After a disappointing loss to the Ravens, the Patriots will now get a short break on the bye week. Ten weeks into the season is an ideal spot, giving the 8-1 team a chance to refocus, let some of the bumps and bruises heel up and prepare for the final push to the playoffs. Bill Belichick always says the real football starts after Thanksgiving and that time is fast approaching. The extra rest at this point could pay important dividends at the most critical time of the season.
"I think every bye week comes at the right time for an NFL team," Tom Brady told Jim Gray during his appearance on Westwood One radio. "It's a contact sport and it gives your body an opportunity to take a break physically. It also gives you mentally a chance to take a break. But I think the most important part is you get a chance to scout yourself. You can look back on the season and look at the things you've been doing a good job of and the things that really haven't worked that you don't get a chance to study over the course of the season because week to week you're just grinding them out."
The coaches will primarily be the ones tasked with looking back and evaluating what the team has done well or not. The running game, ranked 19th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, and the run defense, 13th in DVOA, figure to be two focal areas.
"We'll look at the Baltimore game, that's fresh and certainly a lot of things we can learn from that game," Bill Belichick told the OMF show on WEEI. "We'll look at the things that we feel like can help our team going forward to include the next seven games, and to some degree the Eagles.
"I think the team's worked hard, they're in good condition. They've been at it a little over three months. I think we can use a couple days of rest and come back and get ready to go. We got seven games left. We need to play our best football in the last seven games of the season."
Losses like the one the Patriots had against the Ravens would torpedo many lesser teams, but Brady shared his keys to not letting a loss like that one snowball into a losing streak
"For all of us it's not losing confidence in each other and not losing trust," Brady continued. "I think that's a big part of it is sometimes, when the outcome isn't the way you want, doubt creeps into your mind. You have to return to what the process of winning is. There's obviously games you have where you don't play well and you're not going to win. You wish you play perfect every week but the reality is you don't. You have to approach the next week with a level of confidence that is a winning level of confidence. Trust in each other to do your job so the guy next to you can do his job."
The Patriots offense might have actually gained some confidence despite the losing the game. Brady and his weaponry showed glimpses of their old surgical selves against the Ravens, but the work in progress continues as they try to incorporate Mohamed Sanu and rookie first round receiver N'Keal Harry into the mix, while getting tight end Matt LaCosse healthy. They must play one more game before starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn can return.
All those elements add up to the offense trending upward despite dropping their first game of the season and they should be even more ready to play to their strengths after doing some self-evaluation.
"We've played nine games and I think there's some trends," said Brady. "We're gonna have to figure out those trends. We're going try to improve those things as we move forward because this is when football season really starts getting tough. This is when you're challenged physically, you're challenged mentally. We're gonna be challenged by all the teams we're facing. We got a lot of big games ahead and we're gonna take what we learned from the past nine weeks and apply them as we move forward."
No stranger to the process, Belichick echoed Brady's sentiments.
"Bottom line is you take a look at the entire situation, and try to figure out what's best," said Belichick. "How to best use your time, how to best use the opportunity you have. I think that's what you do every week, that's what we'll try to do this week.
"We have seven games left. We have a big game on the road against the Eagles. They're obviously a great football team. That's our next challenge, that's what we have to be ready for."
Monday's film review was based off the TV copy which can obscure some of the finer points of the game. With the All-22 film now available, here are some notes on five critical moments of the loss to the Ravens.
-Third quarter, 3rd & 7, Sanu 11-yard catch - Sanu's performance in this game, and the offense's in general, left some reasons for optimism and this play was a good example. The Ravens rushed five but the pass protection picked everyone up, including solid one-on-one blocks by Newhouse and Thuney. Sanu showed good awareness to cut underneath and away from the Ravens Cover-4 coverage and make the wide-open catch.
-Third quarter, 2nd & 1, White Touchdown - The Patriots passed up a chance to go for it on fourth down from the goal line at the end of the first half but this play showed what might've been. Running to the weak side, White got great blocks from Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason. Mason was up and down dealing with an ankle issue, but on this play he blocked two defenders with one block, opening an easy walk-in for White. The team has had their struggles in short yardage this season but this was textbook.
-Third quarter, 3rd & 5, Andrews 18-yard catch - With the Pats down four points and the ball on the Ravens 24-yard-line, this third down was a failed chance to force a punt. The Pats ran a Cover-0 blitz with Jonathan Jones serving as a spy on Lamar Jackson. The pressure has to get there on this kind of play call and Chase Winovich was just a split second too late as Jackson stood in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike to his big tight end. Terrence Brooks had good coverage on the play but it was just flawless execution by the Ravens in the face of a blitz that has been dominant for the Patriots this season.
-Third quarter, 4th & 4, Snead 7-yard catch - The Ravens went for it on fourth down from the Patriots 38-yard line, the edge of field goal range. This was one of the key plays and the last chance the Pats had before the lead was extended to 11 points. The Ravens outside receiver runs a pick, contacting Jason McCourty two yards downfield, opening up Snead for an easy catch. Credit to the Ravens for moving the pocket as it neutralized any attempts at disruption. It seemed like the Patriots were expecting a designed run to Jackson. Both Jamie Collins and Jonathan Jones hung back with eyes on the quarterback.
-Fourth quarter, 3rd & 10, Thomas Interception - There were lots of complaints about Brady just tossing this ball up there to be picked but the All-22 gives a clear picture that was not shown on the TV copy. The real problem? Sanu pulled at the top of his stem, looking back as though the ball had already been thrown to someone else or thinking it would hit him up the seam. That's a play Sanu can learn from, but it is still a good sign that Brady was willing to throw it up to him to let him try to make a play. It was definitely not a frustrated "whatever" throw from Brady.