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Robert Kraft compares Patriots to '01 Super Bowl team

Bill Belichick has guided an injury-plagued team, missing essential starters on both sides of the football, to the AFC Championship Game.

The New England Patriots' leader rarely gets heavy consideration for Coach of the Year -- normally on the grounds that everyone expected his team to be good. However, owner Robert Kraft praised Belichick's 2013 performance Tuesday as one of the coach's finest.

Tale of the Tape: Brady-Manning


Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet for the fourth time in the NFL playoffs. Brady is 2-1.
QBs against one another
Tom Brady
 
Peyton Manning
10
Wins
4
67.1
Comp. %
61.8
243.1
Pass YPG
283.6
26-12
TD-INT
29-20
96.6
Passer rating
85.6
QBs all time
Tom Brady
 
Peyton Manning
148 (3rd)
Career wins
167 (2nd)
49,149 (7th)
Career pass yards
64,964 (2nd)
359 (5th)
Career TDs
491 (2nd)
6,147 (1st)
Postseason pass yards
5,909 (2nd)
42 (3rd)
Postseason TDs
34 (4th)
» Photo essay: Manning vs. Brady

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

Kraft also gave a nod to quarterback Tom Brady's ability to guide an offense that has morphed into a ground-and-pound juggernaut.

"Of course, having 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," Kraft said. "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)."

The Patriots have persevered despite sending player after player to injured reserve -- including the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly and Sebastian Vollmer.

Kraft suggested this squad is comparable to his first Super Bowl team.

"This team we have now reminds me of our '01 team," he said. "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."

The Patriots will have to go through Denver, and Peyton Manning's record-setting offense, to have a chance to complete that comparison.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" featured discussion on Championship Sunday and an interview with Panthers star Greg Hardy.

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