Tom Brady finds familiar motivation: "No one's gonna pick us to win this week"
Super Bowl odds from Bovada: Seattle 19/10 Denver 2/1 San Francisco 3/1 New England Patriots 9/2
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) January 13, 2014
If there is one thing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady likes doing, it's proving doubters wrong.
The Pats haven't gotten that chance very often the past few years.
They were a severe underdog at the start of Brady's career. You know the story, Mo Lewis's dive towards Drew Bledsoe's legs on the sideline permanently changed NFL history. An unknown 24 year old backup named Tom Brady become Super Bowl Champion, then Super Bowl champion again then Super Bowl champion again.
This year the now 36 year old Brady finds himself on a team full of young Bradys. A cast of spurned characters, cast aside by the NFL, united by nothing other than circumstance and fateful collisions that swapped their places on the bench with the stars they sat behind.
All-Pros like Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork and Sebastian Vollmer are sitting and watching players that no one's ever heard of, and players in many cases that no one even wanted.
Guys like Sealver Siligia, a cast off in Seattle and Denver now finding himself a key contributor filling the shoes of the injured Wilfork and Tommy Kelly on the defensive line and performing admirably.
Even guys like Julian Edelman, a seventh round pick, originally a quarterback, now with 100 catches on the year after 21 the year before. Fresh off a free-agency where interest was, to put it kindly, lukewarm and had the player settling for a measly $715,000 in a league where players routinely make millions.
Or LeGarrette Blount, a running back picked up off the scrap heap, traded away for nothing, his team having give up on him and his role replaced in Tampa by a budding star, Doug Martin. Blount was only playing for New England because fellow runner Stevan Ridley was putting the ball on the ground. He's been the unlikely hero the last three games, totaling 431 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We’ve had our backs against the wall for a while, really the whole season," Brady said on his weekly WEEI appearance. "We’ve lost players and teams have really counted us out. We’ve got a bunch of underdogs on our team and we’ll be underdogs again."
Underdogs again this week, against a Denver Broncos team that embodies the antithesis of the 2013 Patriots. Yet, at the same time, they are a reflection in the mirror.
The Patriots should find the Broncos style of play quite familiar. After all, it's what New England has been relying on ever since 2007, Brady's own record setting year.
Denver has the most powerful offense that the NFL has ever seen, reliant on the pass, but dangerous on the ground if you're not careful. Their defense? Not a behemoth, but certainly full of talent, playmakers and the ability to capitalize on mistakes.
The Broncos lost only three games this regular season, and in the 13 they've come out on top, it's normally been by a wide margin.
That used to be New England, but not this year.
The Pats have squeaked out their wins. Exactly half of their 12 regular season victories have come by three points or less, good for the second most close game wins in NFL history. Overcoming just injuries is clearly not the only thing the Pats have proven good at.
New England is not favored to win this game. They opened as six point underdogs. Further, as you see above, they have the worst odds of winning the Super Bowl. According to hypothetical Super Bowl lines, the Patriots would not be favored if they made it to the big game against either NFC opponent. In fact, the Pats are given the worst odds of any team for even making the Super Bowl in Vegas's mind.
The Patriots have been underdogs recently, unanimous losers before the opening kickoff just about a month ago in Baltimore. It's something left guard Logan Mankins took note of at the time, and of course, Brady and his perpetual chip on his shoulder have not forgotten.
"I know when we played Baltimore, no one picked us to win," said Brady. "I'm sure nobody will pick us to win this week."
Perhaps they won't, but one thing's for sure, you should never count out a team full of people sick of being counted out. A team of cast-offs who despite whatever distraction, tragedy or deficit they've faced, have continued to prove the doubters wrong.
Namely, it seems especially strange to doubt the poster boy for that group. Tom Brady. A man who recently has seemed to have rediscovered that moment, almost 14 years ago, sitting on his couch waiting for his name to pop up in the draft. The man who knows the name of every quarterback picked ahead of him by heart, the man who announced his entrance into the league with a championship.
"It would be as satisfying a victory as we have ever had to go into Denver and get the win," Brady said.
Can you wait until Sunday?