FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success over the last 17 years, and on Saturday night they achieved another historic NFL playoff milestone.
Even though the Patriots always are laser focused on what’s ahead and don’t dwell on past accomplishments, it’s difficult not to appreciate the feat in real time.
“It’s really hard to fathom that,” Patriots special teams standout Matthew Slater said when told New England’s seventh straight AFC title game berth was a league record.
“You try not to think of it moment-to-moment. But it is pretty cool to step back and think we’ve done something that’s never been done here. It’s not the end goal for us, but we’re definitely fortunate to be in the position we’re in.
“I know we don’t really get too much into what we’ve done. We try to stay in the moment and stay week-to-week, but hopefully one day we’ll be able to step back, step away from things and look back upon what we did and be proud of our effort. ”
Slater joins just five other Patriots — quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, safety Devin McCourty, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman — who’ve been with the organization for each of its last seven trips to the AFC Championship Game.
Brady echoed Slater’s sentiments while also staying focused on the task at hand.
“I think the thing is that we don’t really take it for granted around here,” Brady said of the franchise’s consistent success. “I know how hard it is to get to this game. We’re very blessed to do it. It takes a lot of things, a lot of good fortune, a lot of hard work, but obviously a lot of great blessings.
“I think our team has proven over the course of the year we can win important games against good teams, and we did that (Saturday night), and that’s why you keep moving on. The reality of the NFL is what we did this week will have nothing to do with what happens next week.”
The Patriots will host the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 21. Their opponent will be the winner of Sunday’s game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.
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