Moments after his Patriots earned a berth to the AFC championship game for a mind-boggling eighth straight year, this time after a dismantling of the Chargers, Tom Brady was asked about his team’s upcoming matchup with the Chiefs.
“I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, can’t win any games,” Brady told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson. “So we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”
Now, Brady knows a lot of things. For instance, how to get to the conference title game — his team’s streak is part of 13 trips by the quarterback in his 17 full seasons as a starter. He also knows how to go beyond that round, reach the Super Bowl and win there, having done so five times in eight appearances.
Brady also knows how to top the AFC East, having done that for 10 straight years and 16 overall, and rack up double-digit victories along the way. His Patriots have won at least 10 games in every season except one since he became the starter in 2001. They even went 11-5 in 2008, when he missed almost the entire season after suffering a first-week knee injury.
Thus it seems odd that Brady could claim to know that everyone thinks his team is terrible. Who in the world would think that?
In fairness, the Patriots are coming off an 11-win season that represented their lowest total since 2009, and they were widely considered to be more vulnerable than usual going into Sunday’s matchup with the Chargers. Still, New England was a solid betting favorite by somewhere between four and five points.
Perhaps someone got quick word to Brady, just after his team’s 41-28 dismissal of Philip Rivers and Co., that the Patriots had been installed as underdogs to Kansas City. Even then, though, Vegas has the Chiefs as just three-point favorites, meaning they are essentially being given credit for home-field advantage and no more.
Those would be the same Chiefs who lost to the Patriots in the regular season, albeit in a close game in Foxborough, Massachusetts. They have a first-year starter at quarterback, albeit an MVP front-runner, in Patrick Mahomes. And they have a coach, Andy Reid, who is not exactly known for closing the deal when it counts. In addition, even before Reid’s tenure, Kansas City was known for playoff letdowns, making no Super Bowl appearances since winning it all in 1970.
So tell us again, Tommy, who exactly thinks your Patriots “can’t win any games”?
The obvious answer is only the straw men Brady has constructed in his mind, all the better to keep a chip on his shoulder through the playoffs. It is true that there has been speculation this season that, at 41, he’s not as effective as he used to be. But that kind of acknowledgment is a far cry from the claim to Cinderella status he appeared to be making.
The first of Brady’s Super Bowl winners, when they upset the Rams in 2002, could fairly be viewed as upstarts who magically fit the glass slipper. Since then, New England has become nothing less than the greatest dynasty in NFL history, with very arguably the GOAT quarterback at the helm.
To put the Patriots’ ongoing dominance in perspective, the upcoming Chiefs game will mark the first time New England has been an underdog since the second week of the 2015 season, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. That was 67 starts ago for Brady, including the playoffs. Not for nothing, the Patriots won that game, 40-32, in Buffalo, New York.
Still, if Brady says “everyone” thinks the Patriots, um, stink, then that’s how it is, at least for teammates who were happy to parrot the company line Sunday.
“Tom said it, so I can comment on it: Yeah, everybody does think we suck. Everybody thinks we don’t have enough,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said, according to ESPN.
“We know we have a lot of doubters, a lot of people saying this and that, counting us out and things like that,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “It’s football. If it was going by what people said, there would be no reason to play the game. … A lot of guys understand that we are doubted and counted out, and you definitely get a little sense of motivation to prove people wrong.”
The one aspect of Brady’s comments that most people outside the Patriots’ locker room would agree with is that their upcoming contest should be fun. On one hand, you have the offensive fireworks promised by the Chiefs, with Mahomes throwing to the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. On the other, you have Brady and coach Bill Belichick, who know better than any tandem in NFL history how to win games like this one.
It could also be fun if Brady, who spun it Sunday to the tune of 343 yards, a touchdown and a 77.3 completion percentage, insists on continuing to spin the AFC championship game as his David versus anyone else’s Goliath. As he said, “We’ll see.”