Playoff football is different than regular-season football.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Tom Brady, a five-time Super Bowl champion who will play in his 38th career playoff game when the New England Patriots welcome their divisional-round opponent to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 13. And he’s ready for the hyperfocused nature of it all.
“This time of year is just figuring out a way to get the job done,” Brady said Monday on WEEI’s “Mut & Callahan,” per WEEI.com. “There’s a lot of good football teams playing well right now. Some teams have played better early in the year, some teams have played better late in the year. This time of year if you don’t play a good game, that’s your season and you are watching other teams move on. The awareness has heightened, the focus has heightened, the execution needs to be that way. We have a big challenge. Whoever we play is going to be a great football team. We can’t afford anything less than our best.”
The Patriots will play the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens or Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round, depending on what happens in this weekend’s wild-card round. Each potential matchup presents its own set of challenges, in addition to the self-improvement required when the stakes are raised come playoff time.
“It’s the tensity and urgency. You can’t hold anything back,” Brady said of playing in the playoffs, according to WEEI.com. “You have basically 60-65 plays on offense that you have left. You can’t afford to have one play that is less — you can’t throw interceptions returned for touchdowns. You can’t have bad football, fumbling hand-offs, anything like that. You have to make your opponent beat you. I think to play really good, solid football in the playoffs is what is extremely important.”
The Patriots took some lumps this season en route to an 11-5 finish and their 10th consecutive AFC East title. Brady, in particular, has faced heavy scrutiny for his up-and-down campaign, although the 41-year-old quarterback sure ended on a positive note Sunday by throwing for 250 yards with four touchdowns in a 38-3 win over the New York Jets.
Now, the slate has been wiped clean. The Kansas City Chiefs own the AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but it’s do-or-die for each team from here on out, making attention to detail and execution of the utmost importance.
“Again, nothing is promised beyond the game that you are playing,” Brady said. “You better be in the moment and you better play as well as you possibly can because the margin for error is much thinner. Every team that has qualified is doing a lot of great things. No team is undefeated. Every team has been beaten this year, so it is not like any team is unbeatable. It is a matter of who plays well on that particular day. I think you have to have that urgency. If you have that and you play well, it’s a great way to feel going into the postseason.”
The Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl in three of the past four seasons, winning twice and losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in last season’s big game. We’ll soon find out if Brady and Co. have what it takes to achieve playoff success again this season.
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