(TNS) — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady opened his motivational toolbox during his postgame interview with CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson after New England’s divisional-round victory over the L.A. Chargers on Sunday.
“I know, you know, everyone thinks we suck, we can’t win any games,” Brady said. “So, we’ll see. It will be fun.”
The “fun” reference was a nod to the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City against the Chiefs on Sunday. The unprompted message to Patriots haters was a peek into Brady’s competitive burn.
This is how the 41-year-old quarterback, perhaps the greatest in NFL history and unquestionably the most productive in the playoffs, ticks.
Brady will cite slights, real or imagined, for motivation.
Everyone thinks we suck.
The Patriots receive unfavorable reviews for many reasons, namely envy of success, suggestions of (and actual) bending of rules (Deflategate), entitled fans … the list goes on.
But it is impossible for anyone to believe the Patriots, to use Brady’s term, suck, or as Merriam-Webster defines, slang, sometimes vulgar: to be objectionable or inadequate.
The Patriots are and have been many things since Brady and coach Bill Belichick arrived for duty in Foxborough in 2000. But rarely have they been inadequate on the field.
In fact, the case can be made that the Patriots are in the midst of the least inadequate stretch in NFL history. Eight Super Bowl appearances and five championships in Brady/Belichick’s time, along with 16 AFC titles in 19 years — 10 straight and counting — defines the team’s success. Along the way, Brady has collected three NFL MVP awards, including last season’s honor.
The Pittsburgh Steelers own the NFL’s best overall record since the 1970 merger, and have one more Super Bowl trophy than the Patriots. The San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls in a shorter period (14 years to the Patriots’ 16).
The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and others have experienced dynasties, too. But this nearly two-decade run by the Patriots has been relentless and astounding in a sport of hard salary caps, revenue sharing and schedule and draft formulas intended to give all 32 teams an annual fair shot at success.
The Patriots have thrived partly because their quarterback, who has appeared in and won more playoff games than anyone else in history, gets a boost from someone, somewhere, believing that he and his team are, well, inadequate.
That thinking permeates the locker room.
“We see it,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said of the criticism. “We see our quarterback is too old, we’re not good enough on defense, the skill players aren’t good. We see it. But it doesn’t affect how we prepare.”
For the first time since 2014, the Patriots can play the disrespect card — or at least the underdog card. The Chiefs are a three-point favorite. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the last time a Brady-led team was not a betting favorite in a game was in 2014, against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
The Patriots were an underdog in their 2016 opener, but that was the first of four games Brady missed while serving a suspension.
Belichick insists perception, whether the source is media, fans or oddsmakers, doesn’t matter.
“We don’t even pay attention to that,” Belichick said. “We just prepare for the game and go out there and compete. It doesn’t really matter what everyone else thinks. Being the favorite, the underdog, who cares?”
Apparently Brady does. He picked up on chatter last week that the Chargers were his team’s equals, and the choice of some national prognosticators to win Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium. Brady then led the Patriots to touchdowns on five of the team’s first six possessions. New England led 35-7 at halftime on the way to a 41-28 triumph.
Brady competed 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown.
In his postgame interview at the podium, Brady was asked if he was fueled by all the game-week talk. He didn’t follow up on his earlier comments to the sideline reporter.
“I just like winning,” Brady said.
Like no one else in the NFL’s 21st century.