FOXBORO, Mass. — Get ready to hear how the New England Patriots have lost their last two road playoff games.
The Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos in the 2013 and 2015 AFC Championship Games, and now they take on the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday in another road conference title game. But there’s a big difference between the 2018 Patriots and the 2013 and 2015 versions of their team: health.
The 2013 Patriots were attempting to beat the Broncos without tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork, linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, all of whom were placed on injured reserve that season.
Quarterback Tom Brady was forced to throw passes to Austin Collie, Aaron Dobson, Michael Hoomanawanui, Matthew Slater and Matthew Mulligan in their loss to Denver.
The 2015 Patriots had placed running backs LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, fullback James Develin, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, defensive end Trey Flowers, linebacker Jerod Mayo and offensive linemen Nate Solder and Ryan Wendell on injured reserve.
Brady was their leading rusher against the Broncos. Their only healthy running backs were Brandon Bolden, James White and Steven Jackson.
The Patriots have been much more fortunate with injuries this year. They placed rookies Isaiah Wynn, Ryan Izzo, Christian Sam and Braxton Berrios on injured reserve during the summer. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, running back Jeremy Hill, tight end Jacob Hollister, cornerback Eric Rowe and guard Brian Schwenke hit IR during the season. Only Bentley would be a projected current starter among that group.
So, how have the 2018 Patriots maintained their health?
“Well, surely a combination of training, which as an athlete, training to prepare for the competition and a certain element of recovery or treatment to deal with things that are less than 100 percent but need to try to be treated and dealt with so that we can be as close to 100 percent as possible,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “Collectively, there?s a lot of people involved in that process but ultimately that?s what you try to do, is train the healthy players to be able to compete at a high level for a sustained period of time and rest, rehabilitate and recover the athletes that need that so that they can eventually train at full capacity to be able to train for the high competition.”
Belichick said he’s been pleased with the Patriots’ players and staff for their work in that training and rehab.
“Yeah, I think all of the parties — our strength and conditioning staff, our training staff and our players — have all worked extremely hard,” Belichick said. “I think that work paid off and has shown up and we?re going to continue to do it. Yeah, absolutely. There?s been a lot of sweat there.”