Saturday, March 8, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots were dubbed the "Team of the Century" when they won three Super Bowls in four years.
Tom Brady runs through drills at a practice in Foxborough last week. The veteran quarterback is 16-6 in the postseason – a mark that will change for better or for worse against Houston.
The Associated Press
A Winning Combination
With Tom Brady as a starting quarterback, the New England Patriots have made the AFC playoffs 10 of 11 years, missing only in 2002. Brady's record as a starter is 16-6, tied with his idol, Joe Montana, for most career playoff victories by a starter. He can set the record with a win against Houston on Sunday. New England did not make the playoffs in 2008, when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opening game. Here's a look at the Patriots' playoff success with Brady.
Year Record Seed Result
2001 14-5 2 Beat St. Louis, 20-17, Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 9-7 Did not qualify for playoffs
2003 17-2 1 Beat Carolina, 32-29, Super Bowl XXXVIII
2004 17-2 2 Beat Phila., 24-21, Super Bowl XXXIX
2005 11-7 4 Lost Denver, 27-13, in Divisional Round
2006 14-5 4 Lost Indianapolis, 38-34, in AFC title game
2007 18-1 1 Lost to NY Giants, 17-14, Super Bowl XLII
2009 10-7 3 Lost to Baltimore, 33-14, Wildcard Round
2010 14-3 1 Lost to NY Jets, 28-21, Divisional Round
2011 15-4 1 Lost to NY Giants, 21-17, Super Bowl XLVI
With Bill Belichick calling the shots, Tom Brady directing the offense and Adam Vinatieri providing the kicks, the Patriots beat St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia to win the championship in 2002, 2004 and 2005. They were 9-0 in playoff games in that stretch.
The Patriots have continued to make the playoffs, but their success has been muted. They've gone 7-6 in the postseason since 2005, advancing twice to the Super Bowl, losing both times to the New York Giants (2008 and 2012) in the final minute.
Only three players remain from the last Super Bowl champion: Brady, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and reserve wide receiver Deion Branch.
Wilfork, who got his ring as a rookie, knows he's not going to get many more chances.
"Winning is hard," he said. "Winning one early in my career, you kind of get the sense that it happens like this all the time, but it doesn't. It's very, very hard to win at this level -- at any level. We play this game for one goal -- to be champions, plain and simple."
And the Patriots' road to New Orleans, site of this year's Super Bowl, begins Sunday at 4:30 p.m., against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots routed the Texans 42-14 on Dec. 10 in a Monday night game. Wilfork says it's best to forget about that game.
"We can't overlook this team," he said. "We have to go in and play good football. If we play well, we'll be OK. If we don't, we'll be in trouble."
The Patriots know this first-hand. In 2010, they routed the New York Jets 45-3 in a Monday night game at Gillette on Dec. 6. New England earned the No.1 seed in the AFC playoffs, then lost to the Jets 28-21 in the divisional round.
While Branch insists "we don't think about that," recent Patriots playoff history certainly indicates the difficulty of beating a team you've already faced.
The last six Patriots playoff seasons have been ended by a team they played in the regular season: 2006, Denver (divisional round); 2007, Indianapolis (AFC championship); 2008, Giants (Super Bowl); 2010, Baltimore (wild card); 2011, Jets (divisional round); 2012, Giants (Super Bowl).
Logan Mankins, the Patriots offensive left guard who has played in two Super Bowls, said you probably shouldn't read too much into any of that.
"Oh yeah, 2010 is a good example," he said. "Beat the hell out of the Jets (in the regular season) and then come back and lose to them. Then last year we beat Denver and they come here and we beat the hell out of them (in the divisional round). So it can go either way, it's just what you do on that Sunday. If you execute and play good football, you give yourself a chance to win."
The key, the Patriots have told anyone willing to listen this week, is to remember that nothing will be the same the second or third time around (as was the case with the Jets in 2010).
Plays that worked in the regular season may not work in the postseason. The teams will certainly make adjustments, and you have to be ready for them, almost anticipate them.
The only important thing from that last game against Houston, said Brady, is that it gave "us an opportunity to have this game at home."
"Other than that," he continued, "this is going to be a whole different game full of our own execution, our ability to try to beat a very good football team that's played well this year."
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