Fired-up Brady shows lots of emotion on field
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady opened his eyes wide, roared and shook his upper body in celebration.
The cool quarterback went a little crazy.
Brady had just thrown a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski and jogged to the end zone. Face-to-face with the excitable tight end, he out-Gronked Gronk.
“It was a very emotional time in the game,” Brady said with a laugh. “I kind of lost my mind.”
The Denver Broncos had dominated last Sunday night’s meeting of division leaders, leading 24-0 at halftime. But Gronkowski’s catch on the 6-yard pass over the middle made it 24-21 in the final minute of the third quarter, and the New England Patriots went on to win 34-31 in overtime.
Why not show some emotion?
“He always gets pumped up on that play,” Gronkowski said. “It got the juice flowing for everyone.”
Calm and cerebral when he walks to the line of scrimmage to size up the defense, Brady’s fire emerges on big plays that work for or against the Patriots. A stickler for perfection, he shows his frustration when he or a teammate falls short.
Such as when rookies ran wrong routes or dropped passes in the second game of the season, a 13-10 win over the New York Jets in which the Patriots were blanked in the second half.
Brady raised his hands to his helmet in frustration. He lifted his head, mouth wide open and his arms stretched in front of him as if pleading with his receiver after an incompletion. While sitting on the bench, he screamed at teammates.
“I have to do a better job with my body language,” he said the next day. “I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now.”
Since then, some of his language has been directed at officials.
When they waved off a defensive pass interference penalty on the last play of a 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Brady walked off the field beside referee Clete Blakeman, unleashing what a lip reader would interpret as off-color remarks.
When pass interference wasn’t called as rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was hit just as Brady’s pass arrived in overtime against the Broncos, the quarterback punched the air several times while he ran toward side judge Mike Weatherford.
“He loves this job and he wants to win, and I think that intensity can come on in different situations,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, “but I don’t feel that it’s any different this year than it’s been in the past.”
The exuberance was there in his first season as a starter in 2001 in the “Tuck Rule” playoff win over the Oakland Raiders. Brady had just run for a touchdown when he spiked the ball hard — just as Gronkowski does now — and tumbled awkwardly.
“No athleticism then either,” Brady said Wednesday. “That still hasn’t improved.”
It was there in the 2007 victory over Pittsburgh after Steelers safety Anthony Smith “guaranteed” a win over the unbeaten Patriots. Brady ran toward Smith after throwing a touchdown pass against him and started jawing — facemask to facemask.
“I’ve always seen him energetic,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “Since ‘09, since I got here, he’s always been fired up out there. Maybe it’s just with the last couple games being televised and so close that people see him running around screaming. But he’s always screaming since I’ve been here.”
At 36 and in his 14th season, Brady’s intensity hasn’t waned. And it rubs off on teammates.
“He’s just bringing positive energy,” Gronkowski said. “It gets everyone motivated to keep working hard and keep grinding every week.”
Ninkovich agrees that the animation of the team’s leader is contagious.
“It just gets guys going because you don’t want a guy out there making a big play and just having no emotion,” he said.
In practice, Brady is “subdued,” Ninkovich said, but “if he makes a bad throw, he gets more angry with himself.”
The Patriots are 8-3 with five games left — none against teams with winning records — and lead the AFC East by three games. They’ve won the division title nine times in 10 years, missing only in 2008 when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
So expect to see his passion again in this season’s playoffs.
“He’s always been that way,” said left guard Logan Mankins, who has protected Brady since 2005. “He likes to head-butt guys every now and then.”
Julian Edelman was on the receiving end of one of those helmet collisions after catching a touchdown pass against the Broncos.
“You’re working hard, you’re competing and, most of all, you’re having fun,” Brady said, “especially when you do things good. You have to have fun.”
He sure did in the end zone with Gronkowski last Sunday night.
“I don’t really remember what I said. I was pretty fired up,” Brady said.
But losing his mind?
Did that ever happen before?
“Um, yeah, probably,” Brady said. “It’s hard to recall all those experiences. We’ve been in a lot of big games and I get excited when we score. I always have.”
Freelancers Matthew Carroll and Ken Powtak contributed to this report.
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