Patriots receiver and special-teams savant Matthew Slater joined the team in 2008. The Patriots have won at least 10 games every year of his career.
For the first time in his 13 NFL seasons, Slater has to find the motivation to essentially play out the string.
“This is new territory for me as a pro,” Slater said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “I’m trying to take it in stride. My message to the guys is that we have to finish what we start. There’s going to be things in life that you start, and you envision them going a certain way, and they don’t go that way. That’s a part of life. You have to find a way to finish what you started, and hopefully at the end of that, you’re a better man, a better woman for it. I’m going to encourage the guys to keep fighting to the finish and represent ourselves in the best way possible.”
In the season of stubborn refusals to concede, Slater’s comments sound a lot like a recognition that it’s over for the Patriots. Mathematically it’s not, but even if they beat the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets, 9-7 probably won’t be good enough to get the seventh seed in 2020.
In Slater’s rookie season, 11-5 wasn’t good enough for the sixth seed. But they remained alive through Week 17. This year, for the first time in a very long time, the Patriots have games to play and no real reason to do so, because they already know that, come January, they’ll be one of the 18 teams going home, while 14 of them continue.