It’s not uncommon for the Patriots to have their doubters, but there was legitimate reason to be skeptical about New England entering this postseason.

The Patriots had turned in some ugly showings in the regular season, were pedestrian playing on the road and had some areas of concern on both sides of the ball.

But once the playoffs began, the Patriots flipped a switch and began playing some of, if not their best football of the season. They dusted the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round before sneaking past a stellar Kansas City Chiefs team in a well-played AFC Championship Game.

So with a Super Bowl LIII date with the Los Angeles Rams right around the corner, what exactly has been working for the Patriots lately?

In an interview on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria” on Friday, ex-Patriots executive Mike Lombardi explained why the Pats have hit their stride.

“I don’t think we got it wrong (that they weren’t playing great), I think they’ve improved,” Lombardi said. “They’re playing their best football at the end of the year. How? J.C. Jackson has come in and really helped them in the secondary, that’s kind of helped them. Their pad level in the offensive line is unbelievable. They’re running the ball effectively and it’s been really pretty to watch. To watch Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason and David Andrews dominate the line of scrimmage and keep Chris Jones from making a play — I think that’s been really powerful.

“And then (Julian) Edelman being back and being healthy (helps too),” Lombardi added. “And I think the other thing that we really were not sure of was where Tom was health-wise too. Tom (Brady) wasn’t always Tom during the season either and maybe it was because everybody said maybe it was the knee, I don’t know. But I think they’re finally playing their best football of the season right now, and we were expecting them to play it I think sometime in November.”

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous season for the Patriots, indeed, but they will get the cleanest of slates Feb. 3 against the Rams. And with so many pieces coming together over the past few weeks, the Patriots only can hope the puzzle sticks together for one more game.

Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports