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Pats' Mayo: 'This isn't the same team from the previous years

It might be hard to believe, but next month will mark the seventh anniversary of the last time Bill Belichick and Tom Brady hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

The Patriots have been a near-constant presence in the postseason since they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, but they'll enter next weekend riding a three-game losing streak in the playoffs.

Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo believes things will be different this time around.

"To be honest with you, this isn't the same team from the previous years," Mayo said Thursday, according to the Boston Herald. "I think this team is mentally tough. And you know, a playoff game in itself is motivation. So we're pretty motivated."

It's a stinging indictment of last year's version of the Patriots, who went 14-2 and earned the top seed in the AFC only to stumble in the divisional round against the Jets.

Statistically, the Patriots remain a similar team. New England has a dynamic offense led by Brady, and a below average defense susceptible to gross lapses. But veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- like Mayo -- believes there are intangibles at play that separate this year's Pats.

"The character of this team is amazing. We haven't had a team like this in a while," Wilfork said. "Hopefully we can finish this thing up and get to where we want to be ... with this team, I love my chances with this team."

The stars could be aligned for a deep New England playoff run. With Ben Roethlisberger hurting in Pittsburgh, Brady is by far the best QB left standing in the conference. Factor in the bye and home-field through the AFC title game, and the Patriots are in great position to end their seven-year itch.

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