New England safety Adrian Phillips (21) and cornerback Jalen Mills celebrate stopping the Atlanta Falcons during the Patriots’ 25-0 win at Atlanta on Thursday night. Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Does strong team chemistry lead to winning or does winning create strong team chemistry?

That’s the unsolvable chicken versus egg question. The New England Patriots are riding a five-game winning streak and they sure seem to like each other. After Thursday’s 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons, the New England players were eager to hand credit off.

Matthew Judon called his career-high 10.5 sacks this season the product of everyone around him. Devin McCourty said the Patriots’ pass rush deserved the recognition for his interception against the Falcons. Mac Jones has spent his rookie season spreading passes and credit among teammates.

“I think it’s very evident to everybody that watches us play, how much we care about one another, how hard we play for each other,” said running back Damien Harris. “The love, the camaraderie, the brotherhood we have in that locker room is so special. I’m very fortunate to be a part of this team.”

The Patriots added several free agents to their roster during the offseason. McCourty said Coach Bill Belichick deserved credit not just for identifying players, whose ability filled talent gaps, but men who could fit into the team’s culture.

“I think any time you bring in a big group of free agents – guys who have had success in other places – you don’t always know how that’s going to work. For us, obviously, it was a great job bringing in talent, but also personality and character,” McCourty said. “All these guys have come in and I would count – KV (Kyle Van Noy) and Big Trent (Brown) – they’ve meshed so well. You look at Judon, laughing and joking with everybody. The receiving corps looks like they’ve played together for a number of years.

“It’s not just the talent and Xs and Os, it’s building relationships,” McCourty continued. “It ends up turning into playing for the guy next to you. You know his purpose. You know his why. I think that’s what we’ve seen throughout the preparation and it shows up on game day.”

Belichick said he and his staff research the people they bring in beyond watching them on video.

“We try to see what kind of person the player is on another level, how committed they are to football, what kind of worker they are, what kind of practice player they are, what they bring to the team, both on and off the field,” he said. “It’s not like one size fits all. That’s definitely not the case, but, fundamentally, you try to bring people in that you feel like would be a good fit for your team, whether they’re rookies, free agents, trades, or however you acquire them. That’s what you try to do. It doesn’t always work out that way, but hopefully, it does.”

Belichick said he’s enjoyed watching how this year’s group interacts with one another.

“The relationship with the players is always a very special one. It’s not something, as a coach, that you can orchestrate. I think it just has to happen,” Belichick said. “Hopefully, you put players together that will be able to form those kinds of relationships, trust, camaraderie, and all those things, but it’s not anything you can legislate.

“It just kind of has to happen. I’m glad it’s happening, and I’m glad they do have that feeling because I do think there’s a chemistry that goes with communication, anticipation, knowing what the other guy’s doing and him knowing what you’re doing and being able to play aggressively with all that. It’s a good thing. I’m glad they feel that way, and I’m glad that’s developing.

“It takes time. It takes some success. It’s not something you can talk about, and it magically happens,” he added. “You need to back it up with some results that reinforce what you’re doing, what they’re feeling.”


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