FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Brandon Deaderick. James Ihedigbo. Sterling Moore. Antwaun Molden. Dan Connolly. BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Danny Woodhead. Rob Ninkovich.

These are all members of the New England Patriots. Not the most well-known. Most were cast-offs from other NFL clubs. Some weren’t drafted out of college.

Yet, they all play valuable roles for Bill Belichick and his Patriots. At some point, they have all made pivotal plays that have helped lead New England to yet another Super Bowl.

On Feb. 5, the Patriots will play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. Guys like Deaderick and Ihedigbo and Moore and the others will share the spotlight with Tom Brady and Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork.

And, said veteran guard Brian Waters, that’s the way it should be. That’s the way it is with the Patriots.

Waters, making his first Super Bowl appearance in a 12-year NFL career, said the Patriots foster an environment where everyone is accountable.

Moments after Moore, who was cut from the Oakland Raiders practice squad in September, made a game-saving strip of the ball from Baltimore’s Lee Evans, turning a game-winning last-second touchdown into an incompletion, in New England’s 23-20 AFC championship game victory, Waters said he wasn’t surprised.

“That goes to the core of this team that, no matter who you are, when you’re asked to do a job, people do it,” said Waters. “I think the coaches trust those guys that show them they can do it one time, they’re going to trust them to do it another. I think a lot of coaches wouldn’t dare put guys like that, free-agent guys, in situations like that in big games.

“But the guy stepped up over the course of the year, as well as a lot of other guys. I mean, look at Antwaun Molden (a waiver claim on Sept. 1). He comes in today out of nowhere and all of a sudden he’s playing a lot of snaps (when starting cornerback Kyle Arrington went out with an eye injury). It’s been like that all year. We expect that. Early on it’s surprising. But this time of year we expect that anyone we put on the field, they’re out there because the coaches trust them. And if they trust them to do what they’ve been told to do, we think we can win with any one of the guys in this locker room.”

The Patriots have historically found these hidden jewels on scrap heaps. Belichick and his personnel men seem to do a better job finding quality in the middle of the draft than at the top. And they certainly find valuable contributors on the waiver wire.

Veteran running back Kevin Faulk, making his fifth trip to the Super Bowl (along with Brady and left tackle Matt Light), said he wasn’t surprised one bit that a relatively-unknown like Moore makes a game-changing play.

“That’s his job,” said Faulk. “That’s what he does. It was a great play by him. But like you tell any player in a situation like that, especially in a game this big, good players make good plays at the right time.”

They make those plays because the Patriots, especially Belichick and his staff, excel at getting players to believe in what they’re taught.

In his post-game press conference, Belichick spoke of the team’s mental toughness, something he said they began to instill when he took the Patriots job in 2000.

“Things don’t always go well for you, or your unit, or your particular thing,” he said. “But mental toughness is keeping in and keeping hanging in there and doing your best, keeping fighting even if maybe the results aren’t there and maybe it’s not going exactly the way you want it to go. But you go out there and do your best for the team and appreciate the team’s success.”

And that means playing to the end.

“It was a great job of our guys finishing through,” said Waters. “That’s what coach preaches all the time, finishing plays and making the plays when they present themselves. This game is about inches. Between (Moore’s strip of Evans) and the (missed 32-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff that followed two plays later), that’s about as close as it can get between one getting the game to overtime, or winning, and us celebrating and going to the Super Bowl.”

Mike Lowe — 791-6422

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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