Kraft lauds Belichick, makes '01 link

Updated: January 14, 2014, 10:08 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft lauded Bill Belichick on Tuesday, saying he thought navigating through an injury-marred season to the brink of a Super Bowl berth might be his coach's best work yet.

"This is his 14th season with us but I really think this might be his most outstanding coaching job," Kraft told ESPN New York Radio 98.7 FM. "The way these guys have stepped up, 'Next man up' so to speak, has just been unbelievable.

"Of course, having [Tom] Brady at the helm -- you think about it, your quarterback touches the ball usually 70 times in the course of a game; low 70s, high 60s. So you need someone with good judgment in that position who also understands how to manage the clock, what's going on, and how to adapt. So we're lucky to have that position filled at such a high level. And I think we're lucky to have a coach that understands the game and pays attention to detail, and also adapts to whatever the situation [may be]."

Kraft also shared his thoughts on this year's Patriots squad, which has overcome season-ending injuries to key players -- Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly – to reach Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos.

"This team we have now reminds me of our '01 team," he said of the first Super Bowl championship club of his ownership tenure. "It wasn't the biggest names or collection of stars. It was a team that had a certain mental toughness and truly played together as a team. ... I think this year the sense of team and putting team first is at the highest level. We've learned it's not the teams that have the best collection of talent, but it's the teams that really come together, especially in December and January."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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