Entering Sunday night, the New England Patriots defense had surrendered just 40 total points over its previous eight games — clearly the best number in the NFL and one reflective of the unit’s overall stellar play. However, New England failed to keep up that defensive pace against a Baltimore Ravens offense that fired on all cylinders and consistently moved the football down the field in front of a home crowd.
When all was said and done the Patriots had surrendered 37 points, with 30 of them coming while the team was on defense. The question now becomes where the unit goes from here, and the answer as usual in New England is forward: talking to reporters after the 37-20 loss — the first all season after the team went unbeaten from opening day through Week 8 — the team’s players pointed out what they can take away from a performance like this.
“No losses are fun, they are learning experiences. Our job is to look at those losses and things that we need to correct, and go move forward. And if we just stick together and stay together I think we’ll be alright,” said veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the locker room after the game. “We got a lot of things to fix, and we have the right group to do it with. [...] Stopping the run, I would say, that is the big one.”
Van Noy is not only one of the most experienced players on New England’s defensive roster, but also among the group’s vocal and emotional leaders — one that knows how to handle adversity, having been with the Patriots ever since the 2016 season. Another one of the proverbial elder statesmen on the team’s defense also pointed out that it needs to take the loss as an opportunity to get better in the long haul.
“We’ll sit. We got to get back to work. It’s not the first game we’ve ever lost. We’ve got to get back to work and go play better the next time we’re out there,” safety Devin McCourty said during his postgame press conference before offering a simple message to a team that is now heading into its bye week: “I don’t care who you play, you have to figure them out and put in the work that week and try to go out there and play well.”
“When you lose a game, you have got to come in and try to correct things that went wrong in the game, whether you are 0-8, 8-1 or whatever,” added fellow defensive back Jason McCourty. “It is about getting better, and it is still early in the season. There is still a lot of football to be played, so whether we won this game or lost this game, I think after each and every game it is important to get better.”
“Winning in this league is tough, and whenever you get a win, you are making those corrections the next day,” the second-year Patriot added. “You feel good about it, because you are able to score more points than the other team, and when that does not happen, you are a little disappointed, but the process does not change. You have to come in, you have to find out what you did not do well and make improvements in it.”
For New England, this process should — as Van Noy already pointed out — start by looking at the run defense. Going up against one of the best rushing offenses in all of football, the team surrendered 213 yards and three touchdowns on 38 attempts for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. The issues on the ground are nothing new, however, and for defensive tackle Lawrence Guy it all comes down to one thing: fundamentals.
“We just have to play better fundamental football. That’s what it breaks down to — playing down by down. They’re a good team. They make good plays. It’s just that we should play a little bit better overall. They pretty much outperformed us, and it shows,” said the 29-year old. “It’s a good learning tool for the up-and-coming games. We take that and keep fighting for what we need. We’re a good brotherhood, it’s not going to damper our spirits.”
The Patriots now have two weeks to get back on track defensively, and they better do so quickly: a road game against the 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles awaits after the bye and opens up a stretch of games that has the team go against four straight playoff contenders. The lessons learned during Sunday’s loss in Baltimore therefore have to be applied quickly and efficiently for New England to stay atop the AFC through the tough slate that awaits.