FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Oops, Tom Brady cussed again.

This time, everybody laughed.

Brady, who will be starting an NFL-record ninth conference championship game on Sunday when the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium, was asked during a press conference Wednesday morning about his mood leading up to the big game.

“That’s a good question. My wife asks the same thing, ‘What’s your problem?'” said Brady, drawing a laugh. “But I get pretty edgy.”

He said the tension began to build once the Patriots knew who their opponent would be after the Colts beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“It’s a race,” said Brady, “to see who can prepare the best over the course of the week.”

That’s when his mood can start to swing. Maybe something doesn’t work in practice. Maybe something works well. Maybe his Ugg boots are laced a little too tight.

“It’s kind of the ebbs and flows of the week,” said Brady. “Sometimes in a good mood, sometimes in a (expletive) – bad – mood. Sometimes it just ebbs and flows.”

Brady, who was criticized earlier this year after television cameras caught him swearing on the sideline, seemed embarrassed by his slip on live TV, shaking his head as the room full of media laughed.

But his teammates know exactly what he was talking about.

This is a pressure-packed week. Win, you go on to play in the Super Bowl. Lose, and your season is over.

There are no do overs.

“This will be a big challenge for us this week, all the things that we have to deal with,” said Coach Bill Belichick. “(The Colts are) a good football team, a good organization and a team that we’re going to have to play our best game of the year (against) is the way I look at it – play and coach our best game of the year.”

Brady has always been an emotional player. In the moments before the Patriots ran onto the Superdome field to play the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady was caught on film head-butting Drew Bledsoe. He ran halfway across the field this year to hug Julian Edelman in the end zone after Edelman’s punt return for a touchdown against Denver.

“I know it’s an emotional game and I need to be emotional out there to play at my highest,” he said. “I try to rest up all week and I’m actually pretty mellow most of the time, as you guys know. It’s just for those three hours on Sunday that you get to let it rip, which is really, I think, when you can be yourself. You’ve got to go out there and bring a level of energy and enthusiasm and all the guys do that.”

Mellow? Not this week.

This is a week of someone hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign around Brady’s neck. Stay away and let him study film, let him perfect his timing with his receivers, let him envision what needs to be done.

At the stadium or in his Boston brownstone, Brady has a job to do this week.

“When he’s home, he’s working,” said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the only other Patriot remaining from New England’s last Super Bowl champion. “A lot of the guys don’t understand that. That’s the type of person that he is. He’s going to give you everything he has.”

Wilfork sees this every day in practice. He sees the work Brady puts in and knows he has to work just as hard. He sees Brady steaming when the offense cannot move the ball against the defense in drills.

“I mean he always comes to work and trust me, we trash talk a lot in practice,” said Wilfork. “I’m in his ear and he’s in my ear, but at the same time we make practice live and we make practice competitive because we try to get it as close to a game (atmosphere) as possible. And I think the only way to do that is to have some of your guys go out there and make practice upbeat.”

Wilfork learned very early on after the Patriots drafted him in the first round in 2004 how Brady operates. Nothing has changed.

“I don’t think there’s anybody else in this locker room that is more competitive than Tom,” he said. “I mean, I don’t care if it’s a conversation, I don’t care if it’s practice, I don’t care if it’s seven-on-seven, I don’t care if it’s game day, I don’t care if it’s in the film room. He wants to be at his best.”

And this week, with the stakes so high, his emotions might run a little higher.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH