Patriot tough: Grit carries New England to bye
LeGarrette Blount carries defenders with him. Logan Mankins
misses just one series after hurting his ankle. Tom Brady drives
his team to last-minute victories.
These New England Patriots are one tough bunch.
”You’ve got to deal with adversity,” wide receiver Danny
Amendola said. ”We’ve got a lot of tough guys in this locker room,
that’s for sure.”
There’s the 250-pound Blount, who rushed for 189 yards and
returned two kickoffs for 145 in New England’s 34-20 win over
Buffalo last Sunday.
There’s the 308-pound Mankins, a five-time Pro Bowl guard who
blocked two Bills to spring Blount for a 36-yard touchdown run
moments before being helped off the field with the injury.
And there are rookies and unheralded free agents who contributed
when the Patriots lost key defensive players Jerod Mayo, Vince
Wilfork and Tommy Kelly for the season before it was half over and
other starters for shorter periods.
The Patriots ”never quit, never felt sorry for ourselves, never
just went in a corner and said `we wanted to hide,” said one of
those replacements, tight end Matthew Mulligan.
That approach helped the Patriots (12-4) earn the second seed in
the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.
”We’ve had other tough, competitive teams,” coach Bill
Belichick said Tuesday. ”I don’t know where one ranks or the other
ranks but I certainly think this team has shown examples of that
many times. … I think we’re going to need it going forward.”
Not knowing their next opponent, players are spending the week
practicing and allowing their bruised bodies to rest. The Patriots
will find out late Sunday afternoon which team they play in
Foxborough the night of Jan. 11.
It will be Cincinnati if the Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers
that day. Otherwise, they’ll host the winner of Saturday’s
wild-card game between Indianapolis and Kansas City.
Either way, the competition will be much stiffer than what the
Patriots faced much of the regular season when they met only four
teams who finished with winning records. And they lost 13-6 at
Cincinnati, their only potential division-round opponent they
But they’ve already overcome many challenges.
They won the season opener against Buffalo 23-21 on a field goal
with five seconds left. They overcame a 24-point halftime deficit
against Denver and won 34-31 in overtime. They came from 12 points
back and beat Cleveland 27-26 with two touchdowns, the last after
they recovered an onside kick, in the final 61 seconds.
”I think this is one of the most mentally tough teams I’ve been
on through the close games that we’ve played,” said defensive end
Rob Ninkovich, an eight-year veterans, ”because the games that you
win by three, one, those are games that take a lot out of you and
we just keep coming back every week.”
The Patriots didn’t have to do that last Sunday when they never
trailed. But they did have to complete passes, kick field goals and
keep their footing throughout a game-long downpour.
”It doesn’t get much tougher than that as far as rain goes,”
said Stephen Gostkowski, who made all four field-goal attempts.
”You’ve just got to increase your focus.”
On a day when it was tough to throw a wet ball, Blount led the
way with a team record 334 all-purpose yards.
”Even if he wasn’t blocking someone, he was running someone
over,” left tackle Nate Solder said.
That’s just how Blount plays.
”It’s a mindset and the will of what’s at stake and the urgency
that we have to have to continue to be successful, and how
important this first-round bye was,” he said. ”It was one of our
best games by our offensive line. … You can’t say enough about
those guys, they’re tough.”
None more so than Mankins.
”I’ve coached a lot of tough guys. I don’t think there’s any
that I would put ahead of him,” Belichick said. ”Any time Logan
needs help getting off the field, you feel like it’s something
So he was surprised when trainer Jim Whelan told him Mankins was
ready to go back in after sitting out one series.
”He’s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally
tough,” Belichick said. ”I think we have a lot of that on our
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