The New England Patriots are back in the playoffs. The team was able to officially punch its ticket to the tournament thanks to a 50-10 demolition of the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars in combination with a Tennessee Titans win over the Miami Dolphins.
Needless to say, the Patriots had a lot to feel good about on Sunday afternoon, especially coming off back-to-back losses. Their reactions to qualifying for the playoffs were a mixed bag, however.
One fraction of players talking to the media after the win over Jacksonville expressed its happiness with the situation.
“It’s huge,” said running back Rhamondre Stevenson. “It’s a very long season for me, my rookie year. I’m excited.”
Being a rookie, Stevenson will be in the playoffs for the first time in his career. The same is also true for safety Kyle Dugger, though, who missed the postseason in 2020 as part of New England’s disappointing 7-9 campaign.
“I don’t know how to describe it. That’s a great feeling,” Dugger said. I’m ready to put some more work in, and help the team move forward. But that is a great thing. I’m looking forward to it.”
Fellow defensive back J.C. Jackson, who like Dugger registered an interception against Jacksonville, had a somewhat similar reaction as well.
“It’s a great spot for us,” he said. “We know what we’ve got to do. I’m ready to get back to work this week.”
Getting back to work was a battle cry of sorts for the other fraction of Patriots taking the podium after the game against the Jaguars. Their reaction was a bit more muted compared to Stevenson’s and Dugger’s, with head coach Bill Belichick, as always, setting the tone.
“Excited to be back in the playoffs but big game coming up this week, take care of that,” Belichick said about the Patriots’ playoff outlook and their upcoming game against the Dolphins next Sunday. “Feel like we made some progress today, but we’ve still got a long way to go here. Just need to keep grinding it out day by day. Hopefully we’ll do that and see where it takes us.”
Quarterback Mac Jones echoed Belichick’s remarks.
“I think any sport you play you want to get a chance to play for a championship and for a playoff spot,” Jones said. “We have a big game next week, and that’s what we’re going to focus on, and finishing strong and all that. We’ll focus on that and be where our feet are, and then when the next thing comes we’ll have a new plan and attack it.”
Even those reactions sounded enthusiastic compared to Damien Harris’ and David Andrews’. The Patriots’ lead running back and starting center were in no celebratory mood, at least as far making the postseason was concerned.
“We’ve got more games to play. It’s as simple as that,” said Harris. “We won today. It’s a great win for our team. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of good things to build on – obviously things to correct, but it was great to come out here and win today. Like I alluded to earlier, we’ve got another tough challenge coming up next week, so that’s what our focus is – getting ready for Miami.”
Andrews kept his answer even shorter.
“We’re not really focused on that. We’ve got to play [the Dolphins] this week. Got a big game, playoffs don’t start for another week. We’ll deal with that when we deal with that. We’ll focus on Miami this week.”
The first of those games will be played in Miami next Sunday. The Patriots will take on their division rivals for a 1 p.m. kickoff — a dress rehearsal of sorts for what will come a week later.