INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The New England Patriots don't talk much about their 10-game winning streak, a long run of success that is highly unusual for anybody but hardly surprising for them.
"It's tough to do - very tough," linebacker Jerod Mayo said Wednesday. "It's tough to win one game in the NFL. They are tougher to win when a lot's on the line as far as the playoffs are concerned."
Tough, for sure, but it's the Patriot way.
Of the 92 teams that have reached a Super Bowl, only a dozen have come into the game on a double-digit winning streak, according to STATS LLC. The Patriots took the longest winning streak of all into the Super Bowl four years ago, an 18-0 mark that left them one win from completing the NFL's second perfect season.
"The difference between winning or losing is one or two plays in a game, and the good teams know how to make those plays go in their favor."
So, why has New England been so good at it? The Patriots have one of the best quarterbacks in playoff history, a coach who knows how to keep his team focused and a front office that's committed to getting an edge in the games that matter most. Telling statistics: coach Bill Belichick is 17-6 in the playoffs, quarterback Tom Brady is 16-5 and the Patriots are 41-5 in December since 2001, the best record in the league over that time.
"It comes down to the staples of the organization, the owner and the head coach," Mayo said. "(Belichick) never wavers. We prepare every week like we're playing a huge game, no matter the opponent. We never overlook anybody."
They've gotten some breaks, of course. The Ravens had a chance to end that streak in the AFC title game, but Lee Evans had a pass stripped out of his hands in the end zone and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds, preserving New England's 23-20 win.
Long winning streaks will get a team to the Super Bowl, but aren't much of an indicator whether they'll lead to a title. Of the 11 previous Super Bowl teams with double-digit winning streaks, six came away as champions: 1972 Dolphins, 2003 Patriots, 1976 Raiders (12-game streak), 1984 49ers (11 games), 1986 Giants (11 games) and 2000 Ravens (10 games).
Their biggest asset is quarterback Eli Manning, who led the last-minute drive that finished off the previously perfect Patriots four years ago and has gotten even better this season at pulling out games. Manning threw an NFL-record 15 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and led six game-winning drives.
"I'm sure everybody's surprised," tight end Jake Ballard said. "It's not about who has the best year, it's about who gets hot at the right time. That's kind of like our team this year."