- The New England Patriots’ preparation for games even extends down to how they train and work on conditioning.
- The Patriots will practice game-specific situations, forcing players to not only get in shape, but be mentally prepared for certain plays.
- Patriots players say the conditioning makes them a better fourth-quarter team than their opponents.
In two of the New England Patriots’ last three postseason games, they overcame double-digit deficits to steal a win.
They notably overcame a 28-3 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl, and in the recent AFC Championship, they trailed the Jacksonville Jaguars by 10 in the fourth quarter before coming back.
The ability to come back hints at the Patriots’ endurance, something they specifically train for, as The Ringer’s Kevin Clark detailed.
According to Clark, when the Patriots train, they don’t just run for the sake of running – they mimic game situations.
One example Clark provided is that the Patriots will practice punting the ball, running down field, imagining the punt being called back for a penalty, punting again, and running back down field. While conditioning is a major part of this, the idea is also to practice the stop-and-go nature of football and the mental fortitude that comes with it.
“The conditioning is geared toward game performance,” long snapper Joe Cordona told Clark. “It’s not running to run. It’s running for a very specific event - a special teams play, a long offensive drive, a defensive stand.”
And even when the Patriots are not practicing game situations, their training is geared toward mental toughness. The Patriots’ practice field has two hills that players frequently have to run up after practice. Though the players are open in how they despise the hills, many of them credit their stamina from running the slopes. Last year, tight end Martellus Bennett said the Patriots were still running the hills the week before the Super Bowl.
According to Clark, the Patriots players say the organization puts a greater emphasis on fitness and conditioning than other teams. But again, the training is specific.
“I had to adjust. The ability to go for a five-mile jog is not going to help you,” Cardona said. “You have to develop the ability to run for a few seconds, then do it again for however many plays it takes.”
The Patriots also have a “three-minute run” in which players have to run somewhere in between a jog and a sprint for three straight minutes.
According to Clark, defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois said since joining the Patriots, he practices 30-yard sprints – about the maximum he would run on a given play – and is even considering tracking his precise yardage per game and practicing sprinting that distance.
“When the fourth quarter comes and with the type of game we play here, you’ve got to be built for four quarters, literally,” Jean-Francois said. “With the running - when the fourth quarter does come, you’re not tired, you’ve got energy.
The Patriots are known for being as precise and detail-oriented as possible in an effort to be more prepared than their opponents. Not only does that include Xs and Os and game strategy, it includes the basic physical functions of the sport.