Perry: Patriots staying motivated with '2-4 mindset' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The door has been flung open wide. The red carpet has been rolled out. There are butlers from Buffalo and Tennessee wearing blue and red tuxedos offering up avenues to the No. 1 seed on silver platters to the scraggly Patriots.
It wasn't all that long ago, the newcomers were on the precipice of playing out the string on a meaningless season. Now they're leading their division and have a realistic path to the top spot in the conference by the end of Week 12. They just need a little help from the Browns.
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But the Patriots have seen some stuff. They were caught blindsided at home by Jameis Winston and the Saints. They were devastated when a Week 6 win over the Cowboys slipped through their fingers, at home, in overtime. They know they're among the best team in the AFC at the moment. But they also know how close they were to the end, and they know what it took to get them back to contention.
Complacency shouldn't be an issue.
"Just continue to keep working," Kyle Van Noy said of the team's thinking after beating the Falcons Thursday. "Have that 2-4 mindset that we had at the beginning of the year when everybody was down on us... Obviously our record is different, but we know what it's like to be down like that."
There it is. Did you see it? Yet another similarity to the early 2000s Patriots. There are the obvious ones: young quarterback; good defense; good special teams units; a physical mentality on both sides of the ball.
There's also a chip there. Van Noy and others know that this team had its share of critics back in Week 7. That's "when everybody was down" on them. Little bit of a familiar feel to those early Patriots teams that had no problem pointing out when they felt doubted.
"You gotta be hungry," Nelson Agholor added. "I think being hungry that way is what dug us out of that hole... Your mindset has to be to just keep fighting until it's all done. We're just going to keep fighting. Having that 2-4 mindset is a positive thing. It's a fighter's mentality. You train harder when you're 2-4. You work harder when you're 2-4. You pay attention to detail a little more when you're 2-4."
That approach has carried them this far. The plan is to stick with it.
"Obviously the beginning of the season didn't go the way we wanted it to," Damien Harris said. "But we knew we'd progress and get better. Why stop now? It doesn't matter that we're 7-4 now. It doesn't matter that we were 2-4 before. As long as we keep grinding, keep moving forward, keep progressing.
"Every week we show the mentality to get better day in and day out, prepare the way we need to for the team to improve, that's our goal... We can't worry about what our record was or what it is now because at the end of the day it doesn't matter. Keep moving forward. Keep improving. Keep stepping up to these challenges."