BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots have long set the standard for excellence in the NFL. That has less to do with “The Patriot Way” or any intangible element that often gets credit from writers, but it instead is a result of one simple thing: Winning.

The Patriots, currently preparing for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, went 12-4 this season. It was their 11th straight season with 10 or more wins, and they’re playing in their eighth conference title game since 2001.

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When looking for an explanation for that sustained success, longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said it’s easy. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are simply better than anyone else.

“It’s actually very simple, and a very simple truth is we’re all not created equal. They’re better than most everybody else,” Ryan said on The John Feinstein Show. “Belichick is smarter, is a little more on the ball, has a little bit more overall encompassing football savvy than most everybody else. That’s it. And Brady, along with [Peyton] Manning, is one of the two greatest computers that’s ever stepped up to take a snap. There’s better arms out there – there’s plenty of better arms out there than both of them right now. It’s not about that. And certainly God knows there’s better sets of legs out there than both of them right now.

“What they do better than anybody else – and you can argue which one’s better – is size up a situation as they’re taking the snap and put their team [in the best position to succeed]. … [Brady is] just better than everybody else.”

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As for the idea that the Patriots “must” win not only the AFC title game but also the Super Bowl in order to get one more before Brady’s “window” closes, Ryan rejected the notion.

“This season in particular is a gift beyond all imagination. It is utterly unexpected,” Ryan said. “And they may very well have peaked with this wonderful performance the other night [against the Colts]. I don’t know. And if they have, then people should be grateful for what they’ve gotten.

“This is a gift from the gods to even be in this position,” Ryan said.

Listen to the entire Bob Ryan interview on

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