FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Distractions? What distractions?
"I think the team just focused on Tennessee and I think it'll be the same thing next week," New England defensive captain Devin McCourty said after the Patriots shrugged off all the bye-week buzz around the team and pounded the Titans 35-14 in Saturday night's AFC divisional playoff.
"This time of the year there's no such thing to me as distractions, unless you have some issue going on with your family or something like that, there's nothing else that can distract you. I don't care what comes out, what's said, our goal from the beginning of the season was to be able to play in the playoffs and try and go out there and win games in the playoffs.
"There's nothing right now that can deter us from that, we're going to stay focused on that and try and play our best game each week that we earn the right to go back out there."
The potential distraction was an ESPN story describing turmoil among owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady that claimed Brady was happy backup Jimmy Garoppolo was traded away, and was something pushed by Brady.
The players spent the time leading up to the game saying it was no big deal, Brady denied wanting Garoppolo gone, it looked like business as usual and, as it turned out, it was.
"I've been around long enough -- 18 years, there's been so many nice things said about me it just goes with the territory," Brady said after throwing for three touchdowns in the rout. "I just try to be consistent, show up and do the best I can do for the team, regardless of whether I'm the worst quarterback in the league, or the best quarterback in the league or somewhere in between, my job is to do the best I can do for us every week."
Now, this team is headed back to the AFC title game for the seventh straight year (3-3 in the last six) as the Patriots seek their second straight title and the sixth of this special era.
"It's something we work for," said wide receiver Danny Amendola, who caught 11 passes for his first career 100-yard playoff game (112). "We have to get to postseason play and play well."
Added running back James White, "All the hard work we put in is for these moments. We have to make the most of these opportunities. Every game is going to be tough and going to be a four-quarter game."
Said McCourty, "The thing is, the seven straight is cool, but not all these guys were part of that, that's just for the team. It's all about getting there this year for all the work we put in from April on. That's why we're working, is to get to these big games.
"I think it's great for the team to see all our hard work paying off. We just gotta keep at it. Obviously getting there is a great accomplishment, but we want to go out there next week and play our best game."