The Northern California native explained that stunning line by referring to the fact that he grew up a 49ers fan. A few years ago, he shared a photo of himself as a young boy in 49ers attire who had the good fortune — although you wouldn’t know it from the expression on his face — of attending the 1982 NFC championship game at Candlestick Park. That contest became legendary for “The Catch,” a leaping, late-game grab in the end zone by San Francisco wide receiver Dwight Clark that helped defeat Dallas and send his team to its first Super Bowl.
On Wednesday, though, Brady was more of a mind to recall the 49ers-Cowboys rivalry of the 1990s, heaping praise on Dallas stars of that period such as running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin, quarterback Troy Aikman and linebacker Ken Norton Jr. Brady also went a couple of decades further back into Cowboys history, calling quarterback Roger Staubach, whom he has had a chance to meet, “such a cool guy and someone to really look up to.”
In short and in keeping with Brady’s general habit of being studiously noncontroversial, he made sure to follow his moment of trash talk by throwing plenty of compliments in the direction of his upcoming opponent.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys,” he said of the Cowboys. “They’ve actually had a great winning organization and a lot of great players in their history.”
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” he added of Sunday’s matchup between his 9-1 squad and 6-4 Dallas. “I love the opportunity to compete against great teams this time of year as Thanksgiving approaches. It means a lot for both teams.”
Overall, Brady’s tone was much more upbeat Wednesday than it was Sunday after the Patriots struggled to move the ball in a 17-10 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.
During what MassLive.com described as his “surliest press conference in recent memory,” Brady offered notably terse answers to postgame questions from reporters, leading one to ask whether he felt “discouraged.”
“Well, we just played for three hours. So I think everyone is a little tired,” he replied.
Brady said then of the offense that “we can probably do everything better,” and while he acknowledged Wednesday that it was “great to be 9-1,” he added, “We just have high expectations for what we’re doing as an offense, so we’re just trying to figure out how we can do things consistently, with dependability, and guys are working hard at it.”
“Sometimes it comes together early, middle of the season, late in the season,” Brady said (via ESPN). “The only thing that matters really is this week and trying to beat a really good football team.”
Even with some lingering concerns about his offense as he prepares to play Dallas, Brady can take comfort in the fact that he is 4-0 in his career against the Cowboys, completing almost 63 percent of his passes for 1,164 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 101.9 rating.
This season, though, Brady’s passer rating (90.1) is well below his career average (97.3), as are his marks in touchdown percentage (3.5-5.4) and yards per attempt (6.8-7.5). Of course, that’s the kind of thing that can happen when you’re in the 20th season of an NFL career that has included six Super Bowl wins in nine trips.
By reaching nine victories, the Patriots clinched their 19th consecutive season with a winning record, an unprecedented feat in the NFL. As far as most consecutive seasons at .500 or better, that record was set at 21 by the Cowboys, who accomplished it between 1965 and 1985.
That was when the perpetually contending Cowboys garnered the nickname “America’s Team.” Asked this week on Boston’s WEEI whether his dynastic squad had usurped that designation, Brady demurred, saying with a chuckle, “I don’t think we’re probably America’s favorite team at this point.”
“The fans we have we really appreciate, and they come out and support us,” he added. “But we have a lot of non-fans, too. I’ll put it that way.”
Of those non-fans, any of them younger than, say, 23 have essentially no memories of a time when New England wasn’t ruling the NFL. Drop the ages down to 18 or younger, and they could easily steal a line from Brady himself about how long they have been non-fans of the Patriots.