“What’s different about this year?” I asked owner Robert Kraft in his office two hours before the game. “What’s new?”
Kraft, 77, struggled to answer, because he couldn’t think of anything exactly new or different. But he answered in a bit of a different way.
“There are two people I know accomplishing far more than people their age would normally accomplish. [News Corp. CEO] Rupert Murdoch—he’s a guy going on 88, and he’s still making brilliant business deals. I know guys 10 years younger than me who are just hanging on till retirement. And there’s Tommy, who’s still playing great football at 41, and he’s going to keep going. Forty-one, and three Super Bowls in the last four years, and he’s still going.
“What these two men have accomplished, it’s just sick. They defy the normal rules of business, the normal rules of life.”
“Rupert Murdoch!” Brady said when I told him post-game, and he phewed out a whisp of air.
This game was a struggle for Brady after a brilliant up-tempo opening drive of 59 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. But he rebounded in the fourth quarter for two touchdown drives, including a 55-yard insurance touchdown to Josh Gordon, one of those players the Patriots find and no other team can. “It’s the culture,” tight end Dwayne Allen said. “You come here, you’ve got to fit in.” Gordon, suspended multiple times by the Browns in a disappointing career in Cleveland, has shut up and worked here—so far.
It was just as much a struggle for Rodgers, again betrayed by a huge fourth-quarter turnover. Eventually these mistakes—the misbegotten Ty Montgomery kickoff-return fumble in L.A. last week, the Patriots’ Lawrence Guy stripping Aaron Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter in Foxboro—could get Mike McCarthy fired. For now, they’ve gotten the Pack to below .500 at 3-4-1. But the Brady-Rodgers duel was just OK; neither threw for 300 yards, and in a year when touchdown passing is through the roof, they combined for three scoring passes.
After the game, though, Brady, who broke the record for combined regular-season and post-season passing yardage, wasn’t much of a stat guy. He never has been. Player after player walked by him toward the New England night as he talked to me, and he pumped them up, telling them how great they played.
He was particularly glowing around Gordon, who scored once, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the 6-2, 230-pound receiver/returner-turned-running back. In the first 88 games of Patterson’s NFL life, he’d never run the ball 10 times in a game. Last week in Buffalo, he ran it 10 times. And Sunday night, 11 more. “We thought we had good depth at running back and we did at one point in the year,” Belichick said. “But depth in August and depth in November are two different things.”
Brady told me: “A lot of guys have watched us play for a long time. I think they know they’re going to an organization that it’s really just about winning, about being selfless. If you gotta play running back, like CP [Patterson], you play running back. If you gotta block because you’re a receiver, you block. You gotta run a clearing route, you clear.”
Murdoch at 87 is ancient for a big deal-maker. Brady is simply old for football, not ancient, because he and guys like Drew Brees, 39, keep raising the bar. But he still sounds very much like a long-termer Sunday night, reveling in this win. “I’d like to go till I’m 45,” Brady said. “I know I said that hundred times, and no one believes me. But I mean, I feel good. I could go play another game tomorrow. I know what to do. It’s fun. What else would you rather do than run out in front of 70,000 people and throw a football?”
Editor’s Note: Read the rest of Football Morning in America here.