Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning that having played without tight end Rob Gronkowski for five full games this season has his offense ready to move forward without the third-year tight end, who will miss the remainder of the postseason after breaking his forearm on Sunday.
"Sure. I think we put much more time in this year than we -- for example, like last year, when we played the Super Bowl, it was our first game without him in two years," Brady said during his weekly appearance on the "Dennis & Callahan" show on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "Not that that's any excuse because there are no excuses, but there's an uncertainty of how guys are going to play and step in. Well we know now, we know the types of packages we'll use and what we'll do and the different ways we'll try to find some weakness in the defense based on our groups and so forth."
Brady added that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' ability to excel when the team has had to adjust this season gives him confidence.
"That's what Josh does better than anybody else that I've been around; his ability to adjust like he's done all season," he said. "That's just the way it's gone. I think we've played a bunch of games now, we've never really been fully health, and obviously now won't be, but you know what? We've still got a very good team and there's different guys that step up and make those big time plays, whether it's Wes (Welker) or Brandon (Lloyd) or Deion (Branch) or Shane (Vereen) or Rid (Stevan Ridley) or Woody (Danny Woodhead), Aaron Herandez had another big game. They've got to stop all of us, and that's what we've got to continue to do this week."
Brady and his team will now focus their attention on the AFC Championship Game and the Baltimore Ravens, a team they lost to back in Week 3. Brady said he'll use that tape to study this week, while also noting the familiarity between the two teams, who also met in last season’s AFC title game.
"We learn from the last game, but like I said last week, it's just more of a few matchups and so forth. I think you get a feel for some coverages, but we've played them enough where we know the players, we know their strengths, we'll just work hard to see what they've done since our game. There's a lot of tape to be watched, but they're playing their best football right now.
"The way their offense played (against the Broncos on Saturday), I did see a few of those Torrey Smith catches and those were incredible," he continued. "He had a great game against us and he had a great game on Saturday. They've got a very good offense, very good defense, they've got some Pro Bowl special teams guys, they've got a great team and they're very well coached. That's why they're in the same position that they were last year. I feel the same way about us. I feel we've got the best coaching, we've got a lot of mentally tough players, physically tough players that are going to be facing our toughest challenge of the year. I know we'll be ready for it when we kickoff next week."
Before the Patriots had even punched their ticket to the AFC title game, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo fueled the anticipation for this week's game with some inflammatory remarks on Twitter about the Patriots offense, referring to the Patriots' up-tempo attack as a "gimmick."
Brady was pressed about those remarks on Monday morning.
"I think we've had a lot of people comment about our team and our players this year, and I think the best thing that we do is ignore the noise and we go out and try to prepare, and nothing really that anybody says or does is going to affect what happens next Sunday," he said. "I think it's best for us to just focus on what we can do and that's prepare and work and do what we've done all season. People want to say things, write things, they have the liberty to do that, but it doesn't really have any bearing on what we do."
Asked whether his team would once again push the tempo against the Ravens next week, Brady replied. "We're going to play the style that we've played all year. I don't know what we are going to do. I just woke up this morning."
Brady made it clear that he didn't need the remarks for motivation, instead focusing on the fact that his team is one win away from a return to the Super Bowl.
"That's the only motivation we need," he said. "That's the ultimate motivation."