With an extended week before facing the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Patriots were back at it on Tuesday, getting in a practice session while speaking with reporters for the first time since coming off a tough loss to the Buffalo Bills.
"Frustrated, but a good couple of days kind of try to decompress. Step away, you know, look at what I can do better first of all, what my group can do better and then what we can do better as an offense," said captain David Andrews, who returned against the BIlls after missing just one game due to injury. "Great chance today to get back out there a little bit. Start on Arizona, folks, some things we need to focus on. Get back out there, get back to it and ready to go out there and finish the season strong."
The final five-game frame will kick off with back-to-back games in the southwest, first against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football and then the Raiders the following Sunday afternoon. The team will remain in Arizona for the full week, offering a chance to escape the noise in New England and settle into writing a better ending for 2022.
"Look, we're 6-6. We've got five games left. We can do whatever we want to do," Andrews said. "It can go one way or the other. I think everyone's committed to trying to turn it around and making it go the right way. That's all we can do and that's what we're going to try to do."
After losing two of three games out of their bye week, it's a make-or-break period for the Patriots. Their playoff hopes are alive but to make the postseason again they'll need their best football of the year, the kind of football that has been sporadically present at best throughout the last four months.
They haven't faced the Cardinals in two years, but Arizona has all the necessary ingredients to challenge the Patriots' defensive weaknesses, starting with mobile quarterback Kyler Murray and veteran receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
"Very explosive team. A lot of firepower. They make plays on offense. Pressure defense," said Belichick, adding of Hopkins, "He's every bit as good as anybody I've ever coached against."
The Arizona attack is just the next in an end-of-season array of top-line NFL players who can make plays all over the field. It will get even tougher with the Raiders, Bengals, Dolphins and Bills, four teams all looking to make their own playoff push.
Andrews said the team would have to look inside themselves if they were to get things back on track.
"It's the greatest team game for a reason, right?" Andrews said. "It's just like when you win a Super Bowl, everybody in the organization gets a ring. Not just the players. Not just the coaches. Not just the front office. Not just the owner. Everybody that had something to do with it: From the training staff to the cafeteria (workers), everybody's a part of it.
"That's how it is when it's a loss, too. It's not one person's fault. Everybody on the team can do better in some way or aspect. As players, that's what you can do: Your execution, your preparation, the details, whatever it may be. That's what makes this game special and why it is the greatest team game."