Patriot tough: Grit carries New England to bye

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2013 at 3:57 pm •  Published: December 31, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — LeGarrette Blount carries defenders with him. Logan Mankins misses just one series after hurting his ankle. Tom Brady drives his team to last-minute victories.

These New England Patriots are one tough bunch.

"You've got to deal with adversity," wide receiver Danny Amendola said. "We've got a lot of tough guys in this locker room, that's for sure."

There's the 250-pound Blount, who rushed for 189 yards and returned two kickoffs for 145 in New England's 34-20 win over Buffalo last Sunday.

There's the 308-pound Mankins, a five-time Pro Bowl guard who blocked two Bills to spring Blount for a 36-yard touchdown run moments before being helped off the field with the injury.

And there are rookies and unheralded free agents who contributed when the Patriots lost key defensive players Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly for the season before it was half over and other starters for shorter periods.

The Patriots "never quit, never felt sorry for ourselves, never just went in a corner and said 'we wanted to hide," said one of those replacements, tight end Matthew Mulligan.

That approach helped the Patriots (12-4) earn the second seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

"We've had other tough, competitive teams," coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. "I don't know where one ranks or the other ranks but I certainly think this team has shown examples of that many times. ... I think we're going to need it going forward."

Not knowing their next opponent, players are spending the week practicing and allowing their bruised bodies to rest. The Patriots will find out late Sunday afternoon which team they play in Foxborough the night of Jan. 11.

It will be Cincinnati if the Bengals beat the San Diego Chargers that day. Otherwise, they'll host the winner of Saturday's wild-card game between Indianapolis and Kansas City.

Either way, the competition will be much stiffer than what the Patriots faced much of the regular season when they met only four teams who finished with winning records. And they lost 13-6 at Cincinnati, their only potential division-round opponent they faced.

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