We’d seen Brandon Meriweather’s removal from the base defense. And we expected Darius Butler to ride some pine on Sunday, after word leaked out on Friday.
So if there was one surprise change to the starting lineup when yesterday’s game started, it was that veteran outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain wasn’t out there with the first group. Why? Well, even the man himself isn’t sure.
“I don’t know what that is,” Banta-Cain said. “It wasn’t explained to me. I just do what they tell me.”
Later, when a crush of reporters came over, he went further into it, saying, “I was surprised by it, but I knew I was still in the game plan. I played a substantial amount of snaps. I just do my job. Whatever they ask me to do, I do it.”
Banta-Cain didn’t seem overly perturbed with that. But he was upset about the defense’s work as a whole against the Bills. I asked him what it looked like on tape, and he gruffly answered, “It looked like it could be a lot better.”
“It looked like little thing,” he said. “It wasn’t anything real huge.
It was just one guy out of place here, one guy out of place there. That was the
Banta-Cain said that mentality is a big part of it.
Call it swagger, if you want. Call it confidence. Whatever you want to call it, the Patriots certainly lacked what Banta-Cain is talking about.
“I think it’s always mental,” Banta-Cain said. “Obviously at this level, you got the talent, you’ve got guys who can play, so it always comes down to the mental part. If anything it’s a mentality, more than anything else.
“It’s basically that we don’t allow teams to come in here, and execute their offense, regardless of who it is. That’s just the mentality we gotta have, and when you’re not mentally focused, you give up plays that teams shouldn’t get. You give them up because there’s something lacking on the play.”
Banta-Cain went on to say that he believes it’s more consistency than overall confidence, and that he believes that, if the Patriots can make strides in playing a more consistent, comprehensive game, “you’ll see a good defense.”
But he also knows there are no guarantees, and that there’s a lot of work to do.
“Obviously, no one’s happy about giving up 30 points,” Banta-Cain. “But I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement. It is not anything where we’re gonna panic. I just think we’re not playing complete team defense.”