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Brandon LaFell draws praise from Pats' QB, coach

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It's common knowledge that the New England Patriots' season turned around once Rob Gronkowski returned to All Pro form in early October.

Although the Patriots have averaged 14.5 more points per game since Week 5, Gronkowski's dominance isn't the lone factor.

An afterthought in the aerial attack while building trust with Tom Brady, No. 2 receiver Brandon LaFell averaged just one catch and 15 yards in the first three games. Since then, he has averaged 5.4 receptions and 69 yards to go with eight touchdowns.

More importantly, he has earned the admiration of respect of Brady and a notoriously tight-lipped Bill Belichick.

After LaFell hauled in the game-winning 23-yard touchdown in last week's Divisional Round victory, Brady praised him as a "phenomenal player" and "one of the toughest guys I've ever played with."

In a riveting game-film breakdown with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, Belichick highlighted LaFell's block on two different defenders to spring Danny Amendola for the first of two touchdowns last week.

"One of the things you really love about LaFell, I love coaching him, is this type of play right here," Belichick gushed. "A heads-up play, a smart play, a play that, honestly, most receivers aren't looking to make."

When you see organizations shunning "name" free agents to sign role players with unremarkable statistics, keep those quotes in mind.

Brady and Belichick, perhaps football's most successful player-coach tandem, understand that LaFell's value goes well beyond the box score.

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