There was a palpable sense of wagons being circled in New England's locker room Wednesday. Just a day-and-a-half after being thumped 41-14 in Kansas City Monday night, the mood among the players was decidedly serious.
One particular phrase was heard frequently in media interviews before practice.
"Extremely high, as high as it can get," left tackle Nate Solder said of his sense of urgency. "We've got to improve, get better, play better. Our response starts now, in how we prepare, how we get ready."
"In a short week, you don't have time… I woke up Tuesday and started watching Cincinnati," co-captain/safety Devin McCourty. "Anytime you lose a game, you have that urgent feeling about you, that you want to get back on the field, get the bad taste out of your mouth. It's important for us to get prepared. [Cincinnati is] coming off a bye, they'll come in here prepared for us. We're in catch-up mode now. We have to have that urgency to be ready to go by Sunday."
"There is a sense of urgency and there needs to be," echoed special teams captain Matthew Slater.
"We're in a fight and it's going to be a fight the rest of the season, as it is every year. We can't just assume that we're going to be the Patriots, show up, and have success. It doesn't work that way. Every one of us needs to heighten our sense of urgency. Every one of us needs to heighten our attention to detail in order for us to have the results we want to have."
Many observers are and have been wondering, however, whether the problems this team has faced thus far are correctable in the weeks ahead. The schedule certainly seems to get tougher in October and November.
"I think we have good character on this team," McCourty asserted. "Guys are going to see this as a chance to fight and get better and claw our way out of a situation where most people are turning their backs and saying we're not good. Now it's about playing for each other.
"One win or one loss isn't going to change the outcome of the season. It's all about week by week. Our focus is on getting a win Sunday. That'll be big for this week. Then it'll be all about moving forward and getting a win next week."
"I feel confident we're a resilient group and will be able to bounce back," added Slater. "Time will tell. It's easy to sit here and talk about it, but hopefully we go out and do something about it."
"Every problem I think has a solution and I think we have the guys to find those solutions," Solder stated.
At his midday press briefing, QB Tom Brady was grilled about his own individual struggles, although he tried his best to deflect the attention off of any one player, stressing that it was "a team sport."
He was later asked if he, too, felt confident that he and his teammates could weather this early-season storm and fix what they see as the reasons for their struggles.
"Well, we'll see," said Brady. "It's been 36 hours since we lost the game. It's a tough loss, but we've had tough losses before, and we've tried to find ways to rebound, and we've tried to find ways to correct our errors, and we've just got to go out there and try to play better than we've been playing.
"I hope they're correctable. That's what we're trying to do. That's why we go out and practice."
Today's practice was, in fact, a walkthrough because it came so soon after the Monday night road game. New England didn't get back to Foxborough till around 5 a.m. Tuesday.
And with a steady, often heavy rain falling throughout the day, the Patriots took their practice to their indoor facility behind Gillette. Media were only allowed to watch players arriving and a couple of minutes of stretching.
The big news of the day was the return of two players from suspensions: CB Brandon Browner and WR Brian Tyms.
For the past month, they've been prevented from practicing with their teammates. In Tyms' case, because he was found in violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, he couldn't even visit the team facility. Browner, meanwhile, was allowed to take part in meetings and work out on his own at the stadium because his suspension was for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
"It's exciting," McCourty said of Browner's impending return. "We worked a lot in the preseason with him out there. It'll be good to get him back out there."
In both cases, New England can carry these players without releasing anyone else from the 53-man active roster until Monday of next week. Unless, that is, the team wants them to play this Sunday against Cincinnati. In that case, someone currently on the 53 would have to be let go.