FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After shockingly squandering an opportunity to secure a first-round playoff bye, with some players acknowledging the overall feeling they were sleepwalking through a Week 17 loss, New England Patriots players worked to quickly shift their mindset leading into Saturday night's AFC wild-card playoff game against the Tennessee Titans (8:15 p.m. ET, CBS).
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, in particular, highlighted a creative silver lining.
"We have a chance to go on a Revenge Tour, and what better way to start off than with Tennessee, who we lost to last year," Van Noy said, calling it a "big motivation."
"They're coming into our house and what better way to get it started for the playoffs -- Saturday at 8:15 at Gillette. I know it's going to be rocking, and I'm excited for our players to perform in a way and play Patriot football on Saturday."
What the Patriots would have preferred, naturally, was to advance directly into the divisional round of the playoffs. Last week, several players referred to the regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins as a playoff game, and yet they now acknowledge that they disappointingly didn't play with playoff-type urgency.
They are now moving on quickly, which is the only choice given the sudden turnaround for Saturday's wild-card round game -- their first appearance in the round since 2009. Fifth-year receiver Phillip Dorsett said the team simply has to "flush it" from their memory bank, while second-year cornerback J.C. Jackson channeled his inner Bill Belichick in saying, "On to Tennessee."
In doing so, there was a general feeling throughout the locker room that the Patriots also got what they deserved against the Dolphins; and if they play like that Saturday against Mike Vrabel's Titans, their season will be over for good. So now some of them are rallying around the idea of a Revenge Tour.
"Just look at who we can play. We're playing the Titans, and we have to put everything we can into that game. Vrabel has them playing really well," Van Noy said. "We're excited for the challenge."
If the Patriots get past the Titans, they would travel to the second-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, whom they lost to on Dec. 8. The Patriots also dropped games this season to the No. 1 Baltimore Ravens and No. 4 Houston Texans.
So, while the Patriots didn't earn their coveted first-round bye, and now face a much harder road, they are embracing the opportunity nonetheless.
"I'm just excited to play in the playoffs. There are so many guys you could look at over their careers who never got a chance," Van Noy said. "I've had a lot, and I don't take these lightly. What a blessing to play in front of family and friends on a national stage. I'm pumped."