The Patriots are playing in the AFC Championship Game for the eighth time in head coach Bill Belichick’s 14 years with the team, which would suggest that it is just business as usual in New England.
Owner Robert Kraft doesn’t see things that way, though. Kraft said he thinks that Belichick may have done his best coaching job in 2013 as he guided the team to another division title and conference title game despite losing players like Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jarod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer to season-ending injuries along the way.
That’s left the Patriots with something of a patched-together lineup that’s short on established stars. That makeup reminds Kraft of the Patriots team that started the run of success under Belichick.
“This team we have now reminds me of our ’01 team,” Kraft said on ESPN Radio in New York, via ESPNBoston.com. “It wasn’t the biggest names or collection of stars. It was a team that had a certain mental toughness and truly played together as a team. … I think this year the sense of team and putting team first is at the highest level. We’ve learned it’s not the teams that have the best collection of talent, but it’s the teams that really come together, especially in December and January.”
The Patriots have proven to be nimble enough to adapt to the changes forced upon them this season while remaining successful. If that continues in Denver on Sunday, Kraft probably won’t be the only one making allusions to the 2001 team during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.