Coming off their overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, the New England Patriots’ message was a simple one: we’re better than our current 2-4 record. Whether or not they truly are remains to be seen, but they certainly looked much improved during their Week 7 matchup with the New York Jets.
For the first time all season, New England played a complete game — a positive regardless of the quality of the opposition. The Patriots dominated their division rivals in all three phases from start to finish; they limited self-inflicted mistakes, and eventually won with a convincing final score of 54-13.
For the first time all season, they did not play to the level of their opponent. Instead, as one would hope, they steamrolled an overmatched team.
Things are looking up again in New England, and head coach Bill Belichick would agree. Appearing on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday, he praised his team for its development and work ethic.
“I really have a lot of respect for these guys; they come to work every day. We’ve improved every day, really every week. Certainly far from perfect or far from where we need to be, but we’re headed in the right direction,” Belichick said.
“I have a lot of respect for these guys. We’ve had a couple of weeks where it’s been tough but they’ve showed a lot of mental toughness and resiliency to keep showing up and working hard and getting better. That’s what you really want as a coach is to see your team work hard and improve, and they’ve done that.”
The Jets, for obvious reasons, are not the ultimate measuring stick for the team’s improvement. The upcoming game against the 4-2 Los Angeles Chargers, for example, will provide much better context in this regard.
That being said, the strides made on Sunday were certainly positive. Belichick mentioned one area in particular: not turning the football over, something his team has struggled with over the first six weeks of the year.
“It’s good to see us go through a game and not turn the ball over. That’s always a good start on the path to winning,” Belichick said. “Our guys did a good job hanging onto the ball, and still breaking tackles and running well. I think that’s really the key. Not to just give up and not make yardage, but to be able to run aggressively with the ball and to continue to make yards and take care of the ball. That was good.”
The Patriots offense had given the football away 11 times heading into Week 7, but they did not turn it over even once against the Jets. The defense, meanwhile, registered three takeaways.
On Sunday against the Chargers, Belichick’s team will get another opportunity to show that its improvements in this particular area — and others as well — are neither a one-week affair nor the result of playing a bad opponent.