Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bill Belichick: 'I'm proud to be their coach'


The New England Patriots battled their fair share of adversity in 2013.

They went into the regular season with injury issues and finished the season as banged up as any team in the NFL. Still, the Patriots managed to make it all the way to the AFC Championship game, in which it lost to a superior Denver Broncos squad.

New England was outgunned across the board Sunday yet were technically in the game until the last three minutes, ultimately losing, 26-16.

"I'm proud of the team. I'm proud to be their coach," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game, via WEEI. "I thought they played hard all year. They played competitively every single week.

"Some weeks they played better than others, but there was never a lack of effort or toughness. Everybody trying to do their best, and I totally respect the team for that and what they did. I'm proud to be their coach. That's how I feel about it."

The Patriots finished the regular season 12-4, won the AFC East, earned a first-round bye and beat the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round before falling the the Broncos.

They accomplished all that despite the departure of tight end Aaron Hernandez last offseason, missing tight end Rob Gronkowski for most of the year and losing defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo -- a pair of key cogs on defense -- early in the season. Running back Shane Vereen's absence for a handful of games didn't help, nor did top cornerback Aqib Talib's leaving the title game early to injury.

New England clearly didn't have it Sunday, and its uninspiring play against the Broncos will briefly leave a bad taste in Patriots fans' mouths. However, big picture, things went about as well as they could have given the circumstances.

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