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Their ‘2-4 mindset’ has allowed the Patriots to become one of the NFL’s hottest teams

Related: NFL playoff picture: How can the Patriots take control of the AFC?

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New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After starting the 2021 regular season by losing four of their first six games, the New England Patriots have rebounded nicely. Winners of five straight — the longest such streak in the NFL right now — they are arguably the hottest team in all of football, and one getting recognized as a serious threat in its conference.

Just take a look at the fans of the second hottest team in the AFC: the Kansas City Chiefs’, whose team has won four in a row and also owns a 7-4 record. Participating in SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey, Chiefs fans were asked about the biggest threat to their team to earn the top seed in the conference.

At 36 percent, the Patriots received the largest share of the votes.

Kansas City fans seeing New England as a serious threat is no surprise. While the Chiefs themselves have a strong case as the best team in football right now, the Patriots are not to be overlooked either.

Their defense is the stingiest in football right now, ranking first in points allowed per game (16.1) and third in turnovers (21). The offense — led by first-round rookie quarterback Mac Jones — has also started to hit its stride recently, averaging 31 points during the five-game winning streak.

Then, there is the Bill Belichick factor: New England’s head coach is the best in the NFL, and he has shown that he can successfully slow down the powerful Chiefs offense. While the two are not scheduled to meet just yet, a playoff encounter is not out of the equation if both continue to play successful football over the remaining seven weeks of the regular season.

The fact that the Chiefs found a way back into the playoff picture is not a surprise. The same cannot definitively said about a Patriots squad that looked massively out of sync early on during the season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

And yet, here it is tied for the AFC East lead and with a realistic path towards a first-round playoff bye. It is no surprise that New England fans have given their team a perfect Reacts score when asked whether or not it is headed in the right direction.

“I think being hungry that way is what dug us out of that hole,” said wide receiver Nelson Agholor earlier this week. “Your mindset has to be to just keep fighting until it’s all done. We’re just going to keep fighting. Having that 2-4 mindset is a positive thing. It’s a fighter’s mentality. You train harder when you’re 2-4. You work harder when you’re 2-4. You pay attention to detail a little more when you’re 2-4.”

Running back Damien Harris echoed Agholor’s thoughts.

“Obviously the beginning of the season didn’t go the way we wanted it to. But we knew we’d progress and get better,” he said. “Why stop now? It doesn’t matter that we’re 7-4 now. It doesn’t matter that we were 2-4 before. As long as we keep grinding, keep moving forward, keep progressing.

“Every week we show the mentality to get better day in and day out, prepare the way we need to for the team to improve, that’s our goal. We can’t worry about what our record was or what it is now because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. Keep moving forward. Keep improving. Keep stepping up to these challenges.”

The next big challenge awaits on Sunday, with the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans coming to town.

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