Brady won't blame inconsistency on hand

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wouldn’t fib to his fickle football followers, would he?

Brady continues to look un-Brady-like and now speculation is swirling that something is wrong with his right throwing hand, as he recently had his middle and ring fingers taped together after absorbing a direct hit on the digits on a sack last Sunday.

CBS cameras focused their high-powered zoom lens on the hand multiple times in Sunday’s 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins, as Brady often tucked it into a padded pouch wrapped around his waist. To the casual viewer, the back of his hand looked badly swollen.

That would go a long way toward explaining Brady’s latest up-and-down performance, which sparked boos from the home crowd at halftime, and in many ways, reflects what we’ve seen from the Patriots this season.

New England (6-2) has been a Jekyll and Hyde team, capable of looking like one of the NFL’s worst for long stretches before suddenly transforming into the look of a contender. The Patriots are hard to figure out. So, too, is whether Brady’s hand is the primary issue that led to a shaky performance yielding the following stat line Sunday: 13-of-22 for 116 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

The last time Brady threw for 116 or fewer yards? That would be Dec. 20, 2009, when he had 115 in a 17-10 win against the Buffalo Bills in frigid Western New York.

We have to go back to 2006, when he had a 78-yard performance against Miami, and then followed it up with a 109-yard effort against Houston, for the times before that.

But you have to hand it to Brady; he isn’t using the hand as an excuse.

"My hand is perfect," he said.

It’s not bothering you?

"Absolutely not," he responded.

But it looked swollen on television.

"I didn’t know that anyone knows what the back of my right hand looks like," he said. "It looks fine to me. It feels good, so I’ll be out there next week, you don’t have to worry about that."

Brady’s remarks come as no surprise because he has never been one to talk about injuries over his 14-year career. It's almost been like a badge of courage for him. He knows that no one wants to hear the quarterback complain, especially when everyone else is battling something too.

So the next time we hear Brady mention an ailment probably will be the first. At the same time, perhaps receiver Danny Amendola sensed something was up when he said, "Without a doubt, one of the toughest football players to ever play the game is Tom Brady."

He's smart too, and that's what had coach Bill Belichick in a bit of a joking mood after Sunday's win, in which the Patriots dug themselves a 17-3 halftime deficit before scoring 24 unanswered points.

Unable to get things going consistently with his right arm, and his accuracy perhaps compromised by the hand, Brady used his legs on one of the key plays in the game. The Patriots were leading 20-17 and driving into a strong wind early in the fourth quarter when they faced fourth-and-4, and Brady ultimately scrambled 8 yards. Belichick seemed to get a kick out what he referred to as "open-field running."

"One thing about Tom, he's a smart player, he knows when to run," Belichick said of the far-from-fleet-footed Brady. "The only time he runs is when there’s a whole lot of space [and] he made a great decision there. It was a huge first down for us. As usual, a great decision by Tom."

The run kept the drive alive and the Patriots, catching a break when the Dolphins were then penalized for a not-often-seen illegal bat penalty following a Brady sack, ran four straight times into the end zone to make it 27-17.

"I was looking for Gronk and Danny and they had those guys, it was pretty tight," Brady explained of why he ran. "I found a little space. It doesn't happen often, but it ended up being a good play for us, and we needed it. It was tough going that direction into the wind today."

Really, it was tough going in both directions. Brady, whose interception throwing behind tight end Rob Gronkowski on his first pass set a tone for a dreadful first half, described the effort as one in which the team was "grinding away," which is the way it has mostly been through eight weeks.

"We obviously have a long way to go," Brady said, "but it feels good to be 6-2."

Even with a sore right hand.

Or so it appears, not that Brady would admit it.

"It’s football, it's a contact sport and you play as hard as you can and you count on the guys next to you to do the same," he said. "I feel great. For the eighth week of the year, I feel awesome. Hopefully we go out and execute better. Ultimately, that's what it takes."