The New England Patriots played one of their best games of the season on Saturday against the Buffalo Bills, and as a result are now not just well-positioned to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs: they can also call themselves AFC East champions for the record-extending 11th season in a row. However, winning division titles is not the ultimate goal in New England and the team was reminded of that in the postgame locker room.
“This is very simple now: this was a playoff game, Miami’s a playoff game,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told his players after their 24-17 victory against Buffalo. “If we beat Miami, then we get a bye. If we don’t then we’ll be playing the next week. It’s a playoff game, so we have to be ready to go here. We need our best week, keep building on what we’ve been building in here and keep this thing rolling.”
“Fellas, this was a damn good job today, but this is playoff football. I saw some guys step up today — we need everybody. So let’s enjoy this one, let’s relax a little bit here, come back ready to go. This is a big week. We’re in the playoffs. We are in the playoffs now,“ Belichick added before eventually congratulating his players on their accomplishment: “AFC East champs. Congratulations, men.”
Enjoying the moment but not without simultaneously being focused on the challenges that await in the near future is classic Belichick-Patriots — and something special teams ace and team captain Matthew Slater also pointed out when breaking down the traditional post-game huddle: “We’re never going to take it for granted. It’s not easy, nobody gave it to us. [...] Upward and onward, though. Upward and onward.”