As the Patriots begin preparing in earnest for their final opponent of the season, the euphoria from Sunday night’s big AFC Championship win in Kansas City has nearly worn off. It’s not entirely gone just yet, though.
“I tried to enjoy it first. I mean, you’ve got to enjoy it. There’s only two teams left,” observed wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who caught a touchdown pass at the end of the first half. “I tried to watch as much of the NFC Championship Game on my phone. I was watching it while I was on the bus [on the way home from Kansas City].”
Since arriving back at Gillette Stadium pre-dawn on Monday, the Patriots have had a couple of days to soak in the feeling while fielding calls, text messages, and other requests from family, friends, and long-lost acquaintances who are hoping to attend the Super Bowl in Atlanta on February 3.
“Of course, that’s going to happen,” left tackle Trent Brown acknowledged, “but in my mind, I’ve always known who my tight-knit circle is. I don’t really have to think about who’s getting tickets or any of that. I’ve known the whole time. It’s pretty much easy – my mom, dad, my brother. That’s it. My mom and dad live two hours away. They’re going to drive up [to Atlanta]. My brother’s going to catch the family plane down.”
Center/co-captain David Andrews, a Georgia native, was pleasantly surprised that he didn’t receive as many extra requests as he might have expected with the game taking place in Atlanta.
“It hasn’t been terrible. You just have to say no a lot. No, or maybe don’t answer every now and then. It’s one of those things you’re not really concerned with. You take care of who you want to take care of and then let the rest fall and move on to the game. As long as you have the people there that you care about, the rest doesn’t matter.”
All that logistical planning now in the rearview mirror, players returned to Foxborough Wednesday to turn their full attention to the task at hand.
“Knocked it out. Yeah,” wide receiver Chris Hogan proudly proclaimed with a smile. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have been through this a couple times now, so, I kind of know how this goes and got everything out of the way so that I can just focus on what I should be focused on. That’s the Rams and playing this game… Everyone’s pretty excited to get to work here and start preparing for them.
“It’s tough, it’s a quick turnaround. For guys that haven’t been doing this before, there’s going to be a lot of information thrown at you… handle it as best you can as quickly as you can so that you don’t have to worry about any of that kind of stuff throughout this week and when we go down to Atlanta. You can focus on what we have to do as a team, and that’s to continue to prepare for [the Rams] up until the game.”
It appears the plan is for the Patriots to remain in New England through most of this coming weekend before making the relatively short flight (about two hours) to Atlanta. In the interim, they’ll go about their otherwise normal week of preparation and game plan installation so that, once they arrive in Georgia, the heaviest of lifting will be complete.
“I try to prepare like you’re going to play this game Sunday,” added Andrews. “I know we’re 10 or 11 days out, but I try to get as much studying as I can here, stay in my routine here, and then try to do the same next week.”
“You just have to pour into it everything that you have,” Hogan emphasized. “You get these extra days and when you get down there, there’s a lot of different obligations and tons of distractions. So, you have to take advantage of these days that we’re here, in our same routine, in our facility. So, when we go down there, you can continue to prepare, but you know that you’ve really put in the work this week.”
“It’s really important,” Dorsett concurred. “You’re going to have a lot of distractions when you get to Atlanta, but you still have to fine-tune a lot of things. While you’re here, away from all the glitz and glamor, it’s all ball. You’ve got to grind. Nothing changes. We work really hard on and off the field and we’re going to continue to do that.
“Naturally,” he conceded, “you’ll get nervous. It’s the Super Bowl. But if you just revert back to your normal routine and do what got you here, you should be fine. If you haven’t been, it’s going to be the best week of your life. It’s the Super Bowl, the ultimate team game. If you’re a football player, you dream of being in the Super Bowl. I don’t take it for granted. It’s going to be a great week, but you can’t let your focus shift off of things that don’t matter. The only thing that really matters is the game.”
The team is expected to hold its first practice of the week here in Foxborough on Thursday.