Culture / Sporting Life

Tom Brady Gets Mad Love in Houston

Inside His Bizarre Night in the Bayou City — and Its Crushed J.J. Watt Aftermath

BY // 12.14.15

Tom Brady walks in looking like he stepped straight off the pages GQ — which wouldn’t be much of a stretch, since he’s appeared on several covers of the magazine. Still, this is little more than 30 minutes after a bruising football game — one in which J.J. Watt slammed him to the turf on an illegal hit and Jadeveon Clowney took him down twice in perfectly legal, brilliant bursts.

Still, there is Brady, decked out in a perfect gray suit, vest and black turtleneck — with a smart white pocket square peeking out. He gives New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick a hearty handshake as the two most important figures in the NFL’s great modern dynasty pass in the cramped space that serves as the visiting team’s press conference area at NRG Stadium. A wiseass Boston TV reporter dubs it “a closet.” In truth, it probably is smaller than some of the closets that Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen, have at home.

Brady soldiers on nevertheless. He answers exactly five questions before a Patriots PR rep ends the session. He looks satisfied, though nothing close to giddy. And then, he’s gone. It’s almost scary how militarily precise the whole Pats postgame is. The entire New England locker room is completely cleared out by 11:05 p.m. on Sunday night — even the numbers written on what tape above the lockers have been seemingly surgically removed. By contrast, Watt is still talking to reporters in the Texans’ locker room at 11:36 p.m.

Royalty doesn’t wait for anyone. Texans coach Bill O’Brien stops to shake Brady’s hand first before getting to Belichick after his team’s reality-inducing 27-6 loss, knowing that No. 12 might be gone before he can catch him otherwise.

With 6:04 left in the game, a good portion of an all-time record Texans crowd of 71,908 — or at least the half of it left — breaks into a loud, unmistakable “Brady! Brady! Brady!” chant. This is when you know you’re an icon and not just a football player. When you’re getting serenaded in a stadium more than 1,800 miles from the one you call home. Brady has no natural ties to Texas (outside of a Becca Cason Thrash cocktail party). But he still gets the love. It’s somehow surreal and almost fitting at the same time.

Even Brady seems a little surprised by the reaction. He’s caught glancing up into the stands rather sheepishly on camera. He’s The True Franchise Quarterback the Texans have never had. Deflategate and the reality that Brady likely benefitted from cheating means little to a city starved for a good quarterback. Texans fans would love to worship at the altar of Brady full-time. Moral implications? Child, please!

“Brady’s always doing it at a high level,” veteran Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph says. “He’s very consistent.”

He wins — whether he’s throwing five touchdown passes or the rather pedestrian 226 yards and two scores he gets against the Texans.

Brady got all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski back for this Sunday Night Football showcase, but he still doesn’t have invaluable pass catchers Julian Edleman and Dion Lewis — and bruising running back LeGarrette Blount was lost to a hip injury in the first half. It all leaves Brady and the Patriots utilizing a largely conservative, short-passing game attack against a Texans team with a toothless offense that presents little threat.

The Golden Boy quarterback does not have to do a ton.

“I think our defense played incredible,” Brady says. “Offensively we did enough … just keep plugging along.”

Predictably, Belichick and Brady made sure Keshawn Martin starred against the Texans, the team that drafted, discounted and discarded the Michigan State product. Martin found himself isolated on the left side for a one-on-one opportunity in the Patriots’ first goal-line chance. Brady looked Martin’s way first and waited for him to lose Texans rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson on a curl.

Revenge, and the Patriots 7, Texans 0.

This is the Patriots’ Way, too. Belichick is not as robotic as everyone always wants to make him out to be. He highlights players against their former teams, knowing they’re dying to have a moment. This is why Belichick’s more appreciated by his guys than you’ve been led to believe.

Martin got more touches against his old team (10 — three receptions, seven kick returns) than he has in any other game in his career. Only a fumble – and the predictable Belichick kick-returning benching afterwards — prevents him from getting anymore.

Earlier this month, Martin told ESPN that his favorite moment with the Texans was “when I got traded here.” Ouch — sometimes the truth hurts. It’s easy to imagine Martin smiling every time he looks over and sees Brady under center.

What about the leftovers, though? How must J.J. Watt feel to hear a “Brady! Brady!” chant in his own stadium?

Watt grudgingly admits his broken left hand hurts after the game (was this really a question — it’s broken?), but that is not the now club-cast-handed Watt’s only pain. He’s been through the Brady blender again, and once again come out the other side with his team looking much worse for wear.

Then, there’s Brady as perfectly coiffed as a fashion figure should be, marching toward an idling bus. This simple act — walking down an NRG Stadium corridor — got two security guards fired the last time Brady played a football game in Houston (for asking for photos with Brady, which the quarterback happily posed for at the time).

“It was a tough week,” says Belichick, who is so soft spoken in person that you often have to strain to hear him. “I thought we competed hard all week in terms of preparation. On the practice field, we practiced in pads and worked on a lot of fundamental things.”

This is how you make 27-6 in the national showcase game of the weekend – remember, NBC flexed into this blowout — look so ruthlessly easy. Well, that and having the guy whom everyone’s chanting for on the road.

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