FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots do a pretty good job of taking every opponent on their schedule seriously. Sometimes they even take it to the comical extent of treating a bottom-feeder team like they’re the 1985 Chicago Bears.
So, it should come as no surprise Patriots quarterback Tom Brady vehemently rejected the idea that playing the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs would be a “letdown” game.
“I view it as the biggest game that we’ve played all season against the best defense that we’ve played all season,” Brady said in a conference call with the Houston media. “I don’t see any letdown from us. That’s ridiculous to think that. I’m preparing like this is the hardest game we’ve faced all season, which it will be, and it means the most. There’s only one priority for all of us this week, and that’s to be at our best mentally, physically, emotionally for three hours on Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. All of my attention is focused on those three hours and getting prepared for that moment so that we can go out and play with anticipation and confidence against the best defense we’ve played all season. There’s nothing easy about it.”
Here’s what Brady had to say about the Texans’ defense in the call.
Q: What jumps out to you about this Texans secondary and the way they’ve been playing?
TB: Well, they’ve been playing as well as any secondary that we’ve faced all season. Their cover guys have done such a great job for that defense and there is a reason why they’re ranked number one. They don’t give up any easy yards in the pass game. They don’t give up any big plays. They’re really well-coached, which is very easy to see. I think they’ve just really come on over the course of the whole season. I’ve just been very impressed with what I’ve seen.
Q: What kind of thoughts do you have when you see Jadeveon Clowney on film?
TB: Well, he’s an incredible player. I mean he’s obviously had so much promise since he came into the league and he’s really shown everybody why he was picked one overall. He does so many things well. He’s obviously got all of the size, but the speed, the quickness, and how hard he is playing. He’s chasing guys down from behind and making plays. The plays last week were huge in the wild card game; the interception, the tipped balls. He kind of does everything for them. He’s really come on, and like I said, they’ve got a good scheme. They’ve got a great scheme. They’re well-coached, and then with players like Jadeveon, Brian Cushing I have a lot of respect for, all of their guys in the secondary, Vince (Wilfork) and what he does. Whitney Mercilus is a great player. We’ve played against him a bunch. Antonio Smith comes in some passing situations and does a great job of getting after the quarterback. It’s a big test for our offense. They don’t have any weaknesses on defense, so we’re going to just have to play good, sound football and try to take advantage of our opportunities if we get them.
Q: What about the play of Vince Wilfork when you look over the center and see him down there?
TB: Well, I’ve looked over center for many years and seen him. He’s just in a different jersey. But he’s still just a force. I mean both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He’s been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I’d much rather have him on our team, but that’s not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it’s still great to see him playing and playing well.
Q: Do you think Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney have helped fill the pass-rush void missing from J.J. Watt’s absence?
TB: Well, it’s phenomenal. It’s hard to imagine taking away J.J., who’s been Defensive Player of the Year three times, and then still being the number one ranked defense in the league. They just stepped up to the challenge. They’d obviously much rather have him in there, but you know, sometimes you face these situations and the rest of the guys really pick up the slack. I think they all do a good job with what their role is. They move guys into different spots and I think they do a good job with their front. They move guys around and they still find ways to get to the quarterback and force the ball out. Certainly in the wild card game last week they did a lot of that and really made it challenging for that offense. We’ve just got to hone in. There’s a lot of great communication we’re going to need. We’re blocking a very good scheme, but also great players, so it’s no easy task for us.
Q: What have you seen from the Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye?
TB: Yeah, he’s had an incredible year. What a great young player and great future that he has. I mean he’s just shut a lot of people out over the course of the season. He seems like he’s a feisty young player. He’s certainly not afraid to get in there and play in the run game, but really his coverage skills are very impressive for someone of his size. He’s got all of the makings of what it takes to be a great corner in this league. He’s surrounded by Kareem (Jackson) and Johnathan (Joseph), who I’ve played a lot of football against. I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they do. Quintin Demps is a hell of a player. He’s had a great season. (Andre) Hal has had a great year at safety. They’ve got a great group back there and I think that along with their pass rush is why (they’re effective). They have great coverage at linebacker with (Bernardrick) McKinney and Cushing. They can get after the quarterback, so they stop the run, play on their terms, get after the quarterback. They’ve got a lot of good scheme stuff that Romeo (Crennel) does that is challenging to prepare for. There’s nothing easy about it. There are no plays off. They challenge you in every aspect, so we’ve just got to be very sharp. Our execution has to be at its highest level, and it’s going to be the toughest defense we’ve faced all year. We’re going to have to see if we can meet that challenge.
Q: Coach O’Brien has called Brian Cushing the heart and soul of the Texans defense. Could you elaborate about his play a little bit?
TB: Yeah, I could see that because he plays so hard. He’s on the field every snap. He’s obviously smart. He’s got all of the instincts. He’s got the experience. He’s got all of the athleticism. He does well in the run game and the pass game, is a very strong tackler. When those plays are running through you as the ‘mike’ linebacker you’ve got to be on top of everything and it looks like everybody can really count on him every time and he’s had a phenomenal season.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images