The Patriots are on a roll of late, catalyzed by a turnover-forcing defense and a stretch of play from quarterback Tom Brady that has been unrivaled by others in 2012.
Since a Week 6 loss in Seattle, Brady has thrown 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, as the team has won five straight games in that stretch. It could be said that he is playing as well now as he has during any stretch of his 13-year career, which is what he was asked during his weekly appearance Monday on the "Dennis & Callahan" show on WEEI sports radio in Boston.
"I hope so," Brady replied. "I hope I'm getting better and better and making more improvements. I think that's what our coaches expect of myself, that's what they expect of every player, is to keep getting better. There's really no reason anybody shouldn't. You should make your improvements, you should learn from your mistakes, and I think our team has done a really good job of that over the course of the season. We've just got to be able to continue to do it."
Brady's not the only Patriot who has stepped up in 2012, as he's been supported by a stable of running backs that has continued to make an impact both as runners and receivers. He pegged that group, which includes Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden, as the most improved from the start of the season.
"There was a lot competition at running back in the early part of the season, and that whole group has really been a huge strength of our team," he said. "What our running backs have been able to do both in the pass game and the run game -- and not that I didn't think they could do it, it's just they didn't have the opportunity to prove it -- and I think what those guys have done, Shane [Vereen], Danny [Woodhead] and Stevan [Ridley] and Brandon Bolden when he's been in there, they've just taken advantage of their opportunities. It's really cool to see as a veteran player when young guys get opportunities and they take advantage of them."
After playing Thursday night in New York against the Jets, Brady said this week feels a little bit like a bye week as the team prepares to face a Dolphins squad that he understands presents a number of challenges.
"They won a big game yesterday against Seattle, a team we lost to," Brady said of the Dolphins. "I know that they've got a lot of players with a lot of talent. In the second game last year they played us tough. We didn't play very well in the first half of that game. Those players -- it's a team that we've always had a tough time with down in Florida. They're athletic, they can rush the quarterback, [defensive end] Cameron Wake is one of the best players that we play all season, very good third-down defense, good secondary. It's going to be a fun game."
The stakes are high for the Patriots in Week 13, as a win would punch their ticket to the playoffs and clinch the AFC East division crown. However, Brady said that a win on Sunday wouldn't change his team's approach at all going forward.
"No. It assures you a home playoff game. I think that's goal number one," he continued. "That's what we can accomplish this week. We always talk about championship games, and this is a championship game. You talk about must-win games, they're all must-win games at this point. We've been winning four or five games in a row now, and every game has been important, and as the season goes on, the next game is always more important than the one you just played. I think that's the case this week too."