Those fans who chose to remain at Gillette Stadium might have been nervous when the Patriots took over with Sunday's game on the line against the Saints: no timeouts left, 70 yards to go, touchdown needed, just 1:13 remaining.
If Tom Brady shared that nervousness, he didn't show it, and hasn't shown it since he became the starter in the 2001 season. Poise, according to coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, is one of Brady's greatest strengths.
"I’d say that’s pretty much always been a trademark of Tom," Belichick said during Tuesday's teleconference. "Even going back to the first year, we were in some really tight games throughout the year but particularly at the end of the year: the Oakland game in the snow, obviously the Super Bowl. I think Tom showed a lot of poise and composure in those games, which is as big as it gets.
"Throughout that year, when he first took over for Drew [Bledsoe] and started to become a regular player, we were in a lot of tight games, some we won, some we lost, but I never felt that there was a sense of panic of discomfort or anything with Tom."
True to form, Brady guided the Patriots on a game-winning drive Sunday, throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds left, giving the Patriots a 30-27 win. Brady was 5 for 7 on the final drive, which goes in the books as the 38th time he has led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive when the Patriots were either tied or trailing.
Not being rattled is one thing. But Belichick said Brady is able to pick up things during the game that can help later, when a drive needs to be executed and a game needs to be won.
"It could be a bad play that happened or an interception or a turnover or something," said Belichick. "He would come to the sideline and say, ‘OK, let’s talk about what happened on that play.’ He would very clearly say, ‘This is what I saw. This is what happened. This is what this guy did, this is what this guy did, this is what the safeties did, this middle linebacker was here. This is what I saw on the route.’
"Then you go back and look at the film and all those things happened. The six, seven, eight, nine things that he described were pretty much the way the play unfolded. I think that’s something that really was one of Tom’s greatest strengths, is his ability to see the field, remain calm, remain poised even though the stadium may be going crazy if we’re on the road or the situation -- we may only have couple seconds to work with or whatever the circumstances are."