On a number of occasions this season Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has dished out significant postgame praise to his team. While that's not all that notable in and of itself, what is worth noting is what exactly Belichick did say in praising his team.
After New England's 38-20 win in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving weekend Belichick said, "I think they're trying to do their part in terms of physically and mentally day after day, week after week, be consistent, be dependable and do what we ask them to do. I know we demand a lot. This isn't an easy place to play. And I'm not an easy guy to play for. But they have tried to respond and I give them a lot of credit for that."
He made a similar comment in the wake of the Patriots divisional round playoff blowout of the Broncos.
"I'm really happy for the players. I'm really excited for them," Belichick said. "They deserved it. They've worked hard, they've put up with me, so they deserve this."
In my decade covering the Patriots I couldn't remember Belichick using such phrases so openly as "putting up with me" in terms of describing his team.
I asked him to expand on those comments in recent exclusive interview with Patriots Football Weekly.
"We demand a lot out of the players," Belichick said in a classic dry response.
More so than in other places?
"I haven't been in another place in a long time. Other people have said that, but I know we do that, we demand a lot," Belichick added.
And has this team handled that better this season, drawing the public praise?
"I think our team has done a good job in a lot of areas this year," Belichick said. "I think their mental toughness, work ethic, their consistency on a day to day basis has been good."
"I just think we demand a lot out of the players in terms of their work ethic, their preparation, their commitment to the team. And it's not easy. You have to put a lot into it to be able to meet those demands. That's really all I'm saying."
And when the team meets those demands, as this version of the Patriots has done, it has a good chance to end up where Belichick's team is for the fifth time in the last 11 years – the Super Bowl.