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Analysis/reaction: Good win despite bad play

In a 20-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots did what they haven't been able to do this season - own the second half.

FOXBOROUGH – The optimist insists the glass is half-full; the pessimist, that it's half-empty.

The realist simply points out that there's half a glass.

If you fall in the first category, you could focus on the following from New England's Week 14 win over Carolina:

Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in three years, they played poorly in the beginning, but put together a strong enough second half to get the victory – a manner of winning that has eluded the Patriots thus far in 2009.

"The win, that's the most important thing," said safety James Sanders, who reclaimed his starting job over Brandon McGowan, at least on this day. "We went out there and didn't play great today, but we did enough to win. Hopefully, it leads to us playing better next week."

It's been a tumultuous week here in Foxborough. The fallout from head coach Bill Belichick'sdismissal of four players for arriving to work late on Wednesday during a snowstorm set the tone. QB Tom Bradythen missed practice time following mounting injuries and the birth of his second child, leading many observers to question to psyche of this team at its most difficult juncture of the season.

"Tom summarized it best at the end," RB Sammy Morristold reporters. "He came up to us and said, 'We've played better and lost.' So, it was good for us to not play as well as we could have and still win."

"It says a lot," Sanders said of the way the Patriots won. "We've got a lot of mature guys on this team. On Sunday, we have one job to do, and that's come out here and play ball and win and that's what we did today."

LB Pierre Woods, who started in place of the deactivated Adalius Thomas(one of the late players on Wednesday), described the mood in the Patriots half-time locker room as "humble" and "focused."

"I think we did our job. Just worked hard and everybody as a team came together in all three phases and we did our job."

"We knew what we had to do," LB and co-captain Jerod Mayoinsisted. "The coaches came in and made a couple of adjustment and we went out there and played football, just trying to make sure everybody was on the same page. The previous games two games, we had some communication problems. We didn't want that to happen today. Job well done by the coaches."

If you're more the cynical type, you'd harp on this:

The Patriots came out flat, looking every bit like a team that was playing with a lot on its mind. Defensively, New England gave up another big play in the passing game because of a mental mistake. Once again, on offense, they faced a fourth-and-inches and failed to convert; Brady threw and interception; Morris and WR Randy Mossfumbled deep in Carolina territory.

At times, Brady had to speak words of encouragement to Moss, who sat by himself on the Patriots bench.

"You know," Brady explained afterward, "he was frustrated in himself and the situation and it's just something you've got to fight through. He keeps fighting through it and you have those days where it's not all great, but you keep lining up and you keep going up. You've just got to keep fighting.

"I think that's the message I always try to convey to everybody. I mean, if you're a quarterback, you throw picks, you throw bad balls. If you're a receiver, you drop balls. If you're a running back, you fumble balls. You know, it's just part of the process and it's about making the next one a good one and not making the next one another bad one because you're a little bit down in the dumps."

So, which side wins the argument? Here's where the realist says, 'You're both right.'

The Patriots are still a flawed team, in all three phases of the game. Yet, they got a win when they desperately needed one.

"Definitely, it's a step forward coming off of two losses," remarked cornerback Leigh Bodden. "To play well as a secondary, we know we didn't play too good in the last two games that we've played. We wanted to come out, and play well and — like I said — communicate. It's good to move forward, it's good to get those games behind us and just move forward in a positive direction."

"It was good to get back home and get a win. Obviously, everything didn't go right," center Dan Koppenacknowledged, "but we showed some mental toughness out there and were able to play through a lot of things and get the job done."

"We just didn't execute a couple plays as well as we could have," Belichick observed in his post-game remarks. "We turned the ball over three times, that's not good. But those should have been prevented. And we had quite a few good plays; we just didn't have enough of them. A couple drives stalled out [and] we got a couple penalties in the second half. There were some good plays, [but] we need to be more consistent."

Leave it to Shawn Springs, the 13-year veteran corner who played Sunday after being inactive for most of the season, to put the game and the events of this past week in their proper perspective.

"On every NFL team you have times during the season or weeks like that where it's a little more difficult … we found a way to put all that in the rear view mirror."

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