BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy seems to thrive off motivation.

The Patriots’ defense was widely criticized — deservedly so — early in the season after they let up 128 points in their first four games. They let up just 161 over their last 12 games.

Van Noy was still being asked about those early-season struggles Tuesday in the week leading up to Super Bowl LII against the Philadephia Eagles.

“So, do you still think we suck?” Van Noy asked.

“A lot of people forget there were a lot of new guys, and it takes a while to adjust to different roles. Guys’ roles increased. Other guys were just new, so just had to build chemistry and it didn’t happen right away. I know it’s hard for some people to realize that it’s not perfect. We try our best, and we’ve done a good job of putting everything aside and focusing on each other and focusing on our individual play and playing at a high level on defense as well as offensively and special teams. I feel like we’ve picked up across the field across the categories.”

So, how did they turn it around?

“Healthy bodies, communication and just playing for each other and knowing what’s at risk,” Van Noy said. “We want to win. We’re confident. We’re prepared really hard, and I think all of those things put together has put us in the spot we’re at right now.”

It seems Van Noy has now blocked out the praise they’ve received over the last half of the season to maintain that chip on his shoulder.

“We still suck,” Van Noy said smiling.

Van Noy then was asked if he takes motivation from criticism.

“It is what it is. I mean, we know where we’re at, and we’re at the Super Bowl, and we just want to win.”

Van Noy later said he believes the entire defense is underrated because so much attention is focused on the Patriots’ offense. He has a point. The Patriots’ defense ranked first in points allowed over the final 13 weeks of the season, and as Van Noy mentioned, they’re in the Super Bowl.

But in their heads, people are still saying they suck. And they like it that way.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images