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Sports

January 14, 2014

Brady embraces underdog role in AFC title game

FOXBOROUGH — It’s been seven years since the Patriots were underdogs in a postseason game.

So Tom Brady isn’t wasting a chance to embrace that role now.

If that motivational tactic is good enough for the star quarterback, it’s good enough for his teammates.

“If Tom’s going to embrace it, I’m going to embrace it,” New England running back LeGarrette Blount said with a smile yesterday. “That’s the leader of this team, and if that’s how he feels, I’m sure that’s how most of the guys out here feel.”

For the first time in 12 postseason games, the Patriots are underdogs in Sunday’s AFC championship matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver.

The last time the Patriots weren’t favored in the playoffs was in another conference title game against Manning when he was with Indianapolis in 2007. The Colts rallied at home for a 38-34 win after trailing 21-3 in the final minute of the first half.

That also was the Patriots most recent playoff road game. Since then, they’re 7-2 at home and 0-2 in Super Bowls.

This season, they were underdogs at home against Denver on Nov. 24 but won 34-31 in overtime after trailing 24-0 at halftime.

In their next to last regular-season game, the Patriots (13-4) were underdogs at Baltimore, which had won four straight games, but beat the Ravens 41-7.

“I know when we played Baltimore nobody picked us to win,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “I’m sure no one’s going to pick us to win this week. We’ve had our backs against the wall for a while. Really, the whole season we’ve lost players, and teams have really counted us out.”

That may be an exaggeration. Teams don’t take the Patriots lightly.

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