FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick was in an unusually fantastic mood Saturday night after his New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional playoff round.
Belichick was especially impressed with the Patriots’ offensive performance after winning 27-20 and making their fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game, but he bestowed praise on the entire team for its effort throughout the season.
“It’s a real credit to the players,” Belichick said. “I think that’s No. 1. Those guys, we demand a lot out of them. This is a hard place to play. It’s from the first day of spring OTAs all the way through training camp all the way through meetings. We’re over 100 practices now this year. That doesn’t count the walk-throughs and the meetings and everything else. Those are just the actual practice practices.
“You know it’s definitely a grind, but they come in here, like this group, and I’ve said this the last couple of years, too. These guys come in here every day, their pencils are sharpened, they’re sitting right there in those seats, they’re ready to go, they’re attentive, they want to learn, they want to know how to get better, they want to compete and they just do that on a daily basis. That’s been week after week and year after year.”
Belichick specifically mentioned nearly a quarter of the team during his postgame news conference at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s really a great credit to those guys,” Belichick said. “We have some great competitors on our team — obviously (Tom) Brady and (Julian) Edelman and (Rob) Gronkowski and (Sebastian) Vollmer and (Patrick) Chung and (Devin) McCourty, (Dont’a) Hightower, (Jamie) Collins, Chandler (Jones), those guys on the other side of the ball, too, Stephen Gostkowski. Those guys, you just can’t say enough about them. (Rob) Ninkovich, I mean you just go right down the line. The credit goes to them.
“It’s a tough league. It’s tough to go out and play good every week, especially when you’ve got a target. Everybody is trying to knock us off, as they should be, and we’ve just got to stand up and compete every week. The players do a great job here, they really do. I’m really fortunate to have that group.”
Belichick clearly knows how difficult it is to win year after year after year. The Patriots have had unprecedented success since Belichick and Brady came to New England in 2000.
“I can give you two big reasons (for the Patriots’ continued success): Bill Belichick and Tom Brady,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “Obviously I think Mr. (Robert) Kraft plays a big part of that as well, but from there, there are probably a thousand other reasons with those three guys. They’re a big reason why.”
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images