In his Friday morning press conference at Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick unsurprisingly dismissed any talk that 20-degree temperatures forecast for Sunday afternoon in Foxborough might give the New England an advantage over the visitors from Los Angeles.
“We’re playing the Chargers. We’re not playing the weather. Whatever it is, it is,” Belichick deflected.
A few hours later, at the same microphone, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a bit more open minded to the advantage the weather might offer against a team that left 50-60 degree temperatures to fly across country and arrive in New England.
“I just think the ability to practice in it like today. It’s very similar to what we’re going to get on Sunday so just knowing again, how many layers you’ve got to put on and how you’re going to feel,” Brady explained. “We didn’t have the nice, warm heated benches out there like we will on Sunday. It’s cold and that’s just part of this time of year. But it’s good to be playing when it’s cold out. It’s good to be playing this time of year in Foxborough. The weather changed a little bit yesterday. It snowed at the start and then got sunny and then got cloudy, then got windy, then got sunny and it’s just a bunch of different things. Just to practice in it, we’re prepared for it and hopefully we can use some of the things we’ve learned to our advantage.”
Though he didn’t go into detail to his approach to dealing with the cold, Brady has said in the past he knows how to dress for it almost down to the exact degree. That, he reiterated Friday, comes with experience.
“I’ve had a lot of practices here, probably a couple thousand, so I just know what to do, know what to wear,” Brady said. “It’s a good part of being experienced. The more you do your job, the better chance you have to adjust to whatever’s out there and again, I’ve been doing it for a long time. Hopefully we go out and play well.
Beyond Brady’s mild acknowledgement of the cold weather advantage, here are some of the other takeaways from his afternoon press conference leading up to the postseason opener against the Chargers.
Good old QB battle – The 41-year-old Brady was made aware of the fact that Sunday’s matchup with the 37-year-old Philip Rivers set a record for the oldest combined age of quarterbacks in a postseason game.
“Nice. Nice and old,” Brady said with a smile before being advised that the exact record on Sunday would be 78 years and 198 days.
His reaction to breaking a record previously held by he and Peyton Manning?
“That’s a pretty good one right there. That’s pretty cool. It’s just fun to be around – I’m out there today practicing and it’s whatever degrees out – 10 degrees, 15 degrees and I’m sitting here just playing with my friends, throwing the football around,” Brady said, sounding ever youthful. “I think it’s just a great blessing to be able to do it and do it here for this team, which I’ve loved to do. Philip’s been on the same team – it means a lot. We all work hard to get to this point. These things aren’t guaranteed, very tough to get to this point in the season. Every team four months ago thought they’d be playing in these games. The reality is, that’s not the way the NFL is, so we’re very fortunate and we’ve got to go out and try to take advantage of it.”
“It all comes down to this”: There is an obvious increase in the importance of Sunday’s action. Win or start planning for next year. Brady has dealt with it endless times before, but this is truly what all the work from the spring through the end of the regular season is all about.
“This is the time of year we’ve got to go out and be at our best,” Brady responded when asked about the state of his offense as it hits playoff action. “It all comes down to this. It’s a production-based league and regardless of what’s happened to this point, it’s about winning this game. If you don’t play great, really in all three phases – any time you play good teams, you can’t expect one phase of your team to carry you. It’s got to be a great complementary game. We’re playing against a team that’s played as well as any team all season. We want to go out and play well as an offense. Our defense has to play well. We have to play well in the kicking game. Everybody’s kind of at the point of attack.”
That said, Brady did emphasize the need to put the game into perspective, as it’s quite literally still just a football game.
“I think it’s still just a game we’ve played our whole lives,” Brady said. “It’s not anything different than that. Once the ball’s kicked off, it’s one game and like I said, regardless of anything that’s happened this year, it is one game. From the kickoff on is what’s going to determine who moves on. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16-0 or 10-6. We both have the same chances and it’s whoever plays the best game. Again, it’s a football game so this isn’t warfare. This is a football game. We’re going to go try to play as well as we can.”
Rush hour – For 60 minutes on Sunday Brady and the Patriots offensive line will have to deal with a solid, well-rounded Chargers defense that’s led up front by a pair of productive pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Ingram led L.A. with seven sacks during the regular season, adding a pair in last Sunday’s win in Baltimore. Bosa had 5.5 during the regular season despite missing half the year to injury. Including a single sack against the Ravens, Bosa has notched at least a half sack in six of the eight games he’s played this year.
“They’re great players and any time you’ve got two pass-rushers, it makes it tough to stop for an offense because you give attention to one guy, the other guy’s got kind of a free pass,” Brady explained. “So it’s tough and I think that’s why they’re one of the best defenses in the league because they’ve got guys that rush and any time you can play that style, the ball comes out faster than an offense would like it to. I think those guys really play hard on defense. They have a good interior rush, obviously a good edge rush, very instinctive players in the secondary, very good safeties, good corners. It’s a very good defense.”
Beyond the pass rush, L.A. also often deploys dime packages on defense with six or more defensive backs on the field. It’s partially due to a lack of linebackers and partially due to impressive depth of talent in the secondary. Regardless, it’s something Brady is aware of and will have to deal with.
“They’re good pass-players and I think that any time you get a lot of DBs out there on the field, you’ve got to be cognizant because they cover more ground than some bigger linebackers,” Brady said. “They’ve had some injuries at linebacker this year and I think they like playing with those guys anyway. They’re good players. They’re very instinctive. They obviously know what they’re doing. I think any time you go into the game they had last week, you don’t know if that’s going be your last game of the year, you put your best out there and they obviously went with what they thought was best, putting a lot of DBs on the field. We’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios and we’re prepared. It’s a big challenge either way. I think they’re a very good defense, very good scheme, very good players, very well-coached. They don’t give you anything easy so we’re going to have to go out and earn it.”
Read the full transcript from Tom Brady's Friday press conference.