Last year was, by all accounts, a bit of a surprise season for the Patriots.

 

They had talent, sure. But few expected a 14-2 regular season.

 

That, of course, was followed by a colossal letdown in the playoffs. Questions were raised, not least about Tom Brady, who had led the team to back-to-back one-and-done postseasons — on top of three straight playoff losses.

 

Does he want it enough? Does he lack the fire needed to win these games? Wait, is he wearing Uggs?

Going six seasons without a Super Bowl championship is far too long for Brady. But prior failed attempts mean nothing to this year’s squad.

 

“There’s only one team every year that has a good season and we haven’t been that team in a long time,” Brady said. “How this team takes to that challenge, we’ll see. I don’t know.

 

“This team will have its own identity and it’s all going to be based upon the work we put in — the toughness that we play with, the way that we play under pressure.”

A lot of players feel invincible out there. Brady seemed like one. But when he was forced to miss the entire 2008 season, that perception went out the window. Perhaps missing that time is what has kept him driven — and realizing his prime won’t last forever.

“Missing a whole season, that was as hard as can be to watch,” Brady said. “But you come back with hopefully some more resiliency, a little more mental toughness and you understand that each week you have a great gift — you get to go out there and do something you really love to do and to play at a high level.”