EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 9, 2013

Brady's spirit rubs off

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — FOXBORO — Tom Brady Column No. 124 ...Take 1.

New England Patriots backup defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga was seated at his locker, alone, appearing to be caught in a pensive moment as he stared ahead of him.

Mind you, Sopoaga didn’t play much yesterday in the Patriots’ 27-26 victory, not registering a tackle or assist, but that didn’t take away from the religious-like experience he witnessed.

“Amazing,” said Sopoaga, who was drafted in 2004 by the San Francisco 49ers, looking up with a smile. “I’ve seen this guy do it a lot on TV. I’ve seen it a few times in person on the other sidelines, too. And now I’ve witnessed it almost every game since I got here (Oct. 29).

“Tom Brady is special,” Sopoaga continued. “There is a spirit he has. It affects everyone in this room. It really does.”

You can’t fault Sopoago for having a slightly different perspective than the rest of us had. He’s been a Patriot for about five weeks — Pats acquired him from Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick after Tommy Kelly was officially lost for the season — and he has happened to witness five consecutive Brady-is-special games.

After the 55-31 demolition of the Steelers in which Brady was 22-for-33 with 432 yards and 4 TD passes, Sopoaga saw Brady remarkably get the Patriots near the end zone against the Carolina Panthers for a potential winning score before the controversial penalty/non-penalty call.

Then it was overcoming the 24-0 deficit in brutal cold and wind against the Broncos to win 34-31 in OT, followed by the 34-31 win over the Houston Texans last week, in which Brady helped the Patriots get in position for two 53-yard field goals in the final minutes.

Then came yesterday, another awful first half with many bleak moments, when the Patriots scored two touchdowns in just 68 seconds to clinch another amazing win. Brady was 16 of 20 for 142 yards passing and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

In fact, the previous time Sopoaga saw Brady in person was last December when he came here with the 49ers. He saw Brady & Co. overcome a 31-3 deficit to tie the score 31-31 before the 49ers eventually won, 41-34.

“It isn’t all Tom Brady, of course,” said Sopoaga. “Bill Belichick does an incredible job of putting his players in the right position. We have some tough competitors here, where everyone is focused on winning. But it really is special watching TB (Brady) do his thing.”

You bet.

If the Patriots offensive line doesn’t do an about-face against the Broncos, allowing Brady to be sacked three times in the first half while he wasn’t touched in the second half, there is no comeback.

If Stephen Gostkowski doesn’t convert on both 53-yard field goals against Houston, the Patriots probably lose.

If the Kyle Arrington doesn’t recover the perfectly executed on-sides kick, again by Gostkowski, the Patriots definitely lose.

But I go back to Sopoaga’s message about the special quality of this team, which appears to emanating from its quarterback, helping overcome major injuries that would ruin most franchises.

“It’s so nice to be on TB’s side,” said Sopoaga. “You have a feeling that something great is going to happen ... and then it does. It is spirit that takes over the entire team. I am so thankful to be a part of this team. Trust me, Patriots Way is a real thing. I am experiencing it right now.”

Email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.