FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots won’t win many news conferences. The actual games are a different matter.
As the Patriots prepare for their seventh consecutive AFC championship game appearance when they host the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the playbook that has led to such dominance — five Super Bowl titles since 2001 — remains bland, just like the genius coach Bill Belichick.
The players seem to fall in line and talk just like their coach — in measured and often cliche-filled sentences.
Still, the focus that Belichick and his players have has led to unparalleled success.
Since the NFL merger in 1970, the Patriots’ seven straight AFC title game appearances is a record, with only one other team getting as many as five, Oakland from 1973 to 1977. (The Eagles had four straight from 2001 to 2004).
It helps to have those considered by many the best coach and the best quarterback (Tom Brady) in NFL history.
Belichick sets the tone, insisting on a singular focus.
One of the story lines is the Patriots’ experience against the relative inexperience of a Jacksonville team that is in the postseason for the first time in 2007. Belichick wanted no part of this narrative.
“I think the team that plays well on Sunday, that will be the team that is victorious,” said Belichick, whose Patriots beat Tennessee, 35-14, in the divisional round. “I don’t think experience has anything to do with that.”
A contrast between the Patriots and their young opponent was clearly demonstrated when Jaguars all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey not only guaranteed a win over New England but a Super Bowl victory as well.
The Patriots may have taken this as a slight, but one wouldn’t know by the the players’ reaction.
“It’s all nonsense and you can’t really listen to all that, reading all that isn’t going to do anything for us,” said safety Patrick Chung, who played in 2013 with the Eagles. “We have one more game, it’s a one-game season and we can’t worry about this stuff.”
The other thing that has helped in the success is that the Patriots are constantly changing players, looking for upgrades. Some champions become complacent, almost loyal to a fault to their players. Not the Patriots.
Brandin Cooks was acquired from the New Orleans Saints for a passing game already considered potent. A fourth-year veteran who is just 24-years-old, Cooks caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns this season, while averaging a team-best 16.6 yards per catch.
Players are more than willing to go to the Pats, knowing they will be part of a successful formula spearheaded by Belichick and Brady.
“It’s been amazing,” Cooks said of his season with the Patriots, the first one he has been to the postseason. “You are talking about two great people, a great player, and great coach, and when you get that as a player you can’t ask for too much more and it has been a blessed opportunity and I am loving every minute of it.”
Belichick also is effusive in his praise of opponents. He made the Jaguars sound like the 1985 Chicago Bears.
“Their offense is a problem, their defense is a problem, their special teams is a problem,” he said. “They are good at everything.”
An offense with much maligned quarterback Blake Bortles?
“He makes it all go,” Belichick said. “He’s the trigger man that makes it all happen.”
Those around the Patriots say this is how it is every week. No outside noise, no distractions, only the business at hand.
“We are going to have to play our best game of the year,” Belichick said.
That line was uttered by several players, who not only talk like their coach, but frequently execute the way he expects a championship caliber team to perform.
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