With next week’s game in Buffalo and New England not capable of hosting any home playoff games, the Patriots won't play inside Gillette again until next season. While neither Slater, 37, nor McCourty, 35, has announced their intention to retire at the end of the season, it’s no secret they are nearing the end.
Both players noted they took some time to appreciate the moment on Sunday.
“I took a moment. Spend some time with my family on the field. It’s been a great run,” McCourty said. “To come out here, if this was the last one, I think to be able to leave Gillette with a win, very similar to how my first-ever game was a win. I’ve had a lot of fun. These guys have been awesome to go out here and compete with.
“You never know how football goes. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it before the game, and just now. Give a high five to the Minutemen, something I’ve done over and over and over again after wins. Just kind of think about that, let that settle in, just trying to make sure I stay in the moment, enjoy. But definitely gave it a few seconds today.”
“You know, as much as I try to block it out and focus on doing my job, it certainly dawned on me today that this very well could be my last game here,” Slater added. “I don’t know what my future holds. I haven’t spent a ton of time thinking about it, I’ve been trying to stay in the moment. I certainly took time to appreciate being in this stadium and running out of that tunnel today.
“Saw a couple of signs that were thanking D-Mac and myself. I don’t know what either of us have in store but I think when you get to this stage of it, you try to take in every moment and savor it. I think some of the players and coaches knowing that I’m not sure of what my future have expressed gratitude and that meant a lot to me, and just told me they loved me and it just means so much, it really does.”
Throughout their careers, perhaps no player has defined the “Patriot Way” like they have. Both players were pillars during three Super Bowl teams, both for their play on the field and their leadership off of it.
After the game, Bill Belichick — along with several other New England players — gave an ode to the two respected veterans.
“Devin has done about everything a player could do for this program,” Belichick said. “Say the same thing about Matt Slater in the kicking game. I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever been or ever going to be a player than Matt Slater as an overall special teams player and the leadership he brought to the team, along with Devin.
“Devin came in as a corner, went to the Pro Bowl, moved to safety, led the defense from the safety position from his second year on. His off-the-the field leadership, on-the-field leadership is superior, as good as anybody I’ve ever coached at that position. He does everything right. He’s done everything right since he’s been here. He knows the line calls. He knows the defense inside and out, so he has total respect from everybody because of his preparation and his unselfish play. Same thing for Slater.
“What those two guys have done, what they mean to this organization, what they mean to me personally, what they’ve done here, it’s pretty impressive, pretty elite.”