Brady embraces underdog role in AFC title game
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It's been seven years since the Patriots were
underdogs in a postseason game.
So Tom Brady isn't wasting a chance to embrace that role now.
If that motivational tactic is good enough for the star quarterback,
it's good enough for his teammates.
Tom's going to embrace it, I'm going to embrace it," New England
running back LeGarrette Blount said with a smile on Monday. "That's the
leader of this team, and if that's how he feels, I'm sure that's how
most of the guys out here feel."
For the first time in 12
postseason games, the Patriots are underdogs in Sunday's AFC
championship matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver.
last time the Patriots weren't favored in the playoffs was in another
conference title game against Manning when he was with Indianapolis in
2007. The Colts rallied at home for a 38-34 win after trailing 21-3 in
the final minute of the first half.
That also was the Patriots most recent playoff road game. Since then,
they're 7-2 at home and 0-2 in Super Bowls.
This season, they were underdogs at home against Denver on Nov. 24 but
won 34-31 in overtime after trailing 24-0 at halftime.
their next to last regular-season game, the Patriots (13-4) were
underdogs at Baltimore, which had won four straight games, but beat the
"I know when we played Baltimore nobody picked us
to win," Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. "I'm
sure no one's going to pick us to win this week. We've had our backs
against the wall for a while. Really, the whole season we've lost
players, and teams have really counted us out."
That may be an exaggeration. Teams don't take the Patriots lightly.
Still, Brady said, "We've got a bunch of underdogs on our team, and
we'll be an underdog again."
knows what it's like to be underestimated. Back in 2000, he wasn't
drafted until the sixth round. Teams chose 198 players before the
Patriots took a chance on him.
"He came into the league as a big underdog," fullback James Develin
said, "so I'm sure he's used to that."
It's not surprising that the Broncos (14-3) are favored.
at home. They have Manning throwing to a deep group of receivers. The
one-two running punch of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball is rolling.
The defense may be suspect with five starters sidelined, but so is New
England's, which is missing four of its front seven.
All the more fuel to stoke the underdog fire.
"We play with a chip on our shoulder and we like to play that way,"
wide receiver Danny Amendola said.
New England was favored at home against the Colts in an AFC
divisional-round game on Saturday night and won 43-22.
Denver upheld its favored status by repelling a late comeback and
beating the San Diego Chargers 24-17 on Sunday.
regular-season game against the Broncos could help in the rematch, but
the Patriots know both teams have evolved. One of the big changes is
that Denver's Julius Thomas is ready after missing the first meeting
with a knee injury.
"He's a big, talented tight end that can pretty much do it all,"
Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said.
had 65 catches this season, one of five Broncos with at least 60. Only
Julian Edelman, with 105, had at least 60 for the Patriots.
New England can expect a lot more out of Blount than he provided — 13
yards on two carries — in the previous game against Denver.
three most productive rushing games have been his past three with 76
yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore, 189 yards and two
touchdowns against Buffalo and 166 yards and four touchdowns against
He wants more.
"I can do a lot of
improving," Blount said after watching video of the Indianapolis game.
"I've seen a couple of holes I could have hit, and I've seen a couple
of cuts I could have made. I'm going to go out there and look at what
they're going to give me, and hopefully explode somewhere."
And once the game starts, it doesn't matter who's favored.
they pick, they pick," safety Steve Gregory said. "Nobody really knows
what's going to happen. So it's two very good football teams that are
going to go at it and we'll see who gets it at the end."