Brady completes his quest
FOXBOROUGH - Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said last week that he owed it to his teammates to be back at Gillette Stadium preparing for yesterday’s matchup against Carolina.
Less than 24 hours after his second son was born, Brady showed up for team meetings in what would become the most controversial week the team has faced this season, as four players were sent home Wednesday for arriving late.
After losing three of their last four for the first time since 2002, Brady viewed yesterday’s game as a chance to get back on track. He challenged his teammates after the 22-21 loss to Miami last Sunday to finish games and to increase their focus during the week.
Yesterday, Brady looked like he was on a quest for his teammates. After a pass intended for Randy Moss was intercepted, Brady talked to Moss on the bench. He said he was giving a pep talk as a way to fight through the frustration.
“I think that’s the message I always try to convey to everybody,’’ Brady said. “I mean, if you’re a quarterback, you throw picks, you throw bad balls. If you’re a receiver, you drop balls. If you’re a running back, you fumble balls. You know, it’s just part of the process and it’s about making the next one a good one and not making the next one another bad one because you’re a little bit down in the dumps.’’
Frustration may have been the theme of the first half for the Patriots’ offense. Running back Sammy Morris was stopped on fourth and 1 from the Carolina 40 on the Patriots’ first series. Later came Brady’s pass intended for Moss, which was intercepted by cornerback Chris Gamble. It was the 11th interception of the season for Brady, who has thrown at least one pick in three consecutive games.
The interception quickly led to a Panther touchdown, and the Patriots were trailing, 7-0.
“That’s going to kill any semblance of a good performance,’’ Brady said. “There’s nothing about that that we were happy about.’’
When the first half ended, the Patriots were 1 of 5 on third-down conversions. They had 145 total yards and Brady had completed 8 of 15 passes for 59 yards.
Coach Bill Belichick said he didn’t think the distractions during the week led to the Patriots’ poor first-half performance.
“We just didn’t execute a couple of plays as well as we should have,’’ he said. “We turned the ball over three times, that’s not good. But those should have been prevented. And we had quite a few good plays; we just didn’t have enough of them.’’
In the second half, the answer seemed to be Wes Welker, who finished with 10 catches for 105 yards. Brady described Welker as consistent, reliable, and durable, and for an offense unable to string much of anything together, Welker filled in the gaps.
Brady was able to get a few passes off quickly in Welker’s direction in the second half, which kept Carolina’s defense off balance.
“I think he was looking to get them the ball as soon as he could, and get a lot of quick stuff to them,’’ said Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis. “We are rolling our coverage to him and rolling our coverage to pick him up on the rollout, but he was getting out of the backfield and getting them the ball quickly.’’
The offensive line prevented Brady from being sacked, which was important since he had been listed with right shoulder, finger, and rib injuries. Brady completed 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
The Patriots made their share of mistakes, but overall they did enough.
“We can make the plays and move the ball,’’ Brady said. “Ultimately, it comes down to getting the ball in the end zone. We’re kind of a grind-it-out team. That’s what it looks like to me, so it’s what we need here in the last quarter of the season.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.