The Patriots are coming off a tough road loss last Sunday afternoon in Miami and heading into a tough road challenge this Sunday evening in Pittsburgh.
New England is 3-4 on the road this season and has not played anywhere near its best football away from Gillette Stadium.
During his Friday afternoon weekly press conference with the gathered media, Tom Brady was asked a number of questions about his team’s performances on the road this fall. Most pressing, what’s it going to take to close out the road schedule with a victory?
“Going on the road is always challenging in the NFL. You’re playing good teams and there’s a lot of tough road environments,” Brady said. “It’s always sell-outs and if we don’t play well, it really gets the crowd into it. It’s a great environment too when you can go to a stadium and then play well and kind of keep the crowd quiet. It’s a great feeling. It’s a hard thing to do there. A lot of these games will come down to the wire and we’re expecting a 60-minute game.”
Brady was then asked what it takes to make a good road team, which the Patriots haven’t been often enough this season.
“It’s just making critical plays and it’s great complementary football. Being on the road, the momentum can change very quickly,” Brady explained. “One play changes the whole game. We’ve seen that a lot playing at home, when you use the crowd to your advantage and everyone’s kind of into it and waiting for something to happen. As soon as something good happens for us, it just snowballs quickly. You’ve got to keep that from happening on the road and you’ve got to play well offensively. You’ve got to do a good job of possessing the ball, third down and so forth. Defensively, big plays and those really get the crowd into it and the kicking game, just playing solid. There’s no secret. It’s just playing a great complementary game and we’re certainly capable of it and it would be great if this is the moment that we really do it.”
Beyond Brady’s thoughts on what it takes to win on the road, here are some of the other key takeaways from his pre-Pittsburgh press conference.
Roethlisberger “as tough as they come”: Ben Roethlisberger left last Sunday’s game against the Raiders with a rib injury that caused him to miss practice early this week. But he was a full participant the last two days of work and will play against the Patriots. Brady never had any doubt.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Brady said. “He’s always been available for that team. I remember there was one game he didn’t start because of his foot and then the guy got hurt, Ben came in as a backup and threw for like 300 or something like that, some ridiculous stat. He’s just tough, been a great quarterback in the league for a long time, knows the game. He’s just a great competitor and he’s always got those guys going.”
While Brady clearly has immense respect for Roethlisberger’s toughness and accomplishments, it doesn’t sound like he’s tried to steal too much from Big Ben’s game over the years.
“He’s got such a unique style and he’s just an incredible player, prolific passer, great accurate passer,” Brady said. “They’ve just had incredible passing offenses. His style is very different and he’s just big, stands in the pocket, has great presence. He’s not really a runner but he extends a lot of plays and makes huge plays for their team. It’s hard to stop so anytime you play a guy like that, we’ve got to be ready to execute really well on offense and score as many points as we can.”
Size matters for Gordon: Josh Gordon has the third-highest per-catch average in the NFL this season at 18.0. He’s certainly fit in quite well in the Patriots offense since his arrival via trade from Cleveland on Sept. 17, catching 39 passes for 701 yards with three touchdowns.
Brady explained his comfort in throwing to Gordon.
“He’s very strong at the catch-point,” Brady explained. “He’s got a big body, it’s hard to go through him, he’s got a great catch radius. So when the ball’s in the air, he just attacks it. I think most of the time they’re not really going for the ball. They’re just trying to get him on the ground and his catch-and-run is dynamic and he’s made a lot of great plays for us this year.”
“I can’t say enough good things,” Brady added when asked about working with Gordon.
Not looking out for No. 1: Brady revealed that he was asleep before kickoff of Thursday night’s big game between the Chiefs and Chargers. So he missed the impressive Los Angeles comeback that gave Kansas City its third loss of the season and gave some life to New England’s chances of securing the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC.
“I think we just worry about honestly what we can control and that’s it,” Brady said. “It’s just us playing and whatever happens, happens. Coach [Bill Belichick] has always said it’s not where we play, it’s how we play. We’ve just got to take care of business on our end. This is a big one, this is a tough one and we’re going to have to play really well.”