Patriots in same boat in bid to right ship
FOXBOROUGH — Coming off their 34-14 defeat in Cleveland on Sunday, the Patriots know they have to right the ship, and fast, because the seas ahead are getting choppy.
New England travels to Pittsburgh this Sunday for a prime-time showdown that pits teams with two of the best records in the AFC and a long history against one another.
It is the first of three games in a 12-day span for the Patriots: next week they host their rivals, the Colts, and on Thanksgiving they travel to Detroit.
The bid to get back on the right course began yesterday, as the players and coaches assembled for film review of the Browns game, intent on learning all the lessons they could from the loss and improving as a team.
“We gotta fix it right now,’’ receiver Deion Branch said. “The thing is, you look at the film, there was a lot of bad, there was some ‘OK’ good. I think the biggest thing is to try to take all of that bad, that 80 percent of football that was bad, and try to knock that down to about 10 percent right now. I know we can do it. That’s what makes guys so mad: we know we can do it.’’
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was the first to sound the warning Sunday night.
“We definitely have to get back on track, quick. I mean, quick,’’ he said. “[Yesterday was] a big day for us to go in and make corrections and see what went wrong and how we can fix them. And that’s the key, fixing them.
“The schedule isn’t getting any easier.’’
The game in Cleveland and this week’s in Pittsburgh mark the only time this season that New England plays back-to-back road games. The Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium next week to face the Colts, who have beaten them five of the last six times they have met. Detroit took the Jets to overtime Sunday before losing and boasts a young but dangerous defense.
Tight end Alge Crumpler said the Patriots needed to take their lumps yesterday in the film room. Coach Bill Belichick and his staff had some critical words for the players, and Branch had no issues with the message or the delivery.
“The stuff that we put on the field yesterday was bad,’’ he said. “That’s just bad football, especially around here. You don’t expect that type of play around here. I think you want to get that mess out of the way during the preseason, what we did yesterday. Aaron [Hernandez] had two touchdowns, that was good. That’s about it.’’
Branch said some poor practice sessions last week were an issue and practice is the first thing the team can improve upon as it prepares for Pittsburgh.
“But that’s the first step,’’ the receiver said. “It’s a whole lot more than that. Just because we practice good doesn’t mean we’re going to have a good game. We’ve got to stay focused. I think we lost a little focus around here.’’
During his weekly radio appearance, quarterback Tom Brady spoke of the pressure Belichick puts on his players to perform better from week to week. He did not get a good effort against Cleveland; Brady and other team leaders will try to make sure that changes against a top-notch Steelers team.
“It starts in practice, having good practices, with good tempo and a good understanding of what we’re doing, so that when we go out in the game we can play with anticipation and play with energy and excitement,’’ Brady said.
Though Branch noted a loss of focus by the team, which has many young players, he didn’t think the Patriots got satisfied with their five-game winning streak. Just as it has always been in Foxborough during the Belichick Years, everything should be taken week to week.
Branch believes the SS Patriots started on a better path almost immediately with the film study.
“I think everybody took heed of what we were seeing, what we had done in the game, and I think the most important thing [was that] guys — everybody — looked at each other in that room before we walked out,’’ he said.
“You could see it in the guys’ eyes. Nobody said nothing. Everyone was ticked off at their play, the coaches were very critical, and they should be. But like I said, they didn’t come down on guys, because they know we’re better than what we put out on the field.’’
Crumpler will know the message was received only when the Patriots next play a game.
“We gotta do it,’’ he said. “We can say all the right things. We have to perform well Sunday night.’’