By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You had to think the Patriots would be locked in for the AFC Championship Game after a subpar effort in the Divisional Playoff against the Houston Texans. But they were apparently so locked in that they played the Pittsburgh Steelers without even knowing their potential Super Bowl opponent.
Bill Belichick was asked after the Patriots’ AFC Championship win about his early impressions of the team’s Super Bowl LI opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Belichick had no early impressions because, well, that was the first he’d heard of their win in the NFC Championship Game.
“No, I mean I didn’t even know they won,” said Belichick. “We didn’t see the first game. Obviously, they’re a great team or they wouldn’t be playing in this game. They’ve had a great year.”
Don’t believe Belichick? Alan Branch said the same thing – and he was as locked in as any Patriots player during the game.
“We’re definitely not satisfied yet,” said Branch. “We’ve got to do even better in two weeks in the Super Bowl against … I didn’t even watch the game. Whoever we’re playing, get them off the field.”
After being told the Patriots got Atlanta, Branch responded: “We got Atlanta? All right.”
It’s not terribly surprising that the Patriots wouldn’t pay attention to the NFC Championship Game, in which the Falcons dismantled the Green Bay Packers 44-21. That’s one of those things you simply cannot control, so it’s not worth your time and energy when you’re trying to win your own game. But the idea that the Patriots didn’t even hear about the result of the NFC Championship in passing? Not even from fans in the seats? That’s impressive.
Hopefully, for New England’s sake, the Patriots are just as locked in when they play Atlanta in two weeks. Now would be a good time to check out that Falcons-Packers game.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.