FOXBORO -- Much has changed among Patriots personnel since the team's last title.
Quarterback Tom Brady, however, persists.
As one of just three players (Vince Wilfork and Deion Branch being the other two) who were on New England's 2004 Super Bowl Champion roster, Brady has a unique perspective on the postseason. He knows the tragedy, the triumph, and every shade of feeling in between.
One thing he's grateful for? Going through the gamut with head coach Bill Belichick.
"He is very consistent," Brady said. "I think there is one thing you can always expect about coach Belichick: he is going to give you everything hes got. Whether its this week, or you come to our passing camp in May, he coaches just as hard.
"And I think that is why we have been able to make improvements over the course of the year. Because it is not like, Ok guys, this week is not that important. It is always like, Look, this week is important because it is only going to build on next week."
Belichick has similarly commended Brady for being steadfast. Clearly, it counts for a lot: Brady is not just the only quarterback among the four still playing who's won a Super Bowl, he's the only one who's even been to a Super Bowl.
Doing the time, earning trust, has earned him a bit of breathing room on the field.
"I think over the years Ive gained flexibility within what my coaches allow me to do. I see certain looks and I know to get to a particular play that may be better."
"Sometimes it doesnt always turn out that way," he grinned ruefully. "Those are the ones you go to the sideline and coach yells at you for changing the play. But when everything goes right, I think it is real positive for our team. That is part of the experienced part that really pays off; youve been in enough situations to understand what may work and what may not work."
His experience has become more varied in recent seasons.
Brady's earliest years might have tricked him into thinking winning is easy; hoisting three Lombardi Trophies by age 27 might do that to a guy. But he has learned in the years since -- via six playoff losses that include two Super Bowl heartbreaks -- that easy has nothing to do with it. "Believe me, I have thought about that a lot myself," he admitted. "It's hard to win the Super Bowl, no question. We have made it there, since Ive been here, five times. It is hard to get to this point; it is hard to get to the AFC Championship game. You need a lot of things to go your way over the course of the year.
"I think we are fortunate to be in this game and have this opportunity. There are a lot of things that need to happen positively over the course of a long season to have this chance and I am glad we have it."