FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The sign hangs just inside the entrance where the Patriots report to work in the morning: “WHEN YOU COME HERE Do your job.”

It’s a simple reminder that each player must focus on what he, not his teammates, must do that day.

But how well would they do after the way last season ended with a stunning 33-14 first-round playoff loss at home to Baltimore and a devastating knee injury to Wes Welker in the previous game? Tom Brady even said the team lacked mental toughness.

“There’s certainly a lot of unknowns going into the season,” Coach Bill Belichick said before the final preseason game.

Now everybody knows how good New England is: the first team to clinch a playoff berth, with the leading quarterback in the NFL and an offense that rolled over the last two opponents, 45-3 and 36-7. New England’s 11-2 record is tied for the league’s best.

With Belichick and Brady together for their 11th season, the Patriots always have a chance to be contenders. This year, the speedy progress of youngsters and the seamless integration of in-season pickups have made them formidable.

Wide receiver Randy Moss traded? These Patriots haven’t missed him now that Deion Branch has scored on pass plays of 79 and 59 yards on two of his 44 catches since his trade from Seattle after four games.

“They just look like kids out there having a good time. There’s a karma and a chemistry with this team that’s pretty special,” said Robert Kraft, who has owned the team since 1994.

“I think what’s evolved over the last seven or eight games is there’s a sense of confidence and the locker room is a very positive atmosphere.”

The Patriots have won their last five games with a 13-0 turnover margin thanks to well-disguised defensive alignments. They’re first in the NFL in scoring, with 31.9 points per game. And Brady has the best passer rating in the league, with 29 TD passes overall and no interceptions in his last eight games.

It would be easy for the players to get carried away going into Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers (8-5), who may be without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a concussion last Sunday.

“(Brady) said it best: ‘Stay humble and stay hungry,’” Patriots defensive end Gerard Warren said. “That’s our approach.”

The Patriots weren’t about to brag about the first half of the season. They beat a bad Cincinnati team 38-24, lost to the New York Jets 28-14 and edged Buffalo, 38-30. The next week they trailed Miami 7-6 at halftime, then capitalized on Dolphins mistakes, scoring touchdowns on a blocked field goal and an interception for a 41-14 victory.

After a bye, the Patriots took another big step by beating two solid teams by the same 23-20 score — in overtime over the Ravens and over San Diego on the road.

Mentally tough? No question about it.

“It’s changed,” Kraft said. “We’ve had the privilege of getting out ahead the last few games and then really turning it on and that makes a difference. But when the games are tight and you have to just stay there strong in the fourth quarter,” that shows determination.

The rookies picked that up as the season has gone along, gaining confidence and comfort. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been outstanding, cornerback Devin McCourty is second in the NFL with six interceptions and linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham have made strong impacts.

Former free agents BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have revitalized the running game and improved a diverse offense.

All have been coachable and consistent, the Patriots’ way.

“It’s all about buying in from the first day that you walk into the organization,” tight end Alge Crumpler said. “If you want to be on your own program, you’ll be out of here real quick.”

The win in San Diego put the Patriots at 5-1, but they still had some growing to do. They beat Minnesota 28-18, then were upset 34-14 by the Cleveland Browns, who entered at 2-5.

“Maybe that was waking up a little bit,” cornerback Darius Butler said. “We’ve been paying a lot more attention to detail.”

Players blamed the loss on a bad week of practice, a lack of focus that carried over to the game. They vowed to change.

“It’s going to be a different team,” Branch said the day after the loss. “I’ll tell you right now.”

He was right.

The turnaround was immediate: a 39-26 win over the tough Pittsburgh Steelers in which the Patriots led 23-3 after three quarters. And then a 31-28 victory over the Indianapolis Colts sealed by an interception by James Sanders at the New England 6-yard line as Peyton Manning was driving for the winning touchdown in the final minute.

The Patriots had learned their lesson from last season’s playoff loss to the Ravens in which Brady’s three turnovers led to a 24-0 first-quarter deficit — start fast and avoid mistakes.

“There is a good mix of players in here that really are listening to what our coaches teach,” Brady said. Belichick “wants us to be a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. We listen to the best coach of all time. Hopefully, you learn something.”

Since beating the Colts, the Patriots have been nearly unstoppable, scoring on 18 of their last 26 possessions with Brady throwing 10 touchdown passes.

“He is such an outstanding leader,” Kraft said of Brady. “The real brilliance is the way he can read defenses and see where the opportunities are and then put the ball in places where only our receivers can catch it.”