FOXBORO — Special teams captain Matt Slater is one of 35 players on the Patriots’ 53-man roster who have postseason experience — Sunday will mark the sixth playoff game of his career. He said that unless you’ve been through it before, there’s no way to acclimate yourself to the speed and the urgency of the game when the postseason rolls around.
“We can try to preach to them all week and try to put it in their head but I know for me, until I got out there and actually felt it, I didn’t understand what it was like,” Slater said when asked how he tries to get the younger players ready for the playoffs.
“But we’ll be on those young guys all week to let them know, ‘Listen, this is not the regular season. This is not what you guys have experienced up until this point.’ But I think until they get out there the first couple series, the first couple plays, then they won’t really understand what it is.”
According to Slater, there’s a jump in intensity, speed and urgency that isn’t necessarily there in the regular season. If you’re making an SAT-level comparison, the preseason is to the regular season as the regular season is to the postseason.
“The preseason obviously is a different feel, and you go to the regular season and it’s a much different feel; the speed,” he said. “I think the jump is just as drastic from the regular season to the postseason. I think it’s a one-game season for everybody and nobody is holding anything back — not that we do that during the regular season — but it’s a drastic difference.”
As far as whether or not either team has an edge because of added playoff experience, Slater sounded dubious.
“I think it helps a little bit, but every year is a different year,” he said. “What happens in the regular season usually has no bearing on what happens in the postseason. I think it helps for guys that have played in the big games to know what to understand and expect as far as the speed of the game, the intensity of the game — it’s nothing like a regular season game.
“Like I said, every year is different, every team is different, every situation is different, so you can’t really rely on past experiences to kind of expect it to be the same when you get to the game this year.”
Here are a few highlights of the rest of his Q&A with the media:
What has it been like getting a chance to work with the core special teamers this year?
“It’s been a blast; I’ve had a lot of fun with these guys this year. It’s a group that takes a lot of pride in what we do and we have a lot of fun doing it. I think there’s a good combination of veteran guys with experience and young guys that are willing and eager and understand this is how they’re going to make their bones in this league and they’ve embraced their role. Overall, it’s been one of the most fun seasons I’ve had as a part of this team. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
What are the benefits of playing a team in the playoffs that you have faced in the regular season?
“I think that you’re familiar with their personnel. Usually a team like Houston, we wouldn’t have played them in the regular season because they’re not in our division, but we have some familiarity with their personnel and their schemes. I think it’s important for us not to rely on our past game and expect this game to go the same way. It’s nice that we know their personnel, know how they feel out there, going against those guys, competing against them but we expect it to be a totally different ballgame. We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend and we know we’re in for a fight.”
Are there any drawbacks to playing a team you’ve already played?
“I wouldn’t say there are. Each game is its own and I think that will be the case this weekend.”
Does being familiar with their personnel affect or impact your preparation this week?
“I think it will a little bit. I think you go back and look at the tape and see what things worked for you as an individual and as a team and what things didn’t go so well. I think you can know what to focus on, what you can do better, what you can continue to do well hopefully. Experience is a great teacher and we’ve had some experience with these guys this year, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”
Can you tell a discernible difference between three days off versus one or two that you might have seen in the regular season? What’s the benefit of that? How much of an effect has that had on the team?
“It was definitely a good opportunity for us to take some time and kind of lick our wounds a little bit. I don’t expect it to give us some great edge or advantage come Sunday. These guys are going to come in here hungry. They feel like they owe us. We can’t think, ‘Oh, well we had the bye so we’re going to be OK.’ That’s not going to be the case at all. Hopefully we get everybody healthy and out there on the field this week, but when it comes down to, it we have to go line up and play the game this weekend.”