Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were ready to put Sunday afternoon's disappointing loss to the Chiefs in their rearview mirror on Monday, brushing aside the controversial calls and missed opportunities and getting ready to turn the page to their final road game of the year against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"When you play sports long enough, I think sometimes you're the recipient of things that go your way and then you're on the other side of it too," Brady told WEEI in his morning interview. "For me, I don't think too much about them. I wish they would go our way, unfortunately they didn't. But that doesn't take away from, when you watch the game, all the different things that we had in our control that I wish we could've done a little bit better. We're just trying to keep grinding them out and put ourselves in position there at the end with four plays in the red area and just didn't produce well enough to get the job done. I don't ever make any excuses and I certainly never blame the referees. I just look at what we gotta do and how we gotta go out there and try get back to work this week and find a way to go to Cincinnati and try to get a win."
After winning just two of their last five games, the Patriots now have little margin for error if they want to maintain the second seed in the AFC and the vital bye week that comes with it. With Kansas City just one game behind them, the Patriots cannot afford another loss. And while this weekend's game against the 1-12 Bengals might not look like much of a challenge, Cincinnati has been competitive in recent weeks. Given the struggles of the New England offense, can anything really be a given this year?
Brady remained optimistic that the pieces were there, it was just a matter of putting it all together and it's still not too late, especially for a team that is 10-3.
"At different parts yesterday the execution was pretty good and then at other times we fell a little short," said Brady. "It's not revolutionary, it's one little play here or one little play there that makes a difference. I think if you can start getting those things, you get some momentum, that's when you gotta take advantage when you get momentum. I think we're working hard to put ourselves in a position to get that momentum. Like I said, I'm exciting to get out there on Wednesday and get back to work in practice and see if we can make some improvements this week."
Meanwhile, Bill Belichick was happy with how his defense responded in the second half against the Chiefs, holding their explosive offense to just one field goal that came on the opening drive.
"The players did a good job – players did a really good job," Belichick told reporters on his weekly conference call. "We rushed the quarterback well and we covered pretty well, tackled fairly well. The players competed really hard; they did a good job. It's a very, very explosive offense. They competed hard against them."
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy agreed with his coach in liking what the Patriots defense showed in the second half.
"I think just the second half of the game, the passion guys played with, I think that helps," said Van Noy. "I think we all know we have to play better and do more so I think we're going to try to do that this week."
The Patriots are still very much in the driver's seat and despite back-to-back disappointing losses to the Texans and Chiefs, no one should be worried that the Patriots would be incapable of pulling out a win over either team in a rematch, provided the rematch comes in Foxboro and not Texas (very unlikely) or Kansas City. There's no other formula than to focus on the last three games and improving in each and then securing a week of rest to get even more right before taking on a survivor from Wild Card Weekend.
"We just gotta keep fighting and keep battling," said Brady. "It hasn't been an easy season and that's fine, that's like every year. Every season has its own unique challenges. We've faced them and we have to learn from them and our whole season is ahead of us. We gotta rally together and trust in each other. Go lay it on the line like we've been doing every week. This is about a one week season for us, trying to go to Cincinnati and win on the road."
Locker Room Sound Bites
Phillip Dorsett on the mood around the team after the loss:
"I think guys are on edge. We got guys that are angry. We all gotta look at each other... we gotta look at ourselves and just say that 'we gotta play better.'"