Nerves were the talk of the day at Gillette Stadium.
First, Bill Belichick explained in his morning press conference that even after four decades of NFL action and in the midst of a streak of eight straight AFC Championship Game appearances he still gets nervous before games.
“Every week,” Belichick said, explaining that they all matter and that being anxious is a part of the job. “Nervous, yeah. Sure. You want to go out there and do well. There’s an anxiety. We all have things in the game that we have to do. You want to perform them well, not let your team down because everybody’s counting on you to do your job. You’re counting on everybody else to do theirs. You don’t worry about everybody else. You just worry about doing what you can do and make sure you don’t screw up what you’re supposed to do, what you’re responsible for, because nobody else can do that. That’s your job, and we all have jobs to do. We all want to do them well.”
A few hours later, during his second press conference of the week, Tom Brady explained that he also still gets nervous in his 19th NFL season, though for him the anxiety peaks not on game day but earlier in the week.
“Do I get nervous? A little bit. Yeah, a little bit,” Brady said. “Probably more so during the week than probably leading up to the game, but more like Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, just as you’re preparing and trying to get to know the other team. I feel like the more I prepare, the less nervous I get because I can kind of expect how things are going to go a little bit more if I have a little more information on the team. So, the more film I watch, the less nervous I get, and as soon as the ball’s kicked off, there’s not too many nerves.”
Beyond all the talk of being nervous, here are some of the other key takeaways from Brady’s final meeting with the media before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.
QBs young and old: Brady will face off against first-year Chiefs starter and presumed NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes Sunday evening in Kansas City. A few hours earlier another future Hall of Famer, Saints legend Drew Brees, will face off against the Rams and third-year passer Jared Goff in the NFC title games. Two 40-year-old quarterbacks trying to fend off two young 20-somethings looking to make their marks. It’s a storyline that even Brady admitted is interesting.
“I was that age at one point, too. I mean, I remember pretty well – it’s a little while ago, but I still remember it – my first playoffs and having the experience to go to the AFC Championship Game,” Brady said. “It was different. I flew to Pittsburgh to do a press conference with Lawyer Milloy on Friday and waited for the team to come on Saturday. It was a little bit different. But, it goes fast and I’m sure it will go fast for them and their young career. Jared and Patrick have had great seasons, great offenses. And we’re still here plugging around, me and Drew, doing our thing, having a lot of fun doing it.”
Patriots perceived disrespect: Immediately after last Sunday’s win over the Chargers Brady expressed his belief that outsiders think the Patriots “suck” and “can’t win any game” in a postgame interview on CBS. Julian Edelman is selling t-shirts online daring people to “Bet Against Us.” (The receiver would not answer questions about the shirts on Friday, though.)
As a matter of fact the Patriots are indeed the underdog in Sunday’s trip to Arrowhead, but Brady was asked if there is a genuine feeling of disrespect in the New England locker room.
“I mean, we’re going against a team that’s the No. 1 seed in the league. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are thinking they’re going to win. Everyone can have their own opinion,” Brady said. “We certainly have an opinion, and we’ve got to go out there and execute our best in order to accomplish that. So, it’s going to be a tough game. I mean, we’re not certainly expecting to go 15 minutes into the game and think that it’s over. It’s going to go down to the end. They’ve got a great team. Like I said, we feel like we have a team that can compete well against anybody. We’re going to need to play really well, and that’s what makes for a championship game. Hopefully, we can have our best one of the year.”
Praising Mahomes: Despite what the pregame matchup hype might lead you to believe, Brady isn’t actually going against Mahomes. It’s the Patriots defense that has to study, prepare for and then try to stop the man expected to be MVP in a couple weeks. Still, over the course of the season studying for other opponents’ defenses, Brady has come across plenty of Mahomes highlights. He also witnessed from the home sideline the flurry of throws the first-year starter put forth back in the shootout between these teams in October at Gillette.
Brady, who knows a little something about throwing 50 touchdown passes, clearly has been impressed by the elite production Mahomes has put up in just his second NFL season.
“He’s had really a spectacular season,” Brady said. “I remember seeing the [Los Angeles Chargers] game earlier in the year – I think that was their opener – and they played so well. And then they went to the Steelers and everyone thought, ‘Man, the Steelers are going to have this great season,’ and it was 28-whatever right out of the box in Pittsburgh and started watching, like, ‘Holy cow, how are they doing these things?’ And then you watch some of the plays that they were making and just explosive play after explosive play, and Patrick, obviously, making these great throws to Tyreek [Hill] and Sammy [Watkins] and [Travis] Kelce. They were running the ball to Kareem Hunt at that time. And they just kept it going all year, and they’re really hard to stop all the way across the board. They had just game after game of this huge productivity, and I think that’s what every offense tries to emulate is consistently, week after week, creating these explosive plays. Some of it is really player driven, some of it’s the scheme and the plays driven, but Coach Reid does such a great job of changing things up and giving a defense different looks and I think just the dynamic aspect of that offense. And then we played them in Week 6 and saw it first-hand how quickly they can score and how quickly Patrick runs around and throws it to Tyreek and whatever, 70-yard touchdown. So, I think that was great to play them earlier in the year and get a feel for some of that. Hopefully, we can all learn from it and take the things from that game that we’ve learned from and go out there and use them and try to play our best game of the year. This is a good time to do it.”