2018 AFC Playoffs

Patriots Notebook: Perfect practice attendance as temps drop and snow falls

(BSJ Photo)

FOXBOROUGH -- It's not exactly a Winter Wonderland, but there was some snow at the start of Patriots' practice on Thursday, giving things a seasonal feel, at least for a few minutes. (The temperatures were also in the low 30s -- not exactly Chargers' weather.) For the second consecutive day, New England had perfect attendance -- Devin McCourty and Dwayne Allen were both on the field as things got underway.

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So here's Thursday's report -- no colossal changes for the Patriots, who have been trending in the right direction as of late when it comes to health. For the Chargers, Gordon remains a question mark -- while it remains to be seen how effective he'll be, the feeling here is that he'll be a full-go on Sunday. (He told reporters he was feeling good on the way out to practice.)

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A few of the highlights from the podium on Thursday:

DAVID ANDREWS

How much does playoff experience help players versus somebody who has never been there before?
“Not at all. Not at all. What really matters is execution. You can have guys who’ve played 100 playoff games, and if they don’t show up on a Sunday or Saturday, then it really doesn’t matter. So, at the end of the day, it’s just a football game. It’s going to come down to who executes the best, who prepared the most that week, and that’s really what matters, not what you did in the past.”

Do you notice anything different in Tom Brady when it comes to the playoffs? Does he step it up or change at all?
“I think everyone does. Tom’s obviously a great leader and kind of sets the tone with a lot of things. But, you just feel that sense of urgency when you walk in the building from everyone, and it’s not just one person that provides that. It’s just, like I said, that sense of urgency. Everything’s heightened that much more. There’s nothing promised after this, so we have a one-game season right now.”

You were talking about the substitution defenses from the last time you played the Chargers. From the offensive line’s standpoint, what’s the key to combatting that? Is it knowing what’s out there when you break the huddle?
“Yeah, you know, we’re going to set our ‘mike’ point, and then really from there it’s blocking spots. So, the person next to the ‘mike’ is the ‘sam,’ the person to the left is the ‘will’ – not getting really flustered with numbers necessarily and really just blocking the spots and going off your ‘mike’ point, like I said. The next guy to the right’s the ‘sam,’ next guy to the left’s the ‘will.’”

How does their defensive line, especially with Brandon Mebane coming back and their edge rushers, allow them to go light on the back end of the defense?
“You know, that’s definitely a strength because they can be so disruptive up front that they’re able to throw in some substituted defenses, like maybe against a two-tight end group. So, when you’ve got guys that can be that disruptive up front – and t’s not just two guys, like you said. You’ve got Mebane, you’ve got [Darius] Philon, you’ve got [Damion] Square, [Isaac] Rochell – I mean, there’s just so many of them. So, whenever you’ve got these guys that can be that disruptive, that really helps out your defense.”

ROB GRONKOWSKI

Based on some of the discussion this year at the point you’re at in your career, what’s your mindset with this game and where you go from here after that?
“My mindset is just all focused on the Chargers. It’s the biggest game of the year, Sunday at 1 o’clock. Just the last few days putting the preparation in, all focus on the Chargers, all focus on whatever I can do to help out the team. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability during practice and then bringing it out to the game on Sunday.”

Do you remember your first playoff game here in 2010?
“Yup.”

What do you remember about that game? The atmosphere, your feeling, the emotion?
“It’s always another game. Definitely, you’ve got to prepare like you always prepare. It’s another football game. You can’t lose vision. That was my rookie year, being around all the veteran guys, hearing from them. You just want to stay level-headed going through the game. You want to make sure you’re prepared mentally and physically and you just want to make sure you’re playing your best football. That’s what it is – it’s another football game. You can hype it up a lot, you can say it’s just whatever of a game, but it’s a football game, another football game. We play 20 of them this year including the preseason, so we’ve got to go out there, prepare mentally and physically and be ready. Just from that game, like I said, I remember the feelings of losing and all that, so you’ve just got to go all out. That’s all. Every play – it’s a one-and-done season.”

How do you feel you’ve dealt with your limitations from the injuries you’ve had this year?
“It’s a new season right now, the playoffs. So, whatever I’ve got going forward is what I’m going to give, for sure.”

Is it tough, though, to walk back to the huddle thinking you could have caught a pass if it wasn’t for your ankle?
“I’ve been in situations like that before, no doubt – practice, games. You’ve dealt with things like that before and had felt like that before like, ‘Dang.’ But it’s the game of football. There’s no room for excuses, everyone’s dealing with something and you’ve just got to keep on moving forward and you’ve got to find a way. It’s what makes this game great. You’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared at all times to keep on going.”

DEVIN McCOURTY

How do you feel physically now?
“I’ve been good. Anytime you get injured you’re just working and trying to get back out there so it felt good to be back out there this week with the guys practicing and getting ready to go play in a playoff game.”

Do you expect to play Sunday?
“We’ll see. We’ll see. I hope so.”

What are your thoughts on Philip Rivers and the problems he poses?
“I’m a big fan of Philip Rivers. I think he does a great job. You watch the games, you see him. He’s yelling and screaming on the line of scrimmage. You can tell he watches a ton of film. He’s trying to get them in the best play for whatever defense we’re in, so obviously it’s physical talents and what he can do. Very accurate throwing the deep ball. It’s also a huge mental game of trying to not give him everything because he’s too good of a quarterback if we just line up. He’ll kind of tear us apart. It’s just like in practice if we give Tom everything that we’re doing. He’s a very competitive guy and I think it lets us know. We’ve played against him before. It’s going to go all the way down to the wire. They came here last year. I think ended up being down eight points and J. Jones makes an interception on the one or 2-yard line to end the game. It’s going to be that type of game.”

Did you give (your brother) any advice about playing in the playoffs
“No, not really. Like I said earlier, it comes down to playing your best football. You don’t want to sit after practice and run 20 extra wind sprints because it’s the playoffs. You just keep doing what you’ve been doing, but it gets to that time of the year where there’s no more "my bads" or "I’ll get that next time." There is no next time. Ten years in the NFL, not tasting the playoffs, I think he realizes that probably more than any of us because in 10 years this will be his first one. He knows it’s not guaranteed. It doesn’t happen all the time. I think his sense of urgency has been something that we’ve all watched and kind of took from”

Q: What do you remember from your first playoff game back in 2010
“Intense. It’s just the intensity of each play. Each play can change the game. Every guy knows there’s no tomorrow and you can just feel that. You feel the energy. Guys are really locked in, ready to go because nothing else matters. Like, our family’s at home sacrificing now time wise to let us come home, watch as much film as needed, do whatever because you’ve got a couple weeks or you’ve got one week. That’s just how it is.”

Do you appreciate these moments more now that you’re in your ninth season?
“Yeah, I think when you first get in the league, especially for me here, you come in as a rookie. You go 14-2 and you lose in the Division game, you’re like, "Man, I’ve got to make sure every time we get in the playoffs we win." It’s like skipping past even the regular season like, it’s a lot to get into the playoffs and I think when you get older you kind of realize football as a whole isn’t guaranteed. So each time to finish a regular season is important. That, to me, is huge when I can play in all 16 games. That’s a huge accomplishment in Year Nine. Now you’re talking about playing in the postseason. That’s another huge accomplishment that I want to take full advantage of and go out there and play my best for the team. You kind of realize all these guys in the locker room – I didn’t probably realize that until my third year of how fast – you get one year and then the locker room, usually guys are leaving. Guys are retiring, released, traded, sign in free agency. So you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity that you have with a team especially when you feel that it’s a special teams.”