The Patriots suffered their worst home shutout defeat in team history on Sunday to the Saints, a jarring loss that dropped them to 1-4 and left the 2023 season dangling in the winds of disappointment and uncertainty of the path forward to get the season back on track. With 12 games still to go and much of this team's story still to be written, the Patriots face a challenge not experienced in over two decades around these parts.
"As hard as it may be, we have to keep moving forward," said Deatrich Wise following the loss. "We have to put this behind us, learn from it, correct the mistakes that we made out there. Keep moving forward, keep everybody's heads in it and remind everybody that we're still a family and we have a long season to go."
At this point, there's no magic wand to wave that will solve all of the team's issues that run across all three phases, offense, defense and special teams. A consistent core of issues have haunted all five games, including the victory over the Jets, leaving fans and pundits to assign blame across a variety of places. There are plenty of easy targets. The play of the offensive line. The quarterback's turnovers. The lack of a running game. A void of explosive plays. A defense that has gone three games without a takeaway. The team's overall construction. Cut it up and divvy it up any way you like, but it will ultimately be up to the players if this season is to be saved.
"Just go back to work, man. That's really what it's all about," said Hunter Henry. "It's just not good enough at any level. It's not how we want to play football, it's not how we want to do things. So we've just got to be better. I don't know if I have all the answers for you right now, to be honest with you, but we have to find those answers very, very fast."
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be sticking together and finding the will to fight their way out of the dreadful start.
"Just the men in this locker room, we have a bunch of good dudes who are coming to work and doing everything they can to help fix this thing so just getting back to work, coming together and not dividing," said Ezekiel Elliott. "That will be the biggest thing, just coming together to support each other and continue to get to work."
"I've got belief in everybody. I've got belief that if they're on this football team, they're here for a reason," said David Andrews. "We're all here for a reason; we're all here for a purpose. We've just got to go out there and do a better job as a football team overall. We've got to do a better job helping him. Everybody has got to do a better job."
Bill Belichick's theme in the 24 hours following the loss has been that the team needs to start over. Often the team has preached having short memories, win or loss the page must be turned and all focus must shift to a new opponent. However, starting over has taken on new meaning in the wake of two of the worst losses in team history that saw the Patriots outscored by a combined 72-3.
"Just plain and simply, we've got to find a way to play and coach better than that," said Belichick. "So that's what we are going to do, start all over and get back on a better track than we're on right now.
"Our goals are short term, it's this week, Vegas, get ready for Vegas, and go out there and play the best we can against Las Vegas."