The New England Patriots started slowly, finished strong, and were able to punch their ticket to a seventh straight AFC Championship Game. New England defeated the visiting Tennessee Titans 35-14 in the divisional playoff round and will now move on to host the Titans' AFC South rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars – and the message in the postgame locker room was clear: The Patriots need to play their best.
After the celebration and hugs once the team and coaching staff entered the locker room – the “lingering sadness” mentioned in Seth Wickersham's infamous article be damned –, head coach Bill Belichick took the stage to deliver his postgame remarks. And the future Hall of Famer begin his remarks by saying that his team did not play its best football: “It wasn't our best but it was good.”
Belichick praised the team's play on third down before telling his players to enjoy the victory but be ready for the challenge ahead: “We need our best game next week,” Belichick told the team not yet knowing that the Jaguars would be the opponent heading into Foxboro's Gillette Stadium. “We need our best effort.”
After Belichick, it was team captain Matthew Slater to step forward. “The journey continues,” Slater told his teammates. “We gotta enjoy the journey, we gotta enjoy the process, we gotta enjoy the grind – each and every day.” Slater ended his speech by asking the traditional “How does it feel...”-question. On Saturday's menu: How does it feel to be going to a seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game.
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