FOXBOROUGH – Two New England Patriots icons went out in the best way possible in what might have been their last game at Gillette Stadium in their NFL careers.

13-year safety Devin McCourty and 15-year special teamer Matthew Slater, who are both the longest-tenured Patriots, acknowledged that Sunday's 23-21 win over the Miami Dolphins might have been their last home game.

“I took a moment. Spend some time with my family on the field,” McCourty said following the game. “It's been a great run. To come out here, if this was the last one, I think to be able to leave Gillette with a win, very similar to how my first-ever game was a win. I've had a lot of fun. These guys have been awesome to go out here and compete with.

“You never know how football goes. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it before the game, and just now. Give a high five to the Minutemen, something I've done over and over and over again after wins. Just kind of think about that, let that settle in, just trying to make sure I stay in the moment, enjoy. But definitely gave it a few seconds today.”

“You know, as much as I try to block it out and focus on doing my job, it certainly dawned on me today that this very well could be my last game here,” Slater added. “I don’t know what my future holds. I haven’t spent a ton of time thinking about it, I’ve been trying to stay in the moment. I certainly took time to appreciate being in this stadium and running out of that tunnel today. Saw a couple of signs that were thanking D-Mac and myself.

“I don’t know what either of us have in store but I think when you get to this stage of it, you try to take in every moment and savor it. I think some of the players and coaches knowing that I’m not sure of what my future have expressed gratitude and that meant a lot to me, and just told me they loved me and it just means so much, it really does.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick recognized the real possibility that the two longtime captains might have taken the field for one last time at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, too. He gave them the highest praise possible when he was asked about their importance to the franchise.

“Devin has done about everything a player could do for this program. Say the same thing about Matt Slater in the kicking game,” Belichick said. “I mean, I don’t know if there’s ever been or ever going to be a player than Matt Slater as an overall special teams player and the leadership he brought to the team, along with Devin.

“Devin came in as a corner, went to the Pro Bowl, moved to safety, led the defense from the safety position from his second year on. His off-the-the field leadership, on-the-field leadership is superior, as good as anybody I’ve ever coached at that position. He does everything right. He’s done everything right since he’s been here. He knows the line calls. He knows the defense inside and out, so he has total respect from everybody because of his preparation and his unselfish play. … What those two guys have done, what they mean to this organization, what they mean to me personally, what they’ve done here, it’s pretty impressive, pretty elite.”

Second-year Patriots quarterback Mac Jones never played directly with McCourty or Slater considering their positions. However, he shared that he still learned a lot from their and their leadership.

“Those guys just come to work every day and set the standard of Patriot football,” Jones said. “Yeah, I think we have a great group. Obviously, that's something that they're not focused on, we're not focused on. We're just trying to have a great week here and enjoy this one, get ready to play a really good team. That's what they want. They just want to have their best week, for us to have our best week. Love those guys.”

Patriots Pro Bowler Matthew Judon also expressed his gratitude for the two vets, though he said that neither of them mentioned that this could be their final game at Gillette Stadium.

“They mentioned going out there and having a complete team win, which it was,” Judon said. “I think those guys over their career, they are so unselfish, they are so team-oriented that they don't talk about themselves. They don't focus on the me, me, me. It's all about the we, how can we win, how can we execute. I think hindsight after the game, they kind of think about that stuff. They spend a little extra time on the field. But before the game, they don't really talk about that stuff. They don't talk about the me, they talk about the Patriots and the team.”

Patriots safety Kyle Dugger, who had a pick-6 in the win, said McCourty's someone he's looked up to since he was drafted by the team in 2020 and wants to follow in his footsteps.

“Dev, he's been huge, somebody for me to look up to, talk to, learn from. It's been a huge blessing for me to have him in that room with me. I'm super thankful for it. To answer your question, yeah, I definitely look to take [his leadership], learn from what he's done, how he's led for so long, continue to try to do it so well. I'm definitely lucky to have him in there.”

McCourty had a play to remember for the wrong reason on Sunday. On a second down for the Dolphins, Teddy Bridgewater launched a ball down the field that no one was close to besides McCourty. The veteran had a chance for one of the easiest interceptions of his career, but he dropped it as he fell to the ground.

The miscue earned McCourty a little ribbing from his coach.

“I’m sure Devin would have liked to have had one more interception on the ledger today,” Belichick said while making a rare joke during a press conference.