It is a week later in the season, but not much has changed for Bill Belichick. Following a 24-16 loss to the Broncos, the Patriots are below .500 with a 3-4 record, entrenched in four-game losing streak and Belichick is facing the same questions that have been developing throughout the streak.
Sunday's game was supposed to be an opportunity to turn it around. The Broncos were supposed to be the victim of a New England resurgence and rebirth following a bye week and two weeks of preparation. But the only thing that really came out of the loss was a continuation of many of the questions that lingered throughout the bye. The simple fact remains that the Patriots are currently a middle-of-the-pack NFL team looking upward at two teams in its division and about to embark on a three game road trip. Third-down defense, red zone play and the running game on both sides of the ball continue to be question marks for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Belichick had little to say following his team's loss on Sunday night, and the media in attendance asked few questions. But with a bit of time to look over the Denver game film, the coach had more of a reaction to the game and where his team is right now.
"I thought that looking at the tape, that we did some things better than we've been doing," Belichick said. "But we still didn't do enough things to win, which is the bottom line. We're certainly not where we need to be, or where we want to be, and we've still got a significant number of things we need to improve."
"I thought that we had some chances to make some big plays in the game that we were close on and we just didn't make them. There were some encouraging signs there, but in the end, there were not enough points on offense, too many on defense, too many third down conversions and too big of a differential in third down conversions between what they were making and what we were making."
Belichick went on to say that regardless of what the players may feel they are bringing to the games in terms of effort, it isn't enough when the team is not victorious.
"When you lose you don't think it's ever good enough," Belichick said. "I think you're always looking for better, anytime you lose it's hard to walk out of there and say, 'well, we did everything we could.' There's always more that you could do, so I think that's the way we all have to approach it, starting with me and going all the way down to every coach and player on the roster. We've got to do more. We've got to find a way to somehow squeeze a little bit more out of it, and play a little bit better and win."
And as much as there will be intense media scrutiny and build up for this week's game in Buffalo against former quarterback Drew Bledsoe and the 5-3, Belichick believes the Patriots can little afford to focus on anything but getting back on the winning track.
"I think the biggest thing that we can do is focus on what we need to do to improve our performance to win the game, that's really what we need to concentrate on," Belichick said of what is being portrayed as Bledsoe Bowl I. "Anything else is…I just don't think rates to the same level of importance, that's really where we need to focus it. I'm not denying that doesn't exist and that it won't happen, or it won't come up, but , I think we really need to set our attention on what we can do in the game to play better."
But one thing that the coach is not yet questioning is his team's confidence. While losing streaks can be the breading ground for finger pointing and severe losses of confidence, Belichick doesn't believe this team is in danger of either at this point.
"I think in terms of confidence, any time you lose three or four times in a row it's not really good for anybody's confidence," Belichick said. "I wouldn't say there's a lack of confidence. I think there's a frustration level and I would say really that it is a combination of a little bit of everything. We can do a better job in Xs and Os; we need to do a better job from that standpoint. But we need to do a better job of executing it from a player's standpoint and we need to obviously start games better than the way we started them the last three weeks. We've put ourselves in a disadvantageous position for the better part of the game for three weeks in a row and it's not a good thing to do."
"I guess if I knew it was one thing and we could just push the button on one thing and straighten it out then we probably wouldn't be here talking about it. I think it's really a combination of several factors. Confidence may be one, execution is another, maybe strategy is another one and you could probably throw a couple more in there if you really wanted to."
So Belichick freely admits that there are a number of problems that are affecting this losing team right now. He also admits that there are no easy answers to the questions that surround the Patriots level of play over the last four weeks. The real answer is winning and until this team finds a way to get back in the win column the questions will continue to fly about as to why they aren't there.
The Patriots signed rookie defensive tackle Ken Kocher to the practice squad on Monday. The 6-3, 315-pounder out of UCLA had been in training camp with the Packers, but was released on Aug. 28. … Patriots Owner and Chairman Robert Kraft was one of a group of NFL owners on hand Tuesday afternoon to ring the Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.