It hasn't been the kind of start that Matthew Slater is used to in his 12 seasons with the Patriots, but the veteran captain has continued to tell the team to trust the process and with the belief that the results will come.
"I think it's important to encourage those guys to remain confident in themselves, remaining confident in our process to keep competing, to keep preparing the same way," said Slater of his message to younger players on the roster. "Don't shortchange the process. Adversity is a part of football, you're going to go through stretches where things don't go your way. But you can't totally reinvent who you are. There's certainly things you can improve upon, but you have to stick to your core principles as an organization, especially an organization like this."
After making strides in Buffalo and then finally breaking their losing streak against the Jets, Slater feels like the Patriots still have their best football in front of them.
"I think that we are gaining some confidence, we're encouraged with the progress we've made over the last couple of weeks," said Slater. "We feel like if we play the game the right way, we're going to give ourselves a chance to be competitive with anyone in this league. It's just a matter of us putting that together. I think we're hungry to prove that we can put together a complete game and play the game the right way."
Despite a tough season, that has posed challenges both personal and professional, on the field and off it, Slater embraced the adversity, hoping it would pay off down the line.
"No ones perfect, I think adversity's a great teacher," said Slater. "It can highlight areas that you're lacking in and hopefully build you up in those areas and build your character."
Now the Patriots look to inch back closer to a .500 record by taking on a 6-2 Ravens team with whom Slater has had plenty of memorable battles with over the years.
"To me this organization does everything the right way, starting in the front office and down through the coaching staff and the players," said Slater of the Ravens. "When do you think about the way football in my mind should be played, with physicality, with toughness, with commitment to each other and commitment to the process, I think Baltimore does that as well as anyone.
"They just play the game the right way. We feel like we try to play the game the right way as well, so when we clash we know the history, it's been some fun football to watch and there's been some great memories and the thing that sticks out to me above all else, is when you play the Baltimore Ravens they're going to come in and try to hit you square in the mouth and if you're not ready, they're going to keep hitting you in the mouth and you'll never recover. So, physicality is the thing. These guys are as physical as any team in the league, as physical as any team I've seen in the league over the course of my career. So you have to have that mindset going into these matchups."
Pats defense tries to keep it simple
Earlier this week, Adrian Phillips spoke about the Ravens defense having a lot of disguise for what is actually a fairly traditional offense, making play recognition and reaction vital for this week's matchup.
"At its core it can simplify at times depending on how you look at the game but all their players are very versatile, they play a lot of different guys and all those guys can do multiple things," said Steve Belichick of the Ravens offense. "You've got to have good eye control, read your keys and trust what you see and try to play fast."
The Patriots feature a number of inexperienced players that have been thrust into roles on defense, but it's a difficult task for young players, especially rookies. Could some of them see an expanded role against the Ravens? It's a tough uphill climb given the constantly changing nature of the Patriots defensive plan.
"I would say the challenging part of playing here in New England is that we change every single week," said Jerod Mayo. "We are game plan defense so as soon as you get caught up, we're moving onto the next thing.
"I think that's really the challenging part for guys to come in here, when most of these colleges they were on ran the same four or five plays over and over and over again, to try to get good at those plays. Not the case here in New England. The multitude, and that's changing every week, that's the difficult part about picking up our playbook"
Mayo recognizes what a unique challenge the Ravens will provide for the defense and stressed playing aggressive to get around their presnap motion and disguise.
"I think everyone has to be disciplined against a Greg Roman offense," said Mayo. "There are guys shifting, motioning, no one standing still. So they are able to build formations, whether it's pre-snap or post-snap, and I think that's the challenging part, how we match those things, how we stay disciplined, how we read our keys even though there's a bunch of window dressing going on around you. See a little, see a lot... see a lot, see a little. So if you're focused on everything, you're not really seeing what they're trying to get to which is their core runs even though it looks different."
"These guys are powerful and fast, so if you're playing tentative the power guys are gonna run through you and the speed guys are gonna run by you," said Belichick. "You just gotta be ready to play aggressive as you do every week, but this week specifically just with all the different ways they can attack you."
The Patriots wrapped up their week of Ravens preparation with another wet practice on the upper fields. The team welcomed back defensive backs Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones and Terrence Brooks, as the team looks healthier heading into Sunday night's contest. But with a lengthy injury report, it's still a tough guess who will be available and who will not.
Webex Quotes of Note:
Receivers coach Mick Lombardi on Jakobi Meyers' development:
"I think Jakobi's a kid who was thrown into the fire in the San Francisco game and did a good job and then the [next week] against Buffalo and obviously is playing a lot of plays, there's no hiding that, with the injuries we've had he stepped up in a big way. He's going to be on the field a lot, there's gonna be attention on him because he's produced, there's no doubt about it.
"I think at the end of the day, Jakobi's done a really good job understanding, 'Hey, this is who Baltimore is, this is who the team were playing is and this is how they've attacked receivers I've seen on tape and this is how they're going to attack me. The more he does that from a film perspective, from a preparation perspective at the beginning of the week, the better off he'll be on Sunday."
Cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino on Myles Bryant getting some game experience:
"[Myles is] following that Patriot Way, just jumping right in not skipping a beat, communication's good, feel with the guys is good. Everybody reps different spots at practice. We're all DBs so we all work together in some form or fashion in a different way. Proud of him, came into the game ready to go, he was ready to go in Buffalo week when he was activated. His preparation is very good, really a student of the game."
Damien Harris on the Patriots running back room:
"Got a lot of pride in what we do. It's our job and we show up every day ready to come to work and do our job and do whatever is asked of us to do and obviously we're confident in each other. And that's what it takes, we have to be able to go out there and put in the work but also have a confidence in one another and ourselves in order to go out there and have that success. Very prideful and we just want that confidence to continue into trying to string them together and try to turn this thing around."