Tom Brady will play in his 13th AFC Championship game – and eighth in a row – when the second-seeded Patriots face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs on the road Sunday at 6:40 p.m.
Brady is no stranger to frigid January battles in hostile environments, and he’s eager for the challenge of willing the Patriots to their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.
Here’s what he told reporters Wednesday.
He doesn’t think much about being the underdog.
Brady and the Patriots aren’t accustomed to being underdogs this time of year. In fact, this is only the second time since 2007 that the other team has been favored in a playoff matchup.
The Patriots have been favored in their last 12 playoff games, a streak dating back to 2013. Last time they went in as the underdog, they lost, 26-16, to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
The Chiefs opened as 3-point favorites, but Brady isn’t fazed. When asked if he relishes the role of the underdog, Brady downplayed the situation.
“I don’t think about it too much, you know, what people might say or think,” he told reporters. “We’re playing against a very good football team, and they’re the first seed for a reason.”
He said it doesn’t change anything in his approach, adding that he and his teammates don’t need any extra fuel this week.
“If you’re not motivated this week, you’ve got a major problem,” he said. “This is the week where you shouldn’t have to put anything extra in. This is what it’s all about. You sign up every chance you get to play in the AFC Championship game. I don’t care where, when, time, cold, weather, rain, blood, don’t matter.”
His kids would “rather hang with Gronk and Jules.”
Brady said life is different now that his kids are older and they can understand the broader picture of what’s happening. Now he has much more responsibility, he said, than he did when he started his career.
He pointed out that his oldest son, Jack (11), is very into analyzing games and occasionally offers some valuable advice afterward. His middle son, Benjamin (9), isn’t too into football, while his daughter, Vivian (6), enjoys playing the role of cheerleader.
Tom Brady:”My daughter’s 6, she’s a great cheerleader for us. My oldest son is into every play, my middle son is not into any play. It’s perfect. They’re understanding more, but they’re still my kids, so they don’t care much about that. They’d rather hang with Gronk and Jules…” pic.twitter.com/6U9w2XD8lS
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) January 16, 2019
He appreciates their support, even if they sometimes prefer hanging out with his teammates.
“It’s perfect,” he told reporters. “We get to talk about it on the way home. They’re understanding more and more, but they’re still my kids. They don’t care very much about that. They’d rather hang with (Rob Gronkowski) and (Julian Edelman) and all those other guys.”
He hopes the Patriots’ blood has thickened up enough.
Brady acknowledged that the weather is a factor any time there’s a playoff game in a colder climate, but he’s hoping the Patriots are well prepared for what lies ahead.
Temperatures are predicted to hover around 20 or 25 degrees Sunday, and they could even dip into the high teens, but Brady said playing and practicing in New England over the last few months has helped the team acclimate.
Competing in such inhospitable conditions combines a mix of physical and mental toughness, he said, and he’s ready for Sunday to be the coldest day the team has experienced this season.
“I’ve played a lot of games over the years where weather’s a factor,” he said. “You just dress for it, and hopefully our blood’s thickened up enough here, being in the northeast, to deal with the cold, which I think it has.”
He believes the team’s road struggles are not a broad-sweeping issue.
The Patriots finished the regular season 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road.
At home, they’ve been unstoppable, including in a convincing divisional-round playoff victory over the Los Angeles Chargers last week. Away from Foxborough, they struggled mightily in double-digit losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans, and they also fell to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.
When asked why the struggles have persisted, Brady pointed to specifics rather than an overarching trend. He believes there were problems that surfaced in each game, and it wasn’t – and isn’t – a “broad-sweeping issue.”
He said this isn’t the week for the Patriots to not play up to their potential, noting that all three phases have to be on point throughout the night.
“It’s tough to beat the No. 1 seed on the road,” Brady said. “That’s the reality, just like we’re tough to beat at home when we’re the No. 1 seed.”
Brady noted that AFC Championship games are supposed to be difficult, and he expects nothing less.
“I think everybody at every position has to play well,” he told reporters. “That’s what championship games are all about. These aren’t just handed to you on a silver platter and, ‘Here you go, here’s your trip to the Super Bowl.’ You’ve got to go fight them out. We’ve been in a lot of games that have come right down until the end.”
Brady on what it will take to win:
“I think everybody at every position has to play well. That’s what championship games are all about. These aren’t just handed to you on a silver platter and, ‘Here you go. Here’s your trip to the Super Bowl.’ You’ve got to go fight them out.”
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 16, 2019
He praised James White for his consistently clutch play.
James White has played his best football in the most important moments, and Brady has taken notice.
Brady said the Patriots have so much trust in White, who racked up 15 receptions for 97 yards against the Chargers and is most famous for turning in a performance for the ages in the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons in 2017.
“They don’t make too many like him,” Brady said. “Lucky to have him on our team. That’s what it’s about, playing your best in the biggest games, and he’s always done that.”