His offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien agreed.
“Bill’s exactly right,” O’Brien told reporters at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. “Bill’s coached a lot of years, 50 years in this league, thereabouts. I’ve been around a long time, not just in the pros but in college football. We’ve had good seasons. We’ve had seasons where things early on didn’t go well.
“It always goes back to your fundamentals, your teaching progressions, your fundamentals as a player. It’s a team sport, everybody’s sticking together, and making sure that we take care of the little things. Those are the things that are hurting us right now.”
The starting over process for the Patriots began on Monday, when Belichick called for an audible in their usual schedule. Players typically are at the facility on Monday before having Tuesday off, but that script was switched.
So, when players arrived back at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, they immediately got to work.
“We had a good fundamental meeting right here, about a half an hour ago,” O’Brien said Tuesday morning. “So we’re ready to go for practice today, take it one day at a time and try to dig ourselves out of it.”
Among the places New England must start is limiting turnovers. Through five games this season, the Patriots are tied for third in the NFL with 10 turnovers — which has gone hand-in-hand with the teams troubling trend of slow starts.
“Look at the end of the day, like we’re turning the ball over too much,” O’Brien said. “That’s the number one thing. We’ve got to stop turning the ball over. We got to take care of the ball.”
The main culprit in the turnover department has been quarterback Mac Jones. Jones has now tossed six interceptions this season and lost a fumble, with four of those turnovers leading directly too touchdowns for the opponents.
With O’Brien saying he anticipates that Jones will be the starter in Las Vegas this weekend, New England now must hope Jones can get back on track. That will start with improved footwork and play against pressure, as the third-year QB’s internal clock seems to have vanished playing behind a patchwork offensive line.
“I think you can fine tune your mechanics every day,” O’Brien said. “We go out to practice about 15 to 20 minutes early every day and we work a lot of individual drills, footwork drills, read drills, throwing drills with all the quarterbacks.
“So I think you can do that, you can improve on those things during practice. And I think a lot of that, fundamentally, it comes back to, ‘Hey, how can I be better fundamentally?’ And that might help me play better at any position.”
While Jones is to shoulder much of the blame for New England’s recent performances, there are certainly other issues along the Patriots offense that's averaging a league-worst 11 points per game.
“[Mac would] be the first to tell you that there’s things that he has to do better,” O’Brien explained. “Whether it’s obviously take care of the ball or maybe read the route better or get us into a better play or whatever it is.
“But it’s a collective effort. That’s why it’s not a one-on-one sport. It’s an 11 man sport. You’re trying to get 11 guys on the same page to do the right thing on every play and right now we’re not near doing that.”
Beyond Jones, New England’s offensive line has been the biggest issue on offense. In the last three games, Jones has faced his three-highest pressure rates in his career — largely playing a role in his flawed mechanics. If the Patriots want any shot of salvaging this season, it will start with playing better up front.
“It comes down to communication and the technical aspect of it — anticipation, sometimes awareness. There’s things that we can do better to help [the offensive line] from a scheme standpoint,” O’Brien said Tuesday.
“Like I said, we just had a good meeting. We went over a lot of different things, fundamentals that we can do better, some schematic things that we can really improve on to help [the offensive line]. And hopefully, you know, that’ll start to show this week it. Needs to start to show this week.”
If things do not start to show this week, New England will fall into even more uncharted territory at 1-5. But for now, they are executing plan ‘start over’ with a turnaround in mind.
“There’s a lot of season left,” O’Brien said. “There’s always obituaries being written, but there’s a lot of football to be played. So let’s see if we can get better.”