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Bill Belichick: Patriots' season turned at half vs. Chiefs

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Conventional wisdom is the New England Patriots' season turned around once Rob Gronkowski served notice that he was back to All-Pro form with a 100-yard performance in a convincing Week 5 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Coach Bill Belichick traces the change to a week earlier, at halftime of a 41-14 blowout loss to the Chiefs that had analysts and casual football observers wondering aloud if the Patriots' dynasty was on the fritz.

"I thought that we really tried to compete and play hard all 60 minutes, even at the very end when we had no chance to win," Belichick explained Monday, via ESPN.com. "I think that was a good sign from our team that we did that. Not that we played well, but we played hard.

"I think at that point we all kind of realized that if we could just play well and just combine that with our physical and mental toughness that we could be OK. We certainly saw a good example of that in the Cincinnati game the following week. ... We were on to Cincinnati in a hurry and had a lot of ground to make up. They were 3-0 coming in here, and the guys really responded and we played a good football game."

We suspected during that Monday night game in Kansas City that Belichick was tinkering to find the strengths of his team. Gronkowski was outplayed by Travis Kelce. Deep threats Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were healthy scratches. Passing-down specialist Shane Vereen replaced power back Stevan Ridley between the tackles. Several stalwarts on the offensive line were shuffled in and out of the lineup. Multiple players were benched for mistakes.

Belichick has shown a proclivity for using adversity to right the ship. Just days after his infamous "On to Cincinnati" news conference, Gronkowski regained juggernaut status, Brandon LaFell gained Tom Brady's trust, Darrelle Revis started erasing No. 1 receivers and Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower emerged as a dynamic young linebacker duo.

Through halftime of that Week 4 blowout, the Patriots had scored as many points (66) as their competition. Since then, they have outscored opponents 482-285.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps Championship Sunday, and breaks down the Seahawks' historic comeback against the Packers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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