Brady finds sil­ver lin­ing,

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Tom Brady and the Pa­tri­ots still could fin­ish No. 1 in the AFC.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady found some­thing en­cour­ag­ing in his tough­est stretch of the sea­son.

He knows he and his New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots can come back from a huge deficit.

The two-time NFL Most Valu­able Player had his three low­est passer rat­ings of the sea­son in his past four games. His 68.9 on Dec. 16 in a 41-34 loss to the San Fran­cisco 49ers was his worst in his last 49 reg­u­lar-sea­son games. But he did rally them from a 31-3 deficit to tie that game with four touch­downs in 15 min­utes.

“If we’re down 28 points again, which I hope we’re not, at least you can say, ‘Well, we’ve come back from this be­fore,’ ” Brady said Wed­nes­day. “So I think you can draw on those ex­pe­ri­ences, but this week is go­ing to be its own sep­a­rate game and we’re go­ing to have to go out there and earn it.”

The Pa­tri­ots showed that come­back abil­ity a year ago against the Mi­ami Dol­phins, the team they’ll meet in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale on Sun­day. In last sea­son’s matchup at Gil­lette Sta­dium in the next to last game be­fore the play­offs, the Pa­tri­ots over­came a 17-0 half­time deficit by scor­ing the next 27 points and won 27-24.

This year, the Pa­tri­ots (11-4) have clinched the AFC East ti­tle. The Dol­phins (7-8) are out of the play­offs for the fourth straight sea­son.

New Eng­land can be seeded in any of the con­fer­ence’s top four spots. The Hous­ton Tex­ans, Den­ver Broncos and Bal- ti­more Ravens also will fin­ish in the top four with the top two get­ting firstround byes.

But the Pa­tri­ots could be elim­i­nated from the No. 1 po­si­tion by the time their game starts at 3:25 p.m.

Hous­ton (12-3) would clinch it with a win over the Indianapolis Colts (105) in a noon game. Den­ver (12-3) is cur­rently in sec­ond place in the AFC and is home against the weak Kansas City Chiefs at 3:25 p.m. Baltimore (10-5) is in fourth and vis­its Cincin­nati at noon.

Coach Bill Belichick isn’t fo­cus­ing on all that.

“We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to get ready for the Dol­phins,” he said. “I’ve been around this league long enough to know that you can’t pre­dict how things are go­ing to go on Sun­days in the NFL. We’ll con­trol what we can con­trol, which is to get ready and play Mi­ami.”

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