FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Spirits were high in the New England Patriots' locker room following their last practice of the week on Friday. Players were loose and music was blaring as reporters entered the room, with running back Stevan Ridley summing up the mood around the team.
"It's closing in. We just got off the field, had a good practice, and have a few more days to prepare," Ridley said. "Right now the team is excited, ready to go, and we're ready to play some football."
The Patriots will host the Houston Texans on Sunday, with a chance to advance to the AFC Championship Game to play for a spot in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
"We have three games. We have three games but it starts with one this Sunday," Ridley said. "We're excited. We're ready to go. It's a big game. This team has worked hard. This is what we have prepared for all year."
Coach Bill Belichick's excitement for the game has been hard to miss this week in his dealings with reporters, and Ridley said his intensity has been on display behind the scenes, as well.
"You hear it out of him, how fired up he is about it," Ridley said. "We know this is an important game, right now, it's either win or go home. It's going to be two great teams going at it."
It isn't hard to imagine that Belichick's message to his players is to throw out what happened when the teams met in December (a 42-14 Patriots home win), wipe the slate clean, and buckle down for the Texans' second punch.
"Obviously, the game didn't go the way they wanted it to the first time. They're going to change something up. They're going to do some things different," Ridley said. "For us, we have to be sound and know what we have to do. As long as we do that, they can throw whatever they need to at us, we just have to be able to pick it up and adjust. That's going to show who's the better team."
A year ago, Ridley lost a fumble in the Patriots' divisional playoff win over the Denver Broncos, and he did not touch the ball again that postseason. As the team's lead back this time around, Ridley knows he can't make the same mistake.
"Can't happen. It's crunch time, man. Turnovers, we can't have those. Everything's in front of us right now," he said. "I don't want to be that guy that they're pointing the finger at and say 'my bad.' I'm trying to play sound football and play perfect football.
"This is our time. This is what we've cashed in for, and this is what we have to do to get to the next step."