It’s official: The 2020 NFL postseason will not include the New England Patriots.
Sunday’s 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium officially eliminated the Patriots from playoff contention. For the first time since 2008, their season will end in Week 17.
For players like veteran safety Devin McCourty, who’s been with the Patriots in 2009, this is an unfamiliar and unpleasant experience. But McCourty said it won’t change the way New England approaches its final two games — home dates with the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
Asked what the Patriots, who now sit at 6-8, hope to achieve over these final two weeks, McCourty simply replied: “To win.”
“That’s all we’ve got left,” he said. “Last two weeks, we’ll get a chance next week to play a team that’s riding high and is going to have a postseason future. Buffalo wrapped up and won the division, so it’s, ‘How can we spoil their season and spoil what they have going?’ And then the next week, it’ll be trying to get another win against the Jets.
“There’s nothing else. There’s no moral victories or hoping for this or that. It’s, ‘How can we win the last two games?'”
The Patriots lost out of playoff spots on tiebreakers in 2008 and 2002, finishing tied for the AFC East lead in both years. This is the first time since 2000 — Bill Belichick’s first season — that they’ve been mathematically eliminated with games still left to play.
“However we want to be remembered for the rest of this year comes down to these last two weeks,” McCourty said. “It is what it is. We won’t be in the playoffs, but we have two games left, and that’s what we’ve got. You talk about character, you talk about perseverance, competing — we’ve got a lot of guys out here that still, I think, want to prove themselves, still want to try to be players in this league.
“So we’ve got to just keep fighting. I think we can lead the way as older guys, but at the end of the day, it comes down to how well we compete and execute on Sunday — the same thing we’ve said all year. That’s what football is about, especially in this league.”
Cornerback J.C. Jackson said the Dolphins “competed harder” than the Patriots, who surrendered a season-high 250 rushing yards and 22 second-half points. McCourty disagreed with that assessment, saying a lack of effort wasn’t the problem for New England.
McCourty also doesn’t believe the Patriots will fold in their final two games.
“Every team you play can beat you on Sunday, and the same thing for us,” the longtime team co-captain said. “We can go out there and beat a very good Buffalo team Monday night, but it’s up to us. It’s how well we execute, how well we play our role. So we’ll have to see.
“But I think we’re going to compete. I think we’re going to work hard. I just believe in it because it’s all I know since I’ve been here, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”