FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Following his team's 23-20 win over the Ravens in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised his team's mental toughness, which has become a recurring theme in their run to Super Bowl XLVI.
"We’ve had a lot of different challenges and those guys have stepped up there and tried to meet them every week. It hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve never backed down," Belichick said. "They didn’t back down from Pittsburgh on the road. They didn’t back down when we’ve been down by 17 or 21 points in the game, all that stuff. Same thing today."
Belichick defined mental toughness as "doing your best for the team even when everything’s not going right for you personally." In this game, cornerback Sterling Moore served as Belichick's prime example, breaking up a would-be go-ahead touchdown catch by Ravens receiver Lee Evans after allowing a touchdown pass to Baltimore's Torrey Smith earlier in the game.
"If all it takes is one play, then you're in the wrong business. We all have bad plays. Coaches have bad plays, players have bad plays," Belichick said. "You have to bounce back and play the next play and that’s what the NFL is."
As far as comparisons go, being likened to the Patriots' Super Bowl-winning teams of the last decade isn't bad company to share.
"[The emphasis on mental toughness] started when we got here. Over the course of the years and guys -- like some of the guys that were there today: [Tedy] Bruschi and [Ty] Law and Rodney Harrison, [Mike] Vrabel -- you can go right down the line with guys that were showing a lot of mental toughness," Belichick said. "It wasn’t always about them. They always fought, they gave you their best and they hung in there no matter what the circumstances were."
So how does this 2011 squad compare?
"We’ve had a lot of things that haven’t been perfect out there, but we have everybody that will stand in there and fight and give it their best all the way through and that’s a good place to be. That’s what I like about this team," Belichick said. "They're tough, they're competitive and they really don’t lose their confidence or get down on themselves. They just go out there and keep competing and see what happens.
"I’m really happy for them, that they're going to get to play in this next game."