New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has seen his share of football teams come and go. But the 2011-12 Patriots seems to be one of his favorite groups.
Kraft has been very complimentary of this season's team, and not just because they are winning. Kraft likes the character in the locker room, the team's mental and physical toughness, and the way this team has stayed together through the ups and downs.
That was never more on display Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens statistically outplayed the Patriots and led at one point in the fourth quarter. But New England answered and pulled out a dramatic 23-20 victory to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. New England will be going for its fourth Super Bowl title under head coach Bill Belichick.
"I believe in this team big time," Kraft said this week.
The matchup won't be easy. The New York Giants have won three straight playoff games against a trio of good teams -- the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. New York also beat New England in the regular season.
Patriots-Giants is also a huge rematch of the Super Bowl XLII, when New York ruined New England's run for a perfect season. That loss four years later still sticks with Kraft and the Patriots organization.
"I've never been able to watch it," Kraft said of that game. "[Sunday], you saw a kick being missed at the end of the game. But that kick would have tied the game and then put it into overtime, which is amazing. I do remember the end of the game, a ball going through our cornerback’s hands [Asante Samuel] that if he had caught that ball and it hadn’t gone through his hands, we would have been able to take a knee and we would have won the game.
"And, you know, that Eli [Manning] doing a great job escaping from that pile of guys that we had on him, and whether the whistle blows and the great catch and all these things. In the end, there are a lot of little things. That was a great game, that was a great team and we’re looking forward to having the privilege of going to Indianapolis."