BOSTON — The New England Patriots make it easy for fans to feel spoiled. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Pats have only missed the playoffs three times. But when the team faces the Houston Texans in the NFL’s divisional round Sunday afternoon, it will be a moment to savor for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
This is the 10-year NFL veteran’s first trip to the playoffs. He’d gotten used to having other plans this time of year.
“I’d be at the Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, all kinds of different stuff,” Lloyd said with a laugh, during a press conference Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
But now, Lloyd is exactly where he wants to be.
“Ever since [I was] a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl and the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs,” Lloyd said. “This is a step along the way to the ultimate goal for all of us.”
The Patriots are coming off a first-round bye. In their last meeting with Houston on Dec. 10, 2012, the Pats demolished the Texans in Foxborough, 42-14. But Belichick knows even when you’ve seen a team recently it’s dangerous to make assumptions during the playoffs.
“You get in an NFL game and think you’re going to get this and then you get that. Or you think they’re going to play this guy and they play some other guy,” Belichick said Friday. “You face new challenges. That’s part of gamesmanship and part of the competition. You figure out which team can do it better than the other one.”
Unlike the last meeting, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Deion Branch at his disposal. Gronkowski is back from a broken forearm and Branch resigned with the team after being released earlier in the season. Meanwhile, the Texans are coming off a playoff win over Cincinnati last weekend in which Houston running back Arian Foster had 140 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Recent history shows rematches in the playoffs can be trouble for the Pats. They’ve lost four of their last five playoff games against teams they played in the regular season, including two Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants.
Doug Tribou is a reporter and producer for Only A Game.