Throughout their 2-4 start the New England Patriots’ players repeatedly stressed the notion that the team would be better than its record. They talked the talk, and then walked the walk: New England went on a seven-game winning streak to establish itself as a true playoff contender in the AFC.
Since moving to 9-4, the team has lost back-to-back games to drop to the sixth playoff seed. Don’t expect any fancy talk out of the team now, however.
As linebacker and team captain Dont’a Hightower said this week, the Patriots have done enough of that.
“Enough talk,” Hightower said. “Guys know it’s time to work — it’s always been time to work — but there’s no more of the little cliché lines and all that stuff. Now it’s just really about time to work. These last two games mean a lot to us and we worked really hard and let some games slip from our hands but, hopefully, we learn from that and we’ll get things going this week.”
Hightower is not the first Patriots player to express a sentiment like this. Teammates David Andrews and Kyle Van Noy also shared the same message after the team’s loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.
“You can talk and talk, we have to execute, we have to be better,” said Andrews. “That’s really what it comes down to. It really just comes down to execution and we didn’t do a good enough job of that today.
“I can sit up here and talk all day about yadda yadda yadda, but at the end of the day we just got to go produce. You know, talk less and play more,” added Van Noy.
The Patriots came out of their Week 14 bye flat, first dropping their game against the Indianapolis Colts and then losing the AFC East lead versus the Bills. Both times the team showed the same inconsistent play in all three phases that hurt it during its early-season stretch.
For Hightower, the secret to bouncing back this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars is not a secret at all. The key is to just make plays.
“I don’t really have a long list of bulletin points,” he said. “Obviously, it goes back to fundamentals and execution, but a lot of it is just guys having to want to play better, coming up and making plays. We had opportunities to do it, myself included. Guys just have to show up and make better plays.”