Every football coach in every season learns about the makeup of his team in bits and pieces as time passes, proving his intuitions right or wrong.
Some of those moments and milestones are definitive. So when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks back on his team’s run to Super Bowl XLVI, he doesn’t hesitate when asked when his team proved to him it was mentally tough.
“No question,” Belichick told NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi during a sitdown for “NFL GameDay Morning,” it was during a Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We started from behind in that race and just were never able to catch up,” Belichick recalled. “But we hung in there, we kept fighting, we played a tough football game, it just wasn’t good enough to beat the Steelers that day. But we were in it right there to the end in a real tough environment against a tough football team that day.
“I thought that was the game that really showed me this team was tough, they’re resilient, they’re going to hang in there. It’s not always perfect, but the toughness and the willingness to go out there and compete and fight was there.”
The Patriots fell behind early in the loss, the Steelers kept Tom Brady under wraps and sustained five long scoring drives. Despite the loss, the Patriots showed Belichick something that day.
The Patriots then lost at home the following week — 24-20 to the Giants — their only back-to-back losses of the season. Belichick’s intuition of sensing a difference in his team has proven correct, because the Patriots haven’t lost since.
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