each week has its own set of plays in the game that change it. [Miami] played two tough games against the Jets and they came out victorious in both. It came down to the red area - the Jets didn't score last week in the red area and Miami scored in the red area. That's what it comes down to, it's just a handful of plays and who makes the play. That decides the winner a lot of the times.
Q: I know you didn't play last year, but just to emphasize the importance of division games, have anybody brought up not winning the tie-breaker last year?
TB: To win a division, you have to play good in the division. You're not going to win the division and be 3-3 every year. We're 1-1 in the division right now and - like I said - we have four key division games coming up and this one is right at the top of the list. You've got to play well in these games and it's teams that usually know you the best that ... They have a lot of confidence they can beat us at home. They beat us last year, the worst defeat we've ever had [at Gillette Stadium]. It's going to come down to who makes those plays, where the execution is at, whether we complete the ball or we don't complete the ball and whether they can rush the passer or can't rush the passer. Hopefully, that's what it comes down to.
Q: It seems like you have a healthy relationship with Jason Taylor having played against him so often. Is there one story that stands out in your mind or can you talk about some of the back and forth against him?
TB: He's been kind of what that team ... They've been a defensive-oriented team over the years. They're always played well on defense - with Zack Thomas and Jason Taylor for a long time. When [Taylor] left the division last year, I thought that would be the end of it, but then he came right back this year. That's not very comforting to have him back there. We've had our friendship over the years. When you play somebody as many times as we've played him ... He's a force. He's like any team's best player, you can't go in there and think that he's not going to make the plays, he always rises to those occasions. He's a great player. I'm sure we're expecting his best game this week.
Q: Can you think of any time when you've said something in the huddle and it led to a positive situation late in the game? Is there any message you delivered or story that you can tell from a situation late in the game that you can kind of look back and remember?
TB: Well, naturally, everybody shuts up when I get in the huddle. That's just the way it is. It's natural for the quarterback, when you walk in and have something to say, it's usually very important. I'm always the one talking out there. Other guys, obviously have input, but when I say something, that's what I mean and that's what we're going to do. They probably tune me out most of the time, knowing most of those guys. I try to encourage everybody and get everybody on the same page. When it's not going well, you try to find ways to encourage guys. When it's going good, you try to keep them focused. There are probably no specific examples, but ...
Q: Some guys brought up the Buffalo game earlier this year.
TB: Yeah, we were down by 11, so there's only so much you can say about it other than 'This is what we have to do.' It ended up coming true, that's what happened. And I think reality is that we went out there and executed. I can say whatever I want to say, if we go out there and stink for the last half of that game, then that's the way it's going to be. But we went out and played better. I don't think it was anything that I said, I think it was just us going out there and doing it.
Q: When you guys go to an empty backfield and you guys do that quite a bit, as a quarterback, what do you like about that and what do feel has allowed you to be successful doing that?
TB: Anytime you empty a backfield, they pretty much know what protection you going to be in. You have five blockers, so if they bring a sixth guy, you have to throw it quick. If they bring five guys, you have to sort the five that are coming, so it's always a protection issue when you're in an empty formation. If you can pick it up, you can really sort out the coverage pretty easily because they all have to spread out and cover up their guy. It's nice for a quarterback to be able to see the defense, to see them separate, then you're able to pick your best matchup. If you can find your matchup before the ball is snapped, then you can protect it and it's usually a pretty good play.
Q: In the middle of critiquing your own play, do you ever get the change to step back yourself and see that you're overachieving, yourself?
TB: Like I've always said, I have pretty high expectations for myself. If there are guys that are open and I don't hit them, it's usually not a very good week for me. That's kind of how you judge your performance. Did I do my job? Did I do what the coach asked me to do? Did we win the game? You're always happy when you win the game, but as a quarterback you want to be a great contributor, you don't want to throw three interceptions. When you win, you're feeling good. That's not how I ever feel. I want to go out there - and when the play is called - go out there and execute it as well as I can.
Q: But you've never completed 100 percent of your passes.
TB: And that's true. I'm not saying that you have to complete every pass to have a great game either. You take a sack and sometimes that's a good play, or you throw the ball away and that's a good play. You can play really smart situational football. You're going to miss passes as a quarterback, but it's about how you respond to those, how you play in those third-down situations, how you played in the red area, how you played in two-minute situations. Ultimately, you're the only person who knows the decision you were making at the time, so it's pretty easy for me to evaluate how I played, and what I was thinking, and why I did something that obviously nobody else would really know. That's how I judge the performance.