FOXBOROUGH — While he was quick to point out the final score of their 42-14 regular-season romp over the Texans “was good,” New England quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday there was still plenty to be concerned about when the second-seeded Patriots host No. 3 seed Houston Sunday in the AFC Divisional Playoffs at Gillette Stadium.
Defensively, Brady said the Texans still posed a threat, despite losing three of their last four regular-season games and squandering a chance to clinch the top seed and homefield advantage.
“I think there’s a lot to be concerned about,” Brady said. “They’ve got a great front, some very experienced players at linebacker, an athletic secondary, and you saw what they did last week playing at home against Cincinnati [in a Wild Card Weekend matchup] there in the first half was pretty impressive.
“So there’s still a lot of challenges for us and, certainly, from my standpoint,” Brady said. “We just tried to have a good day of practice yesterday and get off to a good start and try to string a bunch of those together.”
The last time the Patriots prepared for their Dec. 10 regular-season home game against the Texans, coach Bill Belichick broke out some unusual props — brooms and racquets — to help Brady prepare for J.J. Watt, Houston’s long-armed swatmeister who has recorded 16 pass deflections this season.
“More of the same,” Brady said, when asked what he saw in the first practice Tuesday in preparation for the Texans. “It gets frustrating at times, but I think it’s a very good thing that coach does to subliminally get it in my head of [Watt’s] ability and their ability as a defense to defend passes at the line of scrimmage, which I’m sure teams try to do every week but they get ’em every week.
“So that’s a big difference.”
Asked how the team benefitted, mentally and physically speaking, from the bye week, Brady said, “I think it was a week for us to really identify the things we need to do better and put a lot of work in on those things. I think we put in an extensive amount of time on situational football and try to understand why we did things over the course of the year and why we need to do better.
“I think it was more about improvement, more than anything else.”
Did Brady feel like a new man following the team’s three-day hiatus last weekend?
“I mean, I always feel pretty good. You play football for a living,” Brady said. “There’s a lot to feel good about doing that. To have a chance to play in this game, there’s a lot of excitment. Not a lot of teams have this opportunity.
“It’s the second round of the playoffs,” Brady said, “and to be here and to have this chance, I think we all look forward to it and have worked hard to be in this situation.”
If he were to guide the defending AFC champions back to the conference championship game, Brady would break a tie with Joe Montana (16) for most playoff wins by a starting quarterback in league history.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to play with so many great players and teams,” Brady said. “Football is a team game and I’ve been fortunate to play here and have the opportunity there’s no place I’d rather be.”