In a season that’s been defined by resiliency in the face of season-ending injuries to key players, the Patriots might be up against their most difficult challenge yet after losing Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots have lost captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to season-ending injuries. Beyond playing without those four (soon to be five when Gronk gets placed on injured reserve), the Patriots have had to work in extensive new personnel in the receiving corps (including three rookie wideouts) and manage through a number of ailments in the secondary. Despite all of that, the Patriots stand at 10-3, just one win away from their fifth straight AFC East title and in control of their own fate for a top-two seed in the conference.
On Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick echoed the obvious: This group of players is a particularly resilient bunch.
“No question about it,” he said. “Very tough minded and determined group that even though as you said at times the deck has been stacked against us or it’s been things that we've had to overcome, they haven’t ever made any excuses or tried to back down from the challenge.
“They just try to meet it head-on with the best effort they can. Sometimes it’s been good enough, sometimes it hasn't,” he continued. “The attitude, the ability to go out there and fight and persevere and deal with whatever the circumstances are and not really get too fazed by it, but just try to deal with it, has been very impressive by the entire team this year, especially with some young guys and newer faces on the team.”
There’s no telling precisely what the final three games of this season and postseason will have in store for the Patriots, but if they've taught us anything through 13 games, it’s to never count them out.
“Overall, they've all embraced whatever the opportunity is, even though it may not look too bright,” Belichick said. “They embrace the opportunity, try to go out there and make the best of it.”