Bill Belichick opened his Tuesday conference call by telling reporters the team had turned the page on Seattle and was on to the Jets, and with that the players followed suit. While there weren't many individuals willing to discuss much of anything in the Gillette Stadium locker room, the few that did certainly echoed the coach's sentiments.
Rather than focusing on the missed opportunities of Sunday's disappointing loss in Seattle, the Patriots instead seemed to relish the idea of renewing their rivalry with the Jets, who come to town Sunday for New England's third straight late game.
"They want to beat us, we want to beat them," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "We don't have too many fond feelings toward them and the same goes for them, they're not too crazy about us. In the spirit of the game it's good to have rivalries like this for the popularity of the game to see two good teams get after it and I'm sure it will be no different this week."
Slater, incidentally, seemed none the worse for wear after being forced to miss the end of the Seahawks loss after suffering a leg injury while covering the second to last punt of the game. Slater said he was "day to day" but was "feeling OK" after not being on the field to cover Zoltan Mesko's final punt, which Leon Washington returned 25 yards to allow Seattle to set up shop with excellent field position at the Seahawks 43 for the final drive.
The play was just one of several miscues by the Patriots down the stretch that ultimately led to defeat. Just prior to the punt the offense failed to register a single first down when it had an opportunity to protect a six-point lead. Two Stevan Ridley runs created a third-and-eight and Tom Brady couldn't connect with Deion Branchon a quick slant that was well short of the first down anyway.
That led to Mesko's fateful punt, a low 39-yarder that allowed the dangerous Washington the opportunity for a solid return. Then the defense got into the act, surrendering a 46-yard touchdown pass from rookie Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice, one of three completions for Wilson of better than 45 yards. The Seahawks also drew a 40-yard pass interference penalty against Patrick Chung while three other passes of 22 yards or more.
For the season, the Patriots have now coughed up 33 passes of 20 yards or more, tops in the NFL by a wide margin. Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said a lot of the problems in pass coverage have to do with technique but wasn't sure what the specific issue on the deep balls was.
"Sometimes the quarterback kind of lulls us to sleep," said Dennard, who replaced starter Kyle Arrington in the first half following some early troubles for the starter. "They're doing a lot of running the ball and all of sudden they hit you with a play action and big plays. You have to stay focused out there."
Safety Steve Gregory, who missed the last two games with a hip injury after being forced from the lineup late in the Week 4 win in Buffalo, said his team simply needs keep at it expects things to change.
"Get back to the grindstone. Correct the things we're not doing so well, try to get better from it and try to get a win," said Gregory, who also mentioned he was day to day. "That's the most important thing. At the end of the day it's wins and losses. We need to do things better in order to win football games and that's what we're focusing on doing."
In many ways the Jets are coming to town at precisely the right time. There's nothing like a hated rival to ensure a team's focus, and with the latest loss dropping the Patriots to 3-3 and a four-way tie in the thoroughly mediocre AFC East, renewed focus can't be a bad thing.
The official start of Week 7 is upon us, which means players on PUP, or in Visanthe Shiancoe's case, IR with a designation to return, can begin practicing this week. Defensive lineman Myron Pryor spent some time in the locker room, and although he wouldn't commit either way, his wry smile seemed to indicate his return was quite possible.
"I'm real close," was all Pryor would say, while acknowledging he didn't want to be discussing injuries, which is generally a no-no on a Belichick team. Pryor missed training camp with a shoulder injury and could bolster the pass rush in subpackages if he's ready to go.
Shiancoe, who is dealing with a hamstring problem, was not present in the locker room.
When asked if either or both could return this week, Belichick said, "We haven't made a decision on that. It's possible."
Several Patriots had red practice jerseys hanging in their lockers in preparation of Sunday's game with the Jets in which the team will don throwback uniforms from 1985. It will be the Patriots lone appearance in red this season.