FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Like most of the Patriots players, Trey Flowers generally stays under the radar.
Flowers has made his loudest impact on the field and emerged as a key part of the defense during the runs to the Super Bowl in the past two seasons.
Flowers has become one of the leaders on a defense that has finally found some stability after struggling to stop teams early in the season. He has helped fill the void created by Dont'a Hightower's season-ending shoulder injury.
Flowers missed all but one game during his rookie season in 2015 before being placed on injured reserve because of knee and shoulder issues.
He returned in 2016 and appeared in all 16 regular-season games, leading the team with seven sacks. His production continued in the playoffs, where he added 2+ sacks.
The 24-year-old has been equally impressive this season.
Flowers again led the team with 6+ sacks, despite missing back-to-back games in December with a rib injury. But he had 12 tackles and a half-sack over his final three games. It was his best three-game stretch of the regular season.
He's added another sack and eight tackles since the start of the postseason.
Flowers credits the defense's weekly preparation for creating the opportunities he's had.
''I think a lot of guys can make plays at any given time,'' Flowers said. ''You've got a lot of playmakers in this locker room so it's just one of those things where you've got to deal with all of us. Once everybody prepares well and gets ready for the game and things like that, any given down somebody can make a play.''
He said getting back to the Super Bowl is proof of how far the defense has progressed since it ranked at the bottom of the NFL in total defense for nine consecutive weeks during the regular season.
''It's big. Just the fashion of how we got to (the Super Bowl),'' Flowers said. ''It took complete, four-quarter games. It took everybody. It's pretty big.''
Defensive captain Devin McCourty said the time Flowers has put in over the past two seasons is recognizable to his teammates.
''If you guys talk to Trey you can see he doesn't talk a lot. He's not a man of many words,'' McCourty said. ''I think that the thing I see from him is now when he feels like it's time to say something and he wants to say something, it usually makes a big impact on the team because guys know his work ethic.
''They know how much he cares about playing well individually and the success of the team. When he speaks, guys tend to listen.''
Coach Bill Belichick said Flowers is displaying the same conditioning and ability to finish games now they saw when they first scouted him at Arkansas.
''He plays hard, pursues the ball well, played a lot of plays at Arkansas (and) wasn't substituted for a lot. He was in there and played a lot of important plays, kind of as you would expect him to be given the caliber of his play,'' Belichick said. ''He can do a lot of different things for us and has done that. And it's been very valuable.''
While Flowers thinks the defense has played some of its best football this postseason, he isn't taking anything for granted.
''We understand we've got one more,'' he said. ''It doesn't come easy...The next team is gonna be the best we've played all year. It's a tough task.''
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