“I don’t think you take for granted that you know everything about [Houston],” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “The more time you have, the better you can understand, so to have a second week in five or six weeks to have the chance to prepare for them, yeah, you learn a lot of things. And it’s not like they're going to be able to put in a whole new defense for us, but I'm sure there are things that will be different. There always are. I don’t think any game ever goes as planned. I think there is always a part of seeing how they're playing you, being able to adjust and who can make the adjustments? Who can get those on the field and execute under pressure? That's the team that’s going to win.”
With a trip to the AFC Championship on the line, the Patriots know they will need to be aggressive and attack what is expected to be a hungry and motivated Texans’ team Sunday.
“You don’t win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “You have to go out there and attack. You have to go out there and make the plays you need to make to win. It’s a one-game season.”
Veterans like Brady have experienced it all in the postseason – from Super Bowl championships to heart-breaking defeats and early playoff exits. Brady knows if the Patriots are going to make another Super Bowl run it will come down to how well they execute on the field Sunday.
“I think it’s a matter of execution more than anything,” Brady said. “I think there are things that we did in the last game [against the Texans] with the guys who played in the last game that did a good job execution-wise. I hope the guys that are in there this week do a good job execution-wise, because it comes down to, like I said, there’s nothing [relevant] about last game – giving us an opportunity to have this game at home, I think that’s the important thing about last game. Other than that, this is going to be a whole different game full of our own execution, our ability to try to beat a very good football team that’s played well all year.”
Some of the preparation for the Texans on Sunday has been the same as it was in December, including the return of brooms and racquets at practice to simulate the reach and pass-blocking ability of JJ Watt and the Texans’ defensive line.
“More of the same [with brooms and racquets at practice],” Brady said. “It gets frustrating at times, but I think it’s a very good thing that coach does and it just subliminally gets it in my head of his [J.J. Watt’s] ability and their ability to defend passes at the line of scrimmage, which I’m sure teams try to do every week, but they get them every week. So that’s a big difference.”
The difference between the Patriots’ 42-14 win in Week 14 and Sunday’s meeting in the AFC Divisional Round continues to be a point of emphasis for Belichick as he readies his team for the AFC Divisional Round game.
“We need to be ready for whatever we’re going to get this week,” Belichick said. “It won’t be the same as any of those games but we can learn from all those.”
“You understand things aren’t going to be the same,” said Brady. “They're going to see things that they're working on that are going to be different for us this time around. We do the same thing. I think you put a game plan in like we always do and you see if it works. And if it works, great, you win the game. But the next time you play them, you have to figure out another game plan. It’s never ‘let’s just take a bunch of those plays and just run those again.’ It’s ‘what worked? What didn’t work?’ Because although the score was good, every play wasn’t perfect; it was far from it. I think there are a lot of things we can learn from and we can understand what we need to do better.”
For the Pats, it all begins with execution of its game plan.
“I think it’s about creating a game plan that you feel like can be successful against a team that you’re playing,” Belichick said. “The way certain plays matched up in the first game, first of all, I don’t even know if we’re going to run the same plays or they’re going to run the same plays so that it could even possibly match up in this game. But even if it did, the chances of it matched up, the number of plays that we run and the number of defenses that they run, for it to be the exact same is infinitesimal. It’s not going to happen. I don’t think that’s really important. It’s about being prepared to deal with whatever it is we have to deal with on Sunday and going out there and executing it well. It’s not trying to replicate a matchup, you can’t do it.”
If the Patriots even come close to replicating its Dec. 10 success against Houston then it will likely be another long day in Foxborough for the Texans.