FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots claim they don't think about playoff seeding. They say the only games they focus on are the next one or two. Win and their postseason position will take care of itself.
Winning their remaining two regular-season games, though, may not help this time around. Not after Sunday night's 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Patriots (10-4) went into it in second place in the AFC and in strong position to snare one of two conference byes. They came out in third place with the likely prospect of having to play a wild-card game. After that — should they win and move on — a road game in the divisional round might be next. Not easy.
Not that it's on their minds, though.
I'm not even thinking about the playoffs right now, linebacker Rob Ninkovich said Monday. I'm just focusing on the next two games.
It was a day-after-game reality the Patriots don't face very often — coping with a loss.
They had won seven straight since losing 24-23 at the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 14. They had a streak of 20 consecutive home victories in December, dating back to 2002, snapped. And they had won 21 games in a row in the second half of the schedule starting at the midpoint in 2010.
But, for coach Bill Belichick, Monday was just another day to wrap up the Patriots' latest effort and look ahead to the next one.
I'd say we pretty much do the same thing we always do, he said. We'll look and talk about the game. We'll talk about the things that we did right and reinforce those. We'll talk about the things we did wrong and correct those. Once that's over with, we'll put this game to rest and move on to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars (2-12) are far less formidable than the 49ers (10-3-1). The Patriots finish against the Dolphins (6-8).