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Are the Patriots tough enough?

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  December 6, 2009 06:34 PM

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The Patriots are in a slump unlike any they've experienced since Oct. 27, 2002. On that day, they lost their fourth straight game. Before today, it remained the last time the Patriots had lost three times in four games.

The Patriots have always, in part, defined themselves with their resiliency, their ability to endure any situation, and then thrive. They were physically tough, and more important, they were mentally tough.

Are they still? Right now, even inside their own locker room, the answer seems to be no.

"I think we've got to find a way to play better football for 60 minutes in all phases, and everyone has got to focus on what they need to do better," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I think that's the most important thing, being mentally tough to overcome adversity. And when things don't go your way you have to fight back. That's a challenge for all of us. I think at times we do. And at times I don't think we fight very hard. We have leads in the second half and leads in the fourth quarter and we're just not closing the game out when we have the opportunity to."

Those are strong words. Another sign of a tough team: road wins. The Patriots have none of those this year, unless you count beating the 1-11 Tampa Bay in London.

“You have to be mentally tough to win on the road,” safety Brandon Meriweather said. “Our team is not mentally tough like we are supposed to be.”

On defense, it's hard to pinpoint who the leaders are. Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Tedy Bruschi aren't there any more. It's Week 13, and it still remains unclear, aside from Jerod Mayo, who, if anyone, has filled the void.

"I think we’re starting to figure out who they are," Tully Banta-Cain. "I think everybody has a role as a leader on this team. Everybody who lines up and does their job is a leader. But I think we need guys to really step up, me included, and start making those plays that win games."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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