FOXBORO -- It dominated the week.
What happened to Tom Brady's hand? How many stitches did he need? Was there ligament damage? Would the injury limit his ability to throw, and might Brian Hoyer have to relieve him if he can't? Could the Patriots actually win with Hoyer? Who would be the third quarterback in that situation?
It got ridiculous.
We can say that now because Brady ended up being just fine. Or at least he played that way. He threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns, both to Danny Amendola, during two fourth-quarter drives to bring the Patriots back from a 20-10 deficit and win 24-20.
From start to finish -- save for a couple of high throws on New England's third drive of the game -- Brady seemed to have his complete arsenal at his disposal. He threw long and soft to Phillip Dorsett for 31 yards off a flea-flicker during the first fourth-quarter scoring drive. Brady ripped a long and accurate throw to Amendola on third-and-18 just before the Dorsett completion. He completed passes short over the middle. He completed passes long, across the field, with some zip to the sideline.
During the Lamar hunt Trophy presentation after the game, Brady was asked what happened during the week with his hand and how it felt during the game.
"I said we'll see," Brady answered, referring to his press conference on Friday. "So how'd it go?"
New England Patriots
Not bad. It was the 54th time he led his team to a win after facing a fourth-quarter tie or deficit, and it was the 11th time he'd done so in the postseason. Brady finished the game having completed 26-of-38 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
"It went pretty good. It went pretty good," he said. "Coach Belichick doesn’t like us talking about injuries too much. But just for you guys here, it was just a pretty good cut and I dealt with it the best I could and lucky to have the best teammates in the world because without them we’re not standing up here going to Minneapolis and playing in the Super Bowl."
Belichick was asked after the game if Brady's injury impacted the game plan in any way. The coach smiled a sort of exasperated smile.
"Not that I'm aware of," he said. ". . . I mean, look, Tom did a great job and he's a tough guy. We all know that, all right? But we're not talking about open-heart surgery here."
But we were talking about Brady. Again. And why not, given his penchant for the dramatic . . . which is exactly what Sunday was, even without the hand injury. But you don't get to eight Super Bowls in 18 years by putting much stock in the dramatic. It's about execution in critical situations, and that's what Belichick explained the Patriots were able to do to in their latest thriller.
"We made some plays that we needed to make," he said. "Yeah, the third-and-18 was a huge play to get us out of a hole, to get us started on that drive. Again, it's that kind of game. We didn’t do a lot of things well in the first half. We didn’t play very well defensively. We didn’t play very well in the red area, couldn’t convert any third downs. I know it just wasn’t the way we wanted to play the game.
"We fell behind and made more plays at the end, played better defensively, played well in the kicking game, played well offensively when we needed to. I think that’s really the mark of this team and these players, is when we need it the most that’s when we played our best. Fortunately, we were able to do that today."
And fortunately for the Patriots, the most important hand on the team -- the subject of great scrutiny for the last five days -- held up.