NFL: Brady, Patriots a careful bunch
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Don’t tell the New England Patriots about the season of giving.
They haven’t been giving opponents much of anything this season, especially since what coach Bill Belichick likes to call “the real football season” starting around Thanksgiving. The Patriots have set several records for fewest turnovers committed this season, and are on track to set more.
That lack of turnovers has been a key to the team’s 12-2 season, the best record in the NFL, and the Pats are planning for more of the same Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. A win would clinch the AFC East title and the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs.
New England has set an NFL mark with six straight games without a turnover. No other NFL team has gone longer than four straight games without a giveaway.
The Patriots’ 2010 turnover differential is plus-20; the team record for best turnover margin in a season is plus-17 set in 2003.
The Patriots have scored at least 30 points without committing a turnover in each of their past six games to extend their NFL record; no other team has done it in more than three straight games.
Tom Brady has gone 292 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, the longest single-season stretch in NFL history. In terms of overall streaks, including those spanning multiple seasons, Brady’s string ranks third.
Brady has set an NFL mark by throwing at least two touchdowns without an interception in each of his past seven games.
Both Brady and Belichick said there has been a large element of luck involved in avoiding lost fumbles and interceptions.
“We’ve been very fortunate – certainly I’ve been – a couple of times over the last few weeks,” Brady said Friday. “Guys who have been carrying the ball in the conditions in the winter time; when we were in Chicago, that was pretty cool not to turn over the ball on a day like that. As the weather gets cooler, the ball gets a little bit harder to handle. The teams that play well in this type of weather don’t turn the ball over.”
Added Belichick: “What the numbers are, that’s a little misleading. We had the ball on the ground and batted up in the air two to three times last week (against Green Bay) and players had their hands on it.”
Pro football players are notoriously superstitious, and most of the Patriots are reluctant to even mention the streak.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” said rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, knocking on a panel of wood adjacent to this locker. “Obviously, no one wants to be the one to end the streak.”
Notes: Brady said he was “feeling good” after his bout with a flu that’s been going around the locker room, and he’s ready to play Sunday. Brady missed practice Wednesday, but worked Thursday and Friday. Belichick said he had little doubt Brady would be ready. “Tom’s a tough guy. He’ll do what it takes to get ready.” … Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs made it a point to tell reporters earlier this week he left Brady off his Pro Bowl ballot. Brady didn’t vote for Suggs, either, though, for a different reason. Brady was ill and missed the voting for the Pro Bowl. On Friday, Brady called Suggs a “great player” and said he would have gotten his vote. A reporter put a Santa hat on the podium before Belichick’s press conference Friday, but the Patriots coach refused to take the bait and don the hat, recalling the famous Dec. 27, 2007 cover of Sports Illustrated with a doctored photo showing Belichick as Santa. “He thought long and hard about it,” said Patriots spokesman Stacey James. … The Patriots had 13 players on Friday’s injury list, but only four – guard Dan Connolly, defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Mike Wright, and safety James Sanders – did not practice. Connolly was listed as doubtful while Brady is officially probable, still nursing ankle and shoulder injuries.