FOXBORO -- Yes, it's the postseason. And yes, the Patriots haven't played the Titans in a while. But that doesn't mean that this is the time to shake things up when it comes to preparation.
Study. Practice. Meetings. Work out. Eat right. Sleep well. Treatment. Rinse. Repeat. Just like every other week. That's the plan, at least.
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The only alteration the Patriots will make is one the schedule forced them to: Kick-start the preparations a day earlier than usual since the Divisional Round matchup is coming up on Saturday night.
"You know, I think the thing for us is just staying in our routine," said center David Andrews. "Our routine got us here. There’s nothing more you need to do. You don’t need to stay up here till midnight watching film. If that’s your routine, go ahead, but if that’s not your routine, you don’t need to do that.
"But, it’s definitely going to be important for us to be familiar with these guys. I think we’ve done a good job of that really from the time we knew to the time I’m sitting here talking to y’all. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll come in tomorrow, we’ll get really working on them, get really going, but like I said, I think just stick to your routine. Don’t do anything crazy. But, it’s definitely key to respect your opponent and put that work in."
Of the 53 players on the Patriots roster, 12 have yet to experience postseason play. They're stepping into a new world, special teams ace Matthew Slater explained.
"The intensity, speed of the game, everyone’s playing with a great deal of urgency," Slater said when asked about the difference between the postseason and regular-season play. "When it comes to the football season, it’s literally do or die. You either find a way to get it done and play winning football or you hope to be back next season. I think everybody understands, as I said, this is a very temporary game that we play. Nothing’s guaranteed to anyone. So, when you get out there in playoff football you feel that urgency. You feel the speed of the game. You feel guys fighting and clawing every single play. That’s something that you can’t simulate. That’s something that you better try to get yourself ready for mentally and physically because it’s going to take everything you have come playoff situations."
But that doesn't necessarily mean more hours in the facilities will prepare a player for that kind of transition.
"The preparation is still very [much] the same," Andrews insisted. "You know, how we prepare works for us, and that’s how we’re going to prepare. But, there’s definitely a sense of urgency. I mean, it’s the NFL playoffs. It’s win or go home. There’s no tomorrow. There’s no, ‘Hey, next week.’ There’s no, ‘Oh, we’ll get it fixed.’ Either do this or you’re at home sitting on the couch. Everyone understands that. Everyone’s mature enough to really understand that."
Andrews, 25, has already played in five postseason games. Slater, 32, is looking at his 17th. Both captains, they'll be expected to come up with a play or two against the Titans. But it could just as well be someone like rookie Deatrich Wise, former Bills practice-squad player Eric Lee, or outside-the-number burner Brandin Cooks -- all about to see their first playoff game -- who makes the key play.
"Coach Belichick always says, ‘It’s not about playoff experience. It’s about playoff execution.’ 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," Slater said. "The examples are countless here in this locker room. You look at Tennessee and those guys are playing their first playoff game and, yeah, guys are all over the field making plays. They were inexperienced heading in but they found a way to execute going into the game.
"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. 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."