FOXBORO — The external noise did little to slow Tom Brady in his pursuit of a sixth Super Bowl title.
Playing in his first game after an unflattering ESPN piece portrayed Brady as a prima donna of sorts, the Patriots quarterback let his playing do all the talking. He completed 35-of-53 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats rolled over the Tennessee Titans, 35-14, last night to advance to their seventh straight AFC Championship Game.
If Brady was affected by the story, he certainly didn’t show it during or after the game. He even chuckled when the question was posed to him.
“I’ve been around long enough, been around 18 years and there has been so many nice things said about me, (the negativity) just goes with the territory,” Brady said. “I just try to be consistent and do the best I can do every week for the team.”
The win put the Patriots in their 12th AFC title game since Brady assumed the ranks in 2001. For a franchise which had been in just two Super Bowls in its first 40 years of existence, the reversal of fortune even amazes Brady.
“It’s really incredible to be a part of that,” he said. “We don’t take it for granted around here. I know how hard it is to get to this game. We’ve had a lot of good fortune and hard work, but we have to get right back to the process of trying to break down the next opponent.”
One of the major reasons the Patriots were successful last night was third down efficiency. During the regular season, the Pats hovered around 40 percent, but against the Titans they were able to convert 11-of-17 third downs (65 percent).
“The third downs were huge,” Brady said. “We talked about it during the bye week, trying to improve there. We did really well on third down and in the red zone.”
It helped that Brady had two of his key weapons back at his disposal. James White returned from an ankle injury and continued his postseason scoring wizardry, catching a TD pass and running for a second score. Chris Hogan missed most of the second half of the season with a shoulder injury, but he also made his presence felt with a touchdown reception and a jarring block on Wesley Woodyard early in the game.
“They did a great job,” Brady said. “There have been some parts that have been in and out of the lineup. When you have two of your best players on the field, it is a great benefit to us.”