New England Patriots owner: This is Belichick's best year

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Bill Belichick could possibly be having his best season as head coach after guiding the New England Patriots to one game away from the Super Bowl.

That is according to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who feels that the amount of injuries suffered by some of the team's leading stars could easily have made the season a write-off.

However, he mentioned the 'next man up' mentality that is pushed at Gillette Stadium and has seen them battle through some tight games later in the regular season and blossom in the their recent playoff win over Indianapolis Colts to set up an AFC title game with the Denver Broncos.

This is his 14th season with us but I really think this might be his most outstanding coaching job," he is quoted as saying by ESPN.

"The way these guys have stepped up, 'Next man up' so to speak, has just been unbelievable. Of course, having [Tom] Brady at the helm -- you think about it, your quarterback touches the ball usually 70 times in the course of a game; low 70s, high 60s.

"So you need someone with good judgment in that position who also understands how to manage the clock, what's going on, and how to adapt. So we're lucky to have that position filled at such a high level.

"And I think we're lucky to have a coach that understands the game and pays attention to detail, and also adapts to whatever the situation [may be]."

Many could be excused for believing the Patriots were serious long shots for a Super Bowl appearance after it was confirmed tight end and Tom Brady's 'go to guy', Rob Gronkowski, would miss the remainder of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament following a tackle from Cleveland Browns safety T.J Ward.

That blow followed the earlier ruling out of headline defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a torn achilles tendon early in the season, while fellow tackle Tommy Kelly, key linebackers Gerard Mayo and Brandon Spikes were also ruled out.

Kraft said the response by Belichick, Brady and the rest players on the Patriots roster reminded him of the kind of atmosphere that was present when they won the first Super Bowl of his ownership in 2001.

"This team we have now reminds me of our '01 team; it wasn't the biggest names or collection of stars. It was a team that had a certain mental toughness and truly played together as a team," he added.

"I think this year the sense of team and putting team first is at the highest level. We've learned it's not the teams that have the best collection of talent, but it's the teams that really come together, especially in December and January."

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