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Patriots are unmatched at the Super Bowl surge

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.

Nobody is better than the Patriots at pulling off the super surge.

New England has taken more double-digit winning streaks into the Super Bowl than any other team. The Patriots (15-3) haven't lost since Nov. 6, when they fell 24-20 to the New York Giants, the team they'll face again on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

To put the streak in perspective, the Giants (12-7) didn't win 10 games during the regular season.

And it's not a fluke. This is the third time that the Patriots have reached the Super Bowl on a winning streak of at least 10 games, a measure of the way they've not only won but dominated down the stretch, when everything is on the line and opponents are just as desperate.

"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 Giants ended that quest with a 17-14 victory, leaving the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only unbeaten team at 17-0. New England also had the third-longest streak, a 14-game stretch that became 15 in a row when the Patriots beat Carolina to finish the 2002 season.

The Raiders are the only other team to take a double-digit winning streak into more than one Super Bowl.

For perspective, the Giants haven't won 10 games in a row at any point since 1990, when they opened 10-0 under coach Bill Parcells and went on to win the Super Bowl. For any team to win 10 straight is impressive, let alone to do it amid the late-season pressure with everything on the line.

"It really is, especially when you're one of the top teams," said Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who won three Super Bowls with New England. "Everybody is shooting to knock you off. You don't have to play as good as them; you have to play better almost every week.

"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).

The Giants were the last team to beat the Patriots during the season, and they've been putting together a nice little streak of their own. They won their last two in the regular season to reach the playoffs, then three more to get to the Super Bowl.

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.

With that, the Giants are back again, looking at ending another impressive New England surge.

"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."

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