FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have players, like Devin McCourty, who are accustomed to annual trips to the AFC Championship Game.
They also have others, like McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, who know the pain of trying — and failing — for years on end to even reach the postseason.
Both groups have provided necessary perspective as the Patriots, who suffered a stunning loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, prepare to host the Tennessee Titans in the franchise’s first wild-card round playoff game since the 2009 season.
“We have guys in that locker room who have never had the experience playing that last game on Sunday and your season will be over, and we have guys who have,” Devin McCourty, a longtime team co-captain, said Wednesday. “Those guys always give great perspective of what it means to play in the playoffs, of that last game and already knowing where you?re going on vacation. We had guys talk about that, and I think the realization was, after how bad Sunday was, we came in the next day and we had to work. We had stuff that we wanted to accomplish, and we got the opportunity to do it.
“Because of how we played in the regular season, we get a chance to play in the postseason. It didn?t end the way we wanted it to, but I think it would really be bad to let one loss disappoint the whole rest of the season because we stayed and stuck on that. We?ve got a veteran group. We?ve got guys that understand that, and we?re excited about this opportunity. We?re going to work our butts off to be able to be prepared and go out there and play a tough game Saturday night.”
Just five members of the Patriots’ current 53-man roster — quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Julian Edelman, tight end Ben Watson, safety Patrick Chung and special teamer Matthew Slater — were around for the team’s last appearance on wild-card weekend. New England was blown out at home in that game, losing 33-14 to the Baltimore Ravens in the most lopsided postseason defeat of the Bill Belichick era. McCourty was drafted the following season.
Slater, who’s been with the Patriots since 2008 and has served as special teams captain since 2011, echoed McCourty’s message.
“I think that’s well-said by Devin,” he said. “Certainly, anything that’s happened in the past around here is going to have no bearing on what’s going to happen Saturday. Players who’ve played here, what they’ve done — it really means nothing. This is about us: the 2019 Patriots and the guys that we have on this team right now going out and playing a tough contest against the Tennessee Titans. It’s going to be about our preparation, it’s going to be about our execution, and certainly, we can’t take for granted the opportunity we have.
“We just assume these opportunities are going to come around in the future, but that’s not the case. There’s no guarantee that that’s going to be the case. So let’s try to live in the now. Let’s go out here and make the most of the opportunity that we have on Saturday.