The Patriots won the AFC East this year for the third straight time since Tom Brady returned from ACL surgery.
They lost in their first home playoff game to end the last two seasons, but the team’s defensive leaders believe something is different about this year’s squad.
“To be honest with you, this isn’t the same team from the previous years,” Jerod Mayo said. Wednesday via the Boston Herald. “I think this team is mentally tough. And you know, a playoff game in itself is motivation. So we’re pretty motivated.
While New England’s defensive stats are poor, we think we know what Mayo is getting at. The Patriots have won in a variety of different ways this season. They have had more come from behind victories and fourth quarters where they came through.
Even the maligned defense has done a nice job of making big plays when they absolutely needed.
“I love having this team. This team shows me a lot each week. This team never gets too down, never gets too high,” nose tackle Wilfork said. “The character of this team is amazing. We haven’t had a team like this in a while. Hopefully we can finish this thing up and get to where we want to be . . . with this team, I love my chances with this team.”
In the last two playoff appearances, New England has not responded well to adversity. Both the Ravens and Jets hit New England in the mouth the last two years, and they never truly fought back.
“I think the tougher the game gets, the more settled we get,” Wilfork said of this year’s team.
Potentially having to beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks would be pretty tough. Right or wrong, this Patriots team seems to have a not-so-quiet confidence they can get it done.