FOXBOROUGH — It was the play of the day.
When it looked like the Patriots might have to settle for a field goal with their first possession of the third quarter of Sunday’s 41-13 win over the Dolphins, Tom Brady had other plans. The ageless, healthy-eating, well-rested, newly mobile quarterback converted a third-and-11 with a 17-yard scamper and took the hit straight up against rookie safety Walt Aikens.
“He got up and he was like, ‘Woo!’ He was excited,” Aikens said regarding Brady’s reaction after the hit..
It was the 37-year-old Brady’s longest run since his 19-yard scramble against the Colts in 2009 —
“I think it was a play that we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time,” Brady said. “I was going to slide but I was pretty pissed off that time so I figured I wouldn’t slide. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten knocked down, but that’s the way it goes.”
Brady was asked if he thought getting hit at the end of the play fired up his teammates.
“I think the touchdown did more so on the next play,” Brady said. “That was a great run. It’s just whatever it takes. I think that’s what matters. I think all our guys responded the way we wanted to and it was good to go in there and finish them off like we did…
“I could have slid, but I wasn’t in the best mood that time. If he was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary… things happen pretty quick for me out there. I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”
Brady was asked if anyone told him to slide next time to avoid the chance of injury.
“Probably tomorrow, yeah, probably tomorrow,” he said. “It was a big third down and I think it was at that time of the game where we need to make some big third downs and the guys gave me great protection. They tried – what they’ve done to us a few times is rush three and double cover some guys and I think I was pretty keyed in on that today and tried to take advantage of it when they did it. I think we did a better job than we’ve done the last few times we played them.”
Brady was asked if playing “pissed off” trickled down to the rest of the rest of the team, especially when the offense is struggling.
“Yeah, and I think you’re going to have times where you play less that optimal, because if you played optimal all the time you’d score 75 points a game which is impossible,” he said. “So you’re going to have stretches where you get stopped on third down or you don’t convert plays you should have and then I just think it’s always good to kind of reassess where we’re at. I know we were all pretty pissed off at halftime – it just wasn’t the way we – 25 plays on offense and terrible time of possession, terrible on third down, just didn’t do anything to help our team win.
“I thought we did a better job of coming out that in the second half, aided by some turnovers by our defense. Our defense has just been playing incredible, which is what we’re going to need. I’m glad we started to earn our paycheck there in the second half. It was good to be able to do that. It was a good feeling. We still left some opportunity out there.”
The Patriots scored 24 points in the third quarter, marking the highest scoring total in team history in that period. The previous highest was a 22-point third quarter vs. the Dallas Texans on Nov. 18, 1960.
Brady added on to his NFL record with his 12th division championship. Peyton Manning has the second most with 10 division titles.
“It doesn’t start this morning; it started back in March,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I don’t think you ever take winning for granted; I certainly don’t because I know how hard it is to win. I think we appreciate it. I also know that we have big goals every year for our team, so this is the one that is the first one to get. It was great to be able to do it against a team that we lost to earlier in the year. We had a great opportunity to go out there and play a lot better than we did the last time.
“It’s great to win. It’s a great feeling. That’s why we play. I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of an organization where that’s what matters the most and to play with some really great players over the years. I think wining and experiencing it with the players and coaches and Mr. [Robert] Kraft and Jonathan and his family. It’s pretty awesome.”
Brady is 47-7 (.870) in December, the best record in December among quarterbacks with at least 20 starts. Roger Staubach is second (17-3, .850). Among active quarterbacks, Philip Rivers is second with a 30-7 (.811) record (not including late games).
Brady’s 27-yard touchdown pass to TE Rob Gronkowski in the third quarter was his 390th career touchdown pass. He joins Peyton Manning (527), Brett Favre (508), Dan Marino (420) and Drew Brees (391) in the 390 club. After adding another fourth-quarter scoring pass to Julian Edelman, Brady now has 391 career scoring passes.
“He’s a big target and he makes it easy for me,” Brady said of Gronk. “He’s just awesome.”