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After dust-up, they cleared air

By Greg A. Bedard
December 12, 2011
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LANDOVER, Md. - Two Irish guys from Boston got into an argument during an NFL game.

Somebody alert the obvious police.

That only happens in every watering hole from Scituate to West Newbury on Sundays and Mondays from September through January.

And, apparently, on a sober Patriots sideline at FedEx Field late in the fourth quarter when the Patriots were clinging to a 34-27 lead.

There it was, the Real Irishmen of Patriot Place, playing out for the world to see.

Quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception on third and goal from the Redskins’ 4-yard line with 6:37 to play.

It was a throw that could have put the game away. Even an incompletion and a field goal could have done that.

Back on the sideline, Brady told receiver Tiquan Underwood, the intended target when Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson undercut the route and picked it off, that he needed to go get the ball.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien stuck up for Underwood and told Brady it was a lousy throw.

Brady didn’t like that and a screaming match ensued. O’Brien, the Andover, Mass., native who will mix it up with anyone, including Randy Moss, ripped off his headset. Things only cooled after backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, receivers coach Chad O’Shea, and coach Bill Belichick separated Brady and O’Brien.

A few minutes later, Brady and O’Brien were sitting next to each other on the bench and shared a hug.

After hanging on for a 34-27 win, all was good in Patriots land again.

“I threw a pretty bad interception so he wasn’t happy with that,’’ Brady said about the dust-up. “It was probably a long line of coaches and players that were pretty [ticked] at me after that, but Billy got to me first so he let me have it. I deserved it.’’

Those things happen on NFL sidelines during a long season. Frustrations are going to bubble over a few times.

Bill Parcells and Phil Simms used to get into it all the time with the Giants.

“There are a lot of things going on during a game,’’ Belichick said. “I think this is a real competitive game and we’ve got a lot of competitive players on this team. I’m glad we have them.’’

But what made this different was that Brady, who has been known to get after his teammates, has never gotten into it with a coach in public view.

Belichick avoided a question about whether it bothered him that his offensive coordinator and quarterback were shouting at each other during a game.

“Right now, I think we’re happy to be 10-3, we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ll go back starting tomorrow and get into Denver,’’ Belichick said of the next opponent.

Patriots fans are used to seeing Brady take out his anger on the opposition, not his coaches.

Still, it’s not a big deal. The argument did not reveal some sort of rift within the Patriots.

But is there little doubt that Brady is more frustrated than normal?

That’s the notable part.

Brady is normally the personification of calm in the middle of the storm. Never let them see you sweat. That’s the motto of Belichick and his on-field persona, Brady.

What does Brady have to be frustrated with?

Well, you can start with the performance against the Redskins. Brady should have been upset with himself because he wasn’t very sharp in the red zone.

After throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with 5:49 left in the first quarter, Brady failed to complete a pass on his final six red-zone dropbacks. Those three drives produced two field goals and the interception. There were equal parts good Redskins defense and failed opportunities for Brady and the Patriots.

“We moved the ball pretty well,’’ said Brady, who completed 22 of 37 for 357 yards. “We just didn’t necessarily get it in the end zone when we needed to get it in the end zone. The frustrating part about today is that we left a lot of points on the board.’’

Brady may also be irritated that the Patriots have failed to develop a third receiver - not to mention a fourth or fifth.

What the television cameras didn’t capture was that the airing of grievances on the Patriots’ sideline didn’t start with the interaction with Underwood. It actually began when Brady got after O’Shea, who tutors the receivers.

Perhaps Brady had enough of the Chad Ochocincos, Taylor Prices, Brandon Tates, and Underwoods not getting the technical aspects of the Patriots’ offense.

Perhaps Brady has been watching teams like the Packers and Saints, who seem to grow receivers on trees for Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, respectively.

Nobody would blame Brady for being a little ticked since his team hasn’t developed a receiver since drafting Deion Branch and David Givens in 2002.

Brady was 25 then. He’s 34 now.

If Brady isn’t happy with that, he should probably have a chat with Belichick the general manager since it’s not like any of the receivers drafted and discharged since then - Price, Tate, Chad Jackson, P.K. Sam, and Bethel Johnson - lit the league on fire elsewhere.

While Brady’s throw wasn’t terrific, Underwood admitted he didn’t do enough on the play. It was similar to Brady’s interception at Buffalo on a throw to Ochocinco. Underwood didn’t round off his route like Ochocinco did, but Underwood failed to cut off Wilson’s angle by running parallel to the end line (he faded a little) or even slightly inward toward Brady.

“As a wide receiver, it’s either I catch it or nobody catches it,’’ Underwood said. “I’ve just got to make a play on the ball or I’ve got to turn into the defender for Tom on that play.

“Most definitely the ball was in the place where it was supposed to be and I’ve got to beat the guy.’’

Underwood said his conversation with Brady started like any other.

“He just asked how [the defender] played me and what I thought,’’ Underwood said. “That was about it. I know what I’ve got to do as a receiver, I understand it, and I understand my job and I’ve got to do it next time.

“I really don’t know how [the argument] started or how it escalated but it’s part of [the game]. We’re into it and we’re all intense and things like that happen. But you just move on, don’t worry about it and be happy with the win.’’

And if there’s another reason why Brady has started to wear his emotions on his sleeve, perhaps it’s because he’s tired of watching a makeshift defense - populated by some of his receivers - get run over by just about every offense in the league. The Redskins finished with 463 total yards, 25 first downs, and a 50 percent rate on third down.

Meanwhile, Brady’s offense is again among the league leaders in every meaningful statistical category.

Maybe Brady senses another early playoff exit is coming. That’s enough to make anybody scream.

The bottom line is the Brady-O’Brien drama doesn’t mean much in the big picture. The offense will continue to do its thing with the weapons Brady has at his disposal.

But there’s little doubt Brady has some frustration.

There’s nothing anyone can do about that now. So it’s time for him and the Patriots to do a better job of taking it out on the opponents, not themselves.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregABedard.

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