Brady says Patriots do what’s necessary to win

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If the Bears were in a giving mood after handing John Fox a four-year contract Friday, they might have wanted to send a gift basket to the Colts’ locker room Sunday.

Address: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Care of: Andrew Luck.

If the Colts and their star quarterback hadn’t eliminated the Broncos from playoff contention a week ago, Fox wouldn’t have left the Broncos — or, at least, not in time for the Bears to name him their coach four days after parting.

While Peyton Manning, the Broncos’ future Hall of Fame quarterback, sits at home Sunday, Tom Brady, 37, and Luck, 25, will decide the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl.

And that’s not just hyperbole. Not even the Packers lean on their quarterback more than the Patriots and Colts.

As Marc Trestman might say, you don’t need to run the ball to win.

The Patriots flirted with running fewer times last week than Donald Trump during election season. In their 35-31 divisional-round playoff win against the Ravens, the Patriots handed the ball off exactly seven times — the same number of running plays Trestman called in the Bears’ Thanksgiving loss to the Lions.

Throw in six Brady scrambles, and the Patriots finished with 14 yards on 13 carries — the fewest rushing yards by a winning playoff team.

Not that anyone is apologizing.

“Look, we’re comfortable with everything we’re doing,” Brady said this week. “We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t. It’s just the way the game turned out. When you’re down twice by 14 points, sometimes that’s the way the game goes.

“Whatever you’ve got to do to win and advance, that’s all that matters.”

Despite running back Dan Herron’s increasing workload, the Colts aren’t that much more balanced than the Patriots. There were six games this season in which a team ran the ball 10 times or fewer; the Colts did it twice.

The leading rusher in either uniform — the Colts’ Trent Richardson, whose 519 yards were good for 39th in the NFL — was a healthy scratch last week.

The second-highest, Jonas Gray, has turned into a cautionary tale. In Week 11 against these same Colts, Gray rattled off a franchise-record four rushing touchdowns and 201 yards in the Patriots’ 42-20 win.

He landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Two days later, he overslept and was late to practice. Two days after that, he didn’t play against the Lions.

He hasn’t touched the ball in almost a month.

“There’s no frustration,” Gray said.

Trailing early and without much of a running game last week, the Patriots got creative.

A double pass (actually a lateral and a pass) — Brady to Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola — produced a 51-yard touchdown. Three times in the third quarter, the Patriots lined up with four down linemen and a receiver who declared himself ineligible — a legal move that borders on genius or deception, depending on whether your name is John Harbaugh. They gained 41 yards.

“The thing we’ve got to do is score more points than them,” Brady said. “However we have to do it, however we have to move the ball down the field, that’s what we’re prepared to do.”

Luck hopes to have better success against the Patriots. He has an 0-3 record and eight career interceptions against New England.

“I’ve never viewed it as quarterback vs. quarterback,” Luck said. “Obviously, [Brady] is a stud out there. I have the utmost respect for what he does, what he’s done and what he still does.

“He’s a great role model for any quarterback at any level playing the position, but it’s a team game. To me, it’s as simple as that.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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