Patriots will do their level best

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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Despite their 14-2 regular-season record, their top seeding in the AFC playoffs, and numerous league and team records this year, the Patriots know their most difficult challenges are before them.

It would be easy, human nature even, for players to want to relax a bit after the success New England has enjoyed, particularly over the last six weeks or so.

But coach Bill Belichick and his staff won’t let that happen, and neither will the team’s leaders.

Everyone has bought into the idea that there’s still room for improvement.

Speaking yesterday during his weekly appearance on WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady was asked if he worries about complacency or overconfidence from his teammates.

“No, I don’t think about [those things],’’ Brady said. “I think we do what’s been working, and that’s we show up on Wednesday with mental toughness and determination to get better.

“Look, we’re playing the best teams in the NFL now, there’s very little margin for error. Teams aren’t going to come in here and turn the ball over seven times like Buffalo did. We’ve got to go out there and play, every lesson we’ve learned over the course of the season we’ve got to put it to good use and that’s going to take great leadership by the veterans. The coaches will be on us every day to do the right thing like they always are and we really have to understand what makes us successful and what doesn’t make us successful.’’

As Belichick noted at the start of his conference call, when the Patriots left Gillette Stadium Sunday night, they were 14-2; but as the coaches returned to the building yesterday, the team was 0-0.

The Patriots will do some self-scouting this week, as they frequently do during bye weeks. Belichick and staff will point out the problems the team is having in its own performance and execution, and fine-tuning will be done.

Getting the players to understand that there is always room for improvement has been an easy sell this season for Belichick.

“One thing I’ll say about this team is they’ve been pretty consistent,’’ he said. “They come to work every day, want to improve, want to get better. I think that’s a great attitude and a great approach to have. I think, really, all of us should be that way.

“We all come in and there are certainly things we can all do better. Once you recognize and identify what those are, then you take the next step and figure out what you need to do to correct the situation or improve it and then you work at it. And then, generally, eventually, what will happen is it will improve, it will get better.

“I think our players, for the most part, have done a good job of taking constructive criticism. More importantly, trying to do something about it and trying to improve it. I think we’ve seen positive results both on the practice fields and in the games. That hard work and those corrections have resulted in a better performance. When that’s the case, it usually makes it a lot easier to do it the next time. It reinforces the whole process.’’

With a young team short on postseason experience, that dedication will be needed in the coming weeks.

“The next game we play will be the toughest game of the year,’’ said Belichick. “We know that. Whatever we did in the past, whatever it was or wasn’t, it needs to be better, it needs to be our best. We’re going to get our toughest competition in our next game. So, I think that’s what we’re all pointing for and however we can improve our performance between now and then, I think all of us should do whatever we can to address that and improve it. That’s our commitment to each other. That’s our commitment to the team. I’d say overall the players have done a good job of that over the season.’’

Brady confirmed that the players have bought into Belichick’s message from Day 1 this season, and they have set about earning everything they’ve gotten to this point.

“Coach Belichick, he knows what he’s looking for and he certainly found it,’’ Brady said. “It’s been a hell of a year. Now we’re 0-0 and we have to see what we’re made of.’’

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