Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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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
Houston, for those who don't remember, held the No.1 spot in the AFC until losing three of four down the stretch -- all to playoff teams. The Texans have some of the most talented players in the league, led by running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson, defensive end J.J. Watt and cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
While the Patriots don't want to get too caught up in the apparent ease of the regular-season game between the teams, the Texans also don't want anyone to downplay the significance of the loss.
Some Patriots have noted that things went their way early in that game, allowing their team to gain momentum. Gary Kubiak, the Houston head coach, said it would be a mistake to think his team was close that night.
"You're making a huge mistake if you start saying, 'If we would have done this, if we would have done that, we would have been fine,' " he said. "We weren't fine. We got our tails kicked. They were very, very explosive."
He added that all you have to do is look at some of the Patriots' home scores against good teams -- Denver (31-21), Indianapolis (59-24) -- to realize the challenge you face.
"They've really gotten after some teams," he said. "Games can get away from you there if you miss opportunities or make mistakes. We're going to have to come in there and play a 60-minute football game. We're going to have to step to the plate and make some plays."
Over the years, the belief has been that it is the Patriots, with all their playoff success, who will make those plays.
But this is a team with 18 players making their playoff debut, another five playing in their second postseason.
This isn't your Patriots team of Brady and Bruschi and Harrison and Vrabel and Light and Koppen and Faulk, a group that helped New England to its lofty heights.
It's a new group, looking to create its own Super Bowl legacy.
"I wasn't here with them in the past for all those Super Bowls," said defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who will be appearing in his sixth playoff game. "I was blessed to be here last year, came up a little bit short and want to get back there."
That's the goal for everyone still playing at this time of the year.
"Everyone in the league is hungry for a Super Bowl," said Ninkovich. "I want to get back there just like everybody else that's in the playoffs. That's the No.1 goal in your head coming into training camp, get to the Super Bowl.
"So everybody's hungry and, you know, this is what we play the game for."
That's why even a guy like Brady, who will be starting his 23rd playoff game for the Patriots, still gets excited this time of year.
"It's hard to get to this point," he said. "You've got to work pretty hard. There are a lot of teams that have worked hard, but certain things have to go your way and you have to win a lot of games and put a lot of practice in, a lot of preparation, to get to this point.
"It's as exciting as there is. This is why we work hard. This is why we put the time in -- so we can be at our best."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: