BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots enter their bye week at 7-2 and atop the AFC East, but they know the hardest part of the season is ahead of them.
98.5 The Sports Hub's Scott Zolak sat down with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Friday for an exclusive 1-on-1 on WBZ-TV's Patriots All Access, and the Pats play-caller knows nothing will be given to them over the final seven weeks of the season.
"We have our most important football ahead of us. It feels good to be 7-2, but seven wins doesn't get you anything in the NFL. We're going to have to go out and earn the rest of them," said Brady, whose 2,256 passing yards rank 10th in the NFL this season. "The fate of our season is in our owns hands, what more can you ask? That's the fun part, the challenging part. We have as good an opportunity as anybody else. What are we going to do with it? We have to earn it. We're going to see what we're made of, and that's the exciting part for all of us."
It hasn't been the smoothest of seasons for Brady and the New England offense. With Wes Welker now in Denver, Aaron Hernandez nowhere near a football field and Rob Gronkowski missing the first six weeks of the season, Brady had to make it work with three rookie receivers and newcomer Danny Amendola (who also missed time with injury). Brady knew this season was going to be a challenge going in, but overcoming that challenge is what makes the Patriots who they are.
"[My mindset last spring was] that we have to do whatever it takes to win games. There have been a lot of parts that have changed over the years, that's just the way the NFL is. No one feels sorry for the New England Patriots and no one ever will feel sorry for the New England Patriots," said the eight-time pro bowler. "We have to take it upon ourselves to produce the outcome of the season that we want. The guys that are [here], that's who we go with."
Brady applauded rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and New England's running back corps for making the difference in Gronkowski's absence, but he made sure to praise the guys that protect him every week.
"The offensive line has been the strength for us. It's a great group of smart guys that really work hard," Brady said. "They put the time in and do great in the run game and great in the pass game. They're the strength of our team, those guys up front… It's a great group."
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Things have looked a little more like they normally do with Gronkowski back on the field the last three weeks. Brady had his first 400+ passing yard game of the season against the Steelers, with Gronkowski hauling in nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in the 55-31 romp.
But Brady says it's what Gronkowski brings off the field and to the sidelines that is most important.
"What he does for our team, most importantly, is his enthusiasm and his energy – him being Gronk," explained Brady. "He brings a lightness to a playing football attitude to our team. That's why we love him, that's why our fans love him. Now that he's had a few games under his belt he's knocked some of the nerves off and it's back to just playing football."
While last Sunday may have been the team's best offensive performance of the season, Brady looks back to their Week 6 final-minute comeback victory against the New Orleans Saints as an early turning point.
"I would say that situation, and you look at a situation that I would say was 'desperate,' there was no panic or lose of composure or poise by anybody. That has really been a strength on this team; there is some mental toughness on this team," said Brady. "We have fought through a lot, losing certain players, but that's the way the NFL is. To win games on a weekly basis, you have to be mentally tough. We're finding ways to do it. It's a little bit different ever week but the only thing that matters in the end of the week is if you won or lost. That's the most important thing."
If you missed Brady with Zolak on Friday night, tune in to Patriots All Access on myTV38 on Sunday morning at 9 a.m.. You can see Part 2 of the Brady sit-down next Friday night on WBZ-TV at 7 p.m.!
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