Brady likes status of Patriots as underdog

The Associated PressJanuary 14, 2014 

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It’s been seven years since the New England Patriots were underdogs in a postseason game.

So Tom Brady isn’t wasting a chance to embrace that role now.

If that motivational tactic is good enough for the star quarterback, it’s good enough for his teammates.

“If Tom’s going to embrace it, I’m going to embrace it,” New England running back LeGarrette Blount said with a smile Monday. “That’s the leader of this team, and if that’s how he feels, I’m sure that’s how most of the guys out here feel.”

For the first time in 12 postseason games, the Patriots are underdogs in Sunday’s AFC championship matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos are favored by 41/2 points.

The last time the Patriots weren’t favored in the playoffs was in another conference title game against Manning when he was with Indianapolis in 2007. The Colts rallied at home for a 38-34 win after trailing in the final minute of the first half, 21-3.

That also was the Patriots’ most recent AFC playoff road game. Since then, they’re 7-2 at home and 0-2 in Super Bowls.

This season, they were underdogs at home against Denver on Nov. 24 but won 34-31 in overtime after trailing at halftime, 24-0.

In their penulimate regular-season game, the Patriots were underdogs at Baltimore, which had won four in a row, but beat the Ravens, 41-7.

“I know when we played Baltimore, nobody picked us to win,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI-FM. “I’m sure no one’s going to pick us to win this week. We’ve had our backs against the wall for a while. Really, the whole season we’ve lost players, and teams have really counted us out.”

That may be an exaggeration. Teams don’t take the Patriots lightly.

Still, Brady said, “We’ve got a bunch of underdogs on our team, and we’ll be an underdog again.”

He knows what it’s like to be underestimated. Back in 2000, he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. Teams chose 198 players before New England took a chance on him.

“He came into the league as a big underdog,” fullback James Develin said, “so I’m sure he’s used to that.”

It’s not surprising that the Broncos are favored.

They’re at home. They have Manning throwing to a deep group of receivers. The one-two running punch of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball is rolling. The defense may be suspect with five starters sidelined, but so is the Patriots’ defense, which is missing four of its front seven.

All the more fuel to stoke the underdog fire.

“We play with a chip on our shoulder and we like to play that way,” receiver Danny Amendola said.

New England was favored at home against the Colts in an AFC divisional-round game Saturday night and won ,43-22.

Denver upheld its favored status by repelling a late comeback and beating the San Diego Chargers, 24-17, on Sunday.

The regular-season game against the Broncos could help in the rematch, but the Patriots know both teams have evolved. One of the big changes is that Denver’s Julius Thomas is ready after missing the first meeting with a knee injury.

“He’s a big, talented tight end that can pretty much do it all,” Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said.

Thomas had 65 catches this season, one of five Broncos with at least 60. Only Julian Edelman, with 105, had at least 60 for New England.

In the end, once the game starts, it doesn’t matter who’s favored.

“Whoever they pick, they pick,” New England safety Steve Gregory said. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. So it’s two very good football teams that are going to go at it and we’ll see who gets it at the end.”

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