Even with the regular season about to conclude Sunday afternoon against the Jets at Gillette Stadium it’s fair to say the Patriots are in some ways far from a finished product.
On the way to a NFL-record 10th straight division title and possible first-round playoff bye, New England has had ups and downs throughout the season in all three phases. At various times the offense, defense and special teams have executed well and keyed victories. But all three have had their failings in defeat as well.
Friday afternoon in his weekly press conference with the local media, New England quarterback Tom Brady admitted that his team continues to seek out a complete game.
“I think playing well this week’s been the focus, and anything beyond that, we haven’t even talked about for good reason,” Brady responded to a question about the possibility of securing a playoff bye. “I would say it’s tough to win a game and this is a tough one and we’ve got to focus on this one hundred percent, which we have, and just be prepared to go out and play our best. I think a good 60-minute game is still out there for us and that’s what we’re working to do and this would be a good time to do it.”
Has the absence of anything near complete singular-game perfection created frustration?
“I think it’s out there for us and I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Brady said. “We’ve been working and building and trying to get there and it’s been a lot of moving parts all year – it’s just part of the football season, it’s like that for us, like that for everybody. But competing for all 16 weeks is what it’s all about and we’re at Week 16 and we’ve got to finish strong.”
Beyond the chance to put together a complete game in the finale against New York, here are some of the other key takeaways from Brady’s end-of-week press conference.
No 2019 talk: Recently during his weekly interview with Westwood One Brady told Jim Gray that he plans to return for a 20th season in 2019 and likely beyond. It’s a reiteration of things he’s said off and on for months and years. But Friday, Brady wasn’t willing to talk about 2019 with the local media, or elaborate on his Westwood One comments.
“I don’t want to elaborate much,” Brady said. “This week’s the one that matters and that’s what we got to do – take care of business this week.”
Winning stats: Bill Belichick once famously said that, “Stats are for losers.” While Brady didn’t take quite as direct and harsh an approach when asked if there was a particular statistic he focused on for evaluating quarterbacks, he did downplay the numbers in general.
“I’m not really a big stat guy,” Brady said. “I’m into wins. Wins is the one and that’s what we’re here for. There’s a lot of ways you can evaluate stats and so forth. Winning the game is what’s most important.”
He was then asked a follow-up question in regards to completion percentage, a statistic in which Brady ranks 19th among NFL quarterbacks this season.
“I think just making the right plays,” Brady responded. “I think your focus as a quarterback is just making the right play whenever it’s there. You could throw a ball away instead of taking a sack and it looks like you have a low completion percentage but you’re making a good play for the team. I just have to make good plays for the team and that part of it is just good, solid football and making good decisions, throwing to the guys who are open. Sometimes ending a drive with a punt is not a bad thing when you consider a lot of other factors, it’s just – that’s part of football, making good decisions.”
Home is where the wins are: The Patriots are 7-0 at Gillette Stadium this season, looking to beat the Jets to close out a perfect campaign once again in Foxborough. What kind of edge, exactly, does playing at Gillette present for the Patriots?
“I think if we play well, the crowd’s into it. But I think the one positive I see from being here is we practice in the elements all the time and I think we’re so used to playing in this climate with the ever-changing weather conditions that we have,” Brady said. “Just understanding how it works in our stadium and I think those things end up being a benefit if we use them the right way. We love playing here, we’ve done a great job, communication’s certainly better at home which helps. But going out and executing in whatever conditions, hopefully we handle them better than our opponents.”
Bye to Ben: Saints tight end Benjamin Watson announced this week that this will be his final NFL season. Watson actually entered the NFL as a first-round pick of the Patriots out of Georgia in 2004 and spent the first six of his 14 NFL seasons with Brady as his quarterback.
“Ben’s been a great friend for a long time and had an incredible career,” Brady said of Watson’s impending retirement. “He’ll certainly be missed. He had a great impact on this team and every team he played for because of the person he is. He’s just a great man, great father, great husband, great player, great teammate. We’ll always be in touch so wish him nothing but the very best.”