By: Mike Saver/Saver-Sports.com
January 05, 2011

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Many weren't sure what to expect from Sunday's game versus the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots had locked up the first seed in the AFC, their division, and a first round bye. There was nothing to play for.

After the inactive list was released and it was revealed that the Patriots' two best receivers -- Wes Welker and Deion Branch -- would be sitting out the game, it was contemplated that maybe Brady wouldn't even start. Some weren't sure if the Patriots would win. It was at least assumed that it wouldn't be a high scoring game.

It turns out that it didn't matter that some key players were resting. If you'd just seen the final score (38-7) you would have thought the Patriots didn't rest any one. New England came out with the same competitive attitude it does in every game -- for all 60 minutes. Really, what else was to be expected from Belichick's Patriots?

Fans around New England may have been treating Sunday's game with less enthusiasm than the ones before it, however, the team wasn't. They've adopted the attitude that's given the franchise its great success over the last decade. One game at a time. The Patriots don't like losing, they will always compete no matter what.

"I think that's what competitors do; they compete, regardless of the score or situation," said Bill Belichick in his post-game press conference. "I think when you've got competitors on your team, that's what they do: they go out and compete. I think we've got a lot of them on our team. I'm proud of that. I'm glad we've got them."

It's an attitude that's apparent with this team from start to finish. Often, you'll see Brady just as fired up in the fourth quarter when the team is up by 30 as he would be in the first. The Patriots, it seems, are never satisfied; striving for perfection on nearly every snap.

"I think when you're standing in a huddle and you're looking at 10 other guys who are really determined to do their job, it's my job to bring the energy and enthusiasm," said Brady after the game. "Whether it's Wednesday practice [or] whether it's [an] offseason conditioning program run. If it's dominoes in there playing those fat offensive lineman, I have to beat those guys. I don't think it ever gets turned off. I just think you want to win, so that's always the goal"

"Don't tell them I said they were fat. They're strong," Brady added.

To get up for a meaningless game against the lowly Dolphins takes a certain drive. This team is motivated to win with no regard to what the circumstances are. It's a large part of why they've lost only two games and why Belichick has won 14 or more games more times than anyone in NFL history.

However, it took one of those two losses to instill the competitive juices in this team. Players still talk about their November 7th loss to Cleveland like it was yesterday.

"The road wasn't smooth all the way and I think after the Cleveland game it was really a gut check," said Vince Wilfork post-game. "Reality set in...They did whatever they wanted to do. I think from that point on guys really buckled down and started to understand, 'Hey anybody is beatable. If you step on the field on Sunday and you're not prepared to play good football, you'll end up on the losing end.' I think from that point on, guys just really hated that taste of losing."

The Pats have won eight straight since that loss, ending the season with the best record in football. However, their regular season success means nothing in the post-season and they know that.

"I think we've had a good year. We've put ourselves in a real good position," said Brady. "Really, none of it matters at this point other than I think... The greatest advantage we have is that we don't have to play next week and we play at home the following week. So, that's really what we've earned to this point. I don't think we've earned anything more than that. Hopefully we'll go out here in a couple weeks and play well. I think that's what we would love to do."

The Patriots love winning, an attitude that could take them far in the playoffs. Their blowout win in a meaningless contest with the Miami Dolphins shows their willingness and dedication to compete. Problem is, there's eleven other teams equally motivated in the post-season.

"One thing that's definite is whoever we play is a pretty good football team; they wouldn't be in the postseason if they weren't," said Wilfork.

However, right now, none of those teams want to face the New England Patriots. Expect the Pats to be motivated and ready.

Mike Saver is a regular contributor to PatsFans.com and covers Boston Sports for Saver-Sports.com and CelticsLife.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @SaverSports, as well as Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/saversports)


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