Bill Belichick to players: It's about playoff execution, not experience

Patriots special-teams captain Matthew Slater said there have been many occasions when "a guy with not a great deal of playoff experience" ends up making a game-changing play in the postseason. AP Photo/Steven Senne

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots entered the playoffs with the most experienced postseason roster, as 41 players have played in at least one playoff game. In total, there is a combined 317 career playoff games among players on the roster.

But one thing Bill Belichick often relays to players at this time of year: Don't overrate experience.

"Coach Belichick always says, ‘It’s not about playoff experience. It’s about playoff execution.’ And you look at it time and time again, every year there seems to be a guy with not a great deal of playoff experience, as far as games appeared in, that’s making a huge play," special-teams captain Matthew Slater said.

"The examples are countless here in this locker room. You look at Tennessee and those guys are playing their first playoff game, and guys are all over the field making plays. They were inexperienced heading in, but they found a way to execute going into the game."

Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is one of the classic examples in this regard. The Super Bowl XLIX hero had little playoff experience in his rookie season when he made an improbable, game-saving interception.

As Butler said Monday, "You have to be ready, no matter what."

The Patriots have 12 players on the roster who haven't played in a playoff game, with Brandin Cooks one of the headliners. Last week, he said, "This is what you play the game for."

Said Slater: "Our message this week is just to go out there, make sure that you prepare at a high level all week long, and then Saturday, it’s about execution. It’s not about how many games you’ve played in. It’s not about what you’ve accomplished in the regular season or over the course of your career. It’s about executing Saturday night, Foxboro Stadium, Gillette, fans loud, cold. It’s about executing."