FOXBORO -- We're just days away from playoff football in New England. The game is different. The speed is different. It's a one-game season.
Prepare how you will. Even the Patriots know they'll have to make in-game adjustments. It doesn't matter how many times they've played the Houston Texans.
They realize the playoffs are a whole different beast.
"It's like when you talk to the Navy Seals and those guys about when they go on a mission, how they talk about, 'Alright, so we get there, and we practice going over a six-foot wall, and the wall's 30-feet high.' Well, that's the way it is in the NFL," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Friday. "You practice for whatever you think you're going to . . . you swim across a 200-yard lake, and the lake's 800 yards. Well, guy's have to cross it. You get into the NFL game, and you think you're going to get this, and you get that. You think they're going to play this guy, and they play some other guy. You face new challenges. That's part of the gamesmanship and part of the competition, to figure out which team can do it better than the other one.
"There's always that unknown in the game," added Belichick. "Things happen that you just can't predict or you can't prepare for. Because they're working on things. We don't know what they're doing. So they'll come up with something that will cause us to make an adjustment. And I'm sure we'll do the same thing to them somewhere along the line. Everybody's got to figure it out and make the best of it. That's what makes this great game."
Belichick described just how anxious his team was for Sunday's kickoff to what they hope will be a long and successful playoff run, saying the emotions are taken to a "higher step."
"This is a jump this week," said Belichick. "We all understand that.
"I think there's an anxiousness whenever you play," added Belichick. "You always have that unknown of going up against a new opponent. Who knows how the game will go, what they'll do, how things will match up, what adjustments you'll have to make, and how the game will unfold. There will be different breaks or situations in the game that will make each game unique. That makes it exciting. So, there's no way to predict how all that's going to happen. Just take it as it comes."
But those unknowns and the emotions that come with it disappear when the game begins, playoff game or not.
"When the ball's kicked off, then I think you're in game mode," said Belichick. "All the things you think about, what could happen, what might, what you want to call, what you want to do, what situations might come up. Once that opening kickoff happens, then you're playing the game or coaching the game, whatever you're doing, whatever your role is."
As the hours wind down and Sunday's rematch with the Texans gets closer, the Patriots' excitement comes with a special embrace for the spot that they're in: a home game and a chance to get to the AFC Championship.
They are well aware at what's at stake.
"This is what we work all year for," said Belichick. "We worked all year, since the end of last season to get back to this point. So, really, this is what it's all for. All the team planning, the OTA's, the mini-camps, the meetings, the walkthroughs, the preseason games, the practices, the regular season. It's all for this. So we put everything we have into this game, and try to have the result that we want. That's where our team is. That's where I am, personally. I think that's where everybody is. That's where we should be."