FOXBORO (CBS) – The New England Patriots have been terrific in the regular season the last two years, dominating their schedule to a 27-5 clip.
But wins have elluded the team when it comes to the postseason. Their last playoff win was four years ago, with the two most recent seasons ending with postseason loses at Gillette.
This is a trend the Patriots hope to stop Saturday night against the Denver Broncos in their AFC Divisional matchup.
“Obviously we haven’t done well enough. It sits in all of our minds for the guys that have been here and been a part of that,” right tackle Matt Light said from Gillette Stadium Wednesday. “You work that much, you put that much time into a season, you have success to a degree during the regular season and then you go out and you can’t get it done in the postseason; that’s a difficult thing to swallow.”
“I think that’s why guys, you put a little bit more time in, you put a little more effort into it and hopefully get a better outcome,” said Light. “We’re working hard toward that. We’ve had a heck of run through the regular season. We’ve had a lot of guys step up and make a lot of plays to put us in this position. Now we have to do something with it.”
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One of those guys going a little harder will be offensive lineman Brian Waters. In his 12th NFL season, Waters has never experienced a playoff victory. In 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, he went through a pair of first-round exits mixed in with a disappointing ousting in the Divisional Round against the Colts in 2003 after a 13-3 regular season.
While he is happy for the regular season success in his first year as a Patriot, Waters knows it doesn’t mean much come January.
“It’s definitely something that you’re proud to be a part of. It really only becomes special if you take full advantage of it and you’re able to accomplish even more,” said Waters. “I’ve been at this round before, so I’d like to go a little bit further. But it’s going to be a tough task and we’re going to have to make sure that we’re putting everything into it as far as preparation and being ready to go on Saturday night.”
The Pats will try and break their playoff slump against the Broncos, who finished 8-8 in the regular season after losing their final three games, including a 41-23 loss to New England. The Patriots gave up 252 rushing yards that afternoon in Denver, and allowed the Broncos to score on each of their three possessions. It was looking to be another long afternoon for the Patriots in the Mile High city until the defense started forcing turnovers and the offense began to find the end zone consistently.
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“I think we learned a lot from the first meeting,” said Light, who spent most of the afternoon keeping the Denver pass-rush off Tom Brady. “They’re a very talented group up front, they’re all very active. It doesn’t really matter what package they have in personnel-wise; they present a lot of problems for pretty much everyone that they’ve faced. I think that having a little bit of experience going through it – albeit it’s going to be a different situation being at home now – having gone up against them and seeing some of the things they threw at us and some of the things they’ve done since then, we have a lot to work on. It will definitely be a big challenge for us.”
And even though the Broncos finished the regular season on a losing note, the Pats are not surprised to see them again.
“This is a team that is in the position they’re in for a reason. They do a lot of things well. You get this deep in the playoffs or in the playoffs in general, anybody is capable of advancing,” safety/special teamer Matthew Slater said Wednesday. “They’re there for a reason. These guys have done things over the course of the season very well. Defensively, they’ve played great. Tim [Tebow] has made a lot of plays for them, but it’s not just Tim; it’s all those guys, all 53 of those guys on that team have done things to help them win. When you go and play the game on Sunday, anything can happen, so I’m not surprised to see them here at all.”
“I mean, it’s evident that that conference was pretty wide open,” said Waters. “All those guys have played well. All those guys in that conference have played well. Every last one of those teams had beaten a lot of big name teams over the course of the season. No, it didn’t surprise me at all. The formula with which they played over the last – I don’t know when they really started playing their best, but if you say over the last 10, 12 games – they’ve been pretty productive working the formula which they work with.”
Tune in to the Patriots-Broncos playoff game Saturday night at 8pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. Pregame coverage begins Saturday at 5pm with Patriots Preview on 98.5, with a special edition of Patriots GameDay on WBZ-TV at 7pm. After the game, stay tuned for Patriots Postgame on The Hub, and Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV.