FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here's how much winning matters to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: On a week in which he and his wife welcomed their first child together, Brady hinted that a loss Sunday against the Panthers might have tarnished an otherwise joyous time.
Five days removed from the delivery room, Brady was still laboring Sunday at Gillette Stadium. In terms of passing yards, he had his worst outing of the season in completing 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
But that was enough to help the Patriots emerge with a win, and that means cutting out the headlines for Baby Brady's scrapbook Monday got a little easier to stomach.
"It was a great week for me, obviously, but to really top it off with a win -- it seems like everything else is good, but when you lose games at work, it makes for a hard week," Brady said. "We've had two straight losses, and I was really excited to come out and play this week and get a win, so it turned out to be a pretty great week."
Brady, who missed two practice sessions during the week with rib, shoulder and finger injuries, was listed as questionable for Sunday's game, though there was little doubt he'd start.
That much was evident when he showed up in Foxborough on Wednesday morning just hours after the birth of his child. While four players, including receiver Randy Moss, showed up late due to the morning snow, Brady came early to send a message about dedication.
Even so, he looked like a player in pain during an absolutely gruesome first half Sunday. Brady completed 8 of 15 passes for 59 yards with an interception. The pick came on an overthrown out route to Moss -- though the receiver did little to help his quarterback -- and led to Carolina's lone touchdown of the game.
Meanwhile, the Patriots kept falling into familiar traps: an inability to convert on fourth-and-1, interception, fumble.
The difference between this week and recent losses? The Patriots finally exhibited the fight that Brady and Wes Welker challenged the team to show after last week's defeat in Miami.
"I'm proud of the way we fought today," Brady said. "It was a hard-fought win. It's a December win, and now it's on to the most important game of the year."
Every game from here on out is the most important game of the year for the Patriots, who have made December a little more challenging than it needed to be with an inability to put away opponents.
Brady lamented the fact that the Patriots were essentially one play away from wins against both Indianapolis and Miami. An inability to put the ball in the end zone has forced those games to come down to one play, which is why a 5-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter Sunday meant so much to Brady.
The Patriots had covered 91 yards over 12 plays and were facing a crucial third-and-goal at the Carolina 5. Far too often this season they've settled for a field goal in similar situations. Instead, Brady connected with Watson near the front of the end zone for a 14-7 advantage.
"We've been a part of a lot of these games this year, like the Miami game, where we lose but it's literally one play," Brady said. "You make one more play in that game and you win -- or the Colts game, or some of these games where there have been tight games.
"Well, there was the one play today: the touchdown to Ben. That ended up being the difference. A play like that that we've got to make, and we're certainly capable of making it. It's about going out and practicing and all being on the same page and communicating about it and being attentive and supportive of each other. I mean, that's what a team is all about, so as a leader on this team and as a quarterback and being here for a long time, I always try to convey that message."
Welker, the recipient of more than half of Brady's completions Sunday, said leaders can't just convey that message through the spoken word alone; they need to back it up on the field. That's exactly what Brady did, overcoming his first-half woes.
He could be seen at times roaming the sideline, emphatically motioning to his linemen or his receivers. He wasn't going to let a loss ruin this week.
"As a veteran player, you know what's at stake at this time of year and what your goal is," said running back Kevin Faulk. "And in order to reach our goal, we might have to get a little emotional, get guys to come with you and lead by example."
For Brady, it was all about bouncing back.
"You've just got to keep fighting," he said. "I think that's the message I always try to convey to everybody. If you're a quarterback, you throw picks, you throw bad balls. If you're a receiver, you drop balls. If you're a running back, you fumble balls. You know, it's just part of the process and it's about making the next one a good one and not making the next one another bad one because you're a little bit down in the dumps."
Nothing was bringing Brady down this week.
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.