With so many players on the Patriots active roster lacking playoff experience, it’s fair to wonder how they might respond now that the season has reached the postseason, where a loss drops the curtain.
In addition to the 15 rookies currently on the 53-man squad, three other players — receiver Danny Amendola, running back LeGarrette Blount, and linebacker Chris White — had never been on a team that advanced to the NFL playoffs.
It’s a new season with more pressure, but the Patriots already have been in their fair share of close, dramatic games this season, going 6-1 in games decided by 3 points or fewer. Might that help prepare those getting ready for their playoff debuts?
“I really think at this point in the season, after 16 regular-season games, that all of our players, even our young ones, should be pretty well acclimated to what NFL football is about,” coach Bill Belichick said during a Tuesday teleconference.
“I think the big thing about the playoffs is that it’s the best teams, so everybody is good, everybody has a good team, everybody has good players, everybody has a lot of confidence.
“You just have to be at your best against that level of competition. I think that’s the key thing about the playoffs. I think the rest of it is [not] really anything that is that out of the ordinary.”
You don’t say
Belichick chose not to say whether the Patriots have given the Cleveland Browns permission to interview offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for their vacant head coaching position.
Reports Monday indicated that the Browns, who fired Rob Chudzinski Sunday after one 4-12 season, have requested permission from the Patriots to speak with McDaniels.
Asked specifically if the team has granted that permission, Belichick deferred.
“I’m not going to get into any of that,” he said. “The procedures are in place with the league and so forth, so any comments on that I don’t think are appropriate, so I won’t make any.”
The NFL Network reported later Tuesday that the Patriots had indeed granted permission.
Since the Patriots have a first-round bye, McDaniels would be allowed to interview before Jan. 6 with another team, so long as his current employer gives the OK.
McDaniels is a native of northeast Ohio, and was head coach of the Denver Broncos for parts of two seasons (2009-10) before getting fired. Back with the Patriots for a second stint — he was initially on staff from 2001-08 — McDaniels directed an offense that scored 444 points this season, fifth-most in franchise history.
Not surprisingly, Blount was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after he shattered the team record for all-purpose yards with 334 in the win over Buffalo. It’s the first time in his four-year NFL career that the award has gone to Blount, who rushed for 189 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns.
He became just the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 180 yards and have at least 100 kickoff-return yards in the same game, joining Gale Sayers and Adrian Peterson.
Blount is the second Patriots player this season to win the weekly AFC offensive award. Tom Brady was recognized after the Patriots erased a 24-0 halftime deficit and beat the Broncos in Week 12.
Blount had a strong case for AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, too, since he returned second-half kickoffs 83 and 62 yards against the Bills. But that honor went to former Patriot Adam Vinatieri, who kicked three field goals for the Colts in their 30-10 win over Jacksonville.
Blount broke the franchise record of 273 all-purpose yards set by Larry Garron in 1962.
A small number of tickets for the Jan. 11 divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m., exclusively through Ticketmaster. Fans can purchase tickets online at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Visa will be the only accepted form of payment, and the per-seat cost, set by the NFL, ranges from $100 to $230. There will be a four-ticket limit per person, and it’s doubtful that even two seats will be together, since the supply is limited. Patriots season ticket-holders were given the option of purchasing up to eight tickets for the game, and those on the waiting list for season tickets also had the opportunity to purchase seats . . . The Patriots signed wide receiver Greg Orton to the practice squad. Orton, 27, spent part of 2011 and all of 2012 on the Broncos’ practice squad. He entered the league as a rookie free agent with the Bengals out of Purdue in 2009.
Stop right there
The Patriots might have finished the regular season near the bottom of the league rankings in allowing third-down conversions (42.2 percent), but they led the NFL in stopping opponents on fourth down. Strengthened by the final two regular-season games, when the Ravens and Bills combined to go 0 for 6 on fourth downs, the Patriots gave up fourth-down conversions on just 4 of 21 attempts, or 19 percent. Next-best were the Giants and Broncos, at 26.7 percent (4 for 15) . . . As far as yardage gained and allowed, the Patriots finished the regular season seventh in total offense (ninth in rushing, 10th in passing) and 26th in total defense (30th against the run, 18th against the pass) . . . Players were given Tuesday off but are scheduled to be on the practice field Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.