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Patriots offense shows progress in loss to the Bills, but ‘moral victories mean nothing’

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 24-21 loss to Bills

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The New England Patriots offense struggled mightily ever since quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for the Coronavirus in early October. But while it was more of the same for the unit early on against the Buffalo Bills, it turned up the heat in the second and came close to pulling out a victory on the road: after scored just two field goals in the first half, the Patriots added two touchdowns in the second before the last-minute drive ended with a red zone turnover.

While Newton’s fumble at the Buffalo 13-yard line down 24-21 with just over 30 seconds left in the game was the defining play for the Patriots, the offense as a whole did take a step forward after three straight disappointing outings. It moved the football well on the ground and through the air at times, generated some momentum, and made multiple big plays to hang with the Bills until the very end.

And yet, the Patriots lost for the fourth week in a row to fall to 2-5 on the season.

“The frustration level’s definitely high,” said running back Damien Harris during his postgame media conference call. “Moral victories mean nothing in this organization. We’re frustrated, I’m frustrated, the team’s frustrated. We just gotta do better. There’s really no other way to put it: we just gotta do better if we want to go out there and win.”

Harris has played a big role in the Patriots’ offensive efforts in Buffalo. The second-year back did not just gain 102 rushing yards on 16 carries, he also scored the first touchdown of his career and helped New England reestablish some rhythm on his side of the ball. But while he acknowledged that this was a positive development, the predominant feeling was still one of disappointment given the final result.

“I guess it’s good to start to find that rhythm, start to put drives together, start to put points on the board. It’s good to start trending in the right direction, but this is what this league is about: it’s about winning. It’s not about moral victories, it’s not about trends, it’s not about ‘We’re getting better this week, maybe next week, maybe two weeks from now, if we just keep trending then maybe we’ll get a win,” Harris continued.

“That’s not what we’re here for, that’s not what we’re here to do. We want to win, by any means. Doesn’t matter how it gets done, doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. Whatever we gotta do in order to win, that’s what we want to do.”

Winning, however, has been a seemingly unachievable goal for the Patriots lately: they lost four straight games for the first time since 2002, and are now facing an even greater uphill battle to get back to .500 and into the wild card playoff hunt — let alone defend their AFC East title for a 12th straight year.

Despite all that, however, Harris still expressed his confidence in the team.

“Losing’s frustrated for sure, but I have just as much confidence in every person in this locker room as I would have if we’ve won,” he said. “We’re in a tough spot right now and we dug ourselves a hole, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dig ourselves out. It doesn’t mean that our season’s over. If we don’t believe in each other then we won’t have a chance. That’s the way that this game works. If we don’t believe in one another then who will?

“We just gotta keep believing in each other. It’s not hard. I still have faith in every single person in this organization as well as myself. But it’s not just about having faith, it’s not just about having confidence in one another. You have to go out there and actually put the confidence, put the work in and display it on the field in order to have success.”