FOXBORO, Mass. — The vast majority of players on the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster have considerable playoff experience. But there are a few — 11, to be exact — who will get their first taste of postseason football this Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
On Monday, some of the Patriots’ veterans doled out pearls of wisdom to those playoff newcomers.
“Just play ball, man,” safety Patrick Chung said. “You can’t go out there thinking, ‘Oh, man, it’s the playoffs. This is big. This is this. This is that.’ We’ve got to go out there and just play ball. Seventy plays? It’s got to be 70 good ones. Just try to be as consistent as possible and just keep doing the same things you’ve been doing. Don’t fake yourself out or psych yourself out with all the noise.”
Chung, who has spent eight of his nine NFL seasons in New England, has appeared in 16 career playoff games, including three Super Bowls. Matthew Slater has played in 17, but the special teams captain was sure to point out that postseason experience doesn’t always equal postseason success.
“Coach (Bill) Belichick always says, ‘It’s not about playoff experience. It’s about playoff execution,’ ” Slater said. “And you look at it time and time again, every year there seems to be a guy with not a great deal of playoff experience as far as games appeared in that’s making a huge play. The examples are countless here in this locker room.”
Cornerback Malcolm Butler is the most obvious example, as he’d played in just one playoff game before clinching Super Bowl XLIX for the Patriots with his goal-line interception. This year’s list of playoff newbies includes wide receiver Brandin Cooks, running back Mike Gillislee, defensive ends Deatrich Wise, Eric Lee and Adam Butler, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Slater also noted that New England’s divisional-round opponent, the Tennessee Titans, knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday in their first playoff game since the 2008 season. The Chiefs were making their third consecutive postseason appearance and their fourth in five years, but the Titans’ execution won out.
“Our message this week is just to go out there, make sure that you prepare at a high level all week long, and then Saturday, it’s about execution,” Slater said. “It’s not about how many games you’ve played in. It’s not about what you’ve accomplished in the regular season or over the course of your career. It’s about executing Saturday night, Foxboro Stadium, Gillette, fans loud, cold. It’s about executing.”
The Patriots, who entered the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 1 seed, are pegged as 14-point home favorites over the fifth-seeded Titans.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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