At 1-3 and coming off the worst loss of Bill Belichick’s 24-year tenure as head coach, the New England Patriots appear to be at a pivotal point in their 2023 season. Their upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints could very well be a tone-setter for the remainder of the year.
For the Patriots, it is all about getting back on track and stopping the season from unraveling. How can they do that? Team captain Matthew Slater thinks it all starts with controlling the controllables.
“There’s a lot of noise surrounding our team. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding our team. There’s a lot of critique surrounding our team,” Slater said earlier this week. “And I think for us, really, we have to understand as players and as an organization there’s only so much you can control in situations like this. The same would be said if we were 4-0.
“So, I think for us, to the man, we need a heightened sense of urgency, a heightened sense of accountability, and just making sure that we’re respecting the game and the process and everything about what we do the right way. You hope that leads to the right results.”
The Patriots entered their 2023 campaign with plenty of optimism, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Coming off a disappointing season, they brought in veteran coordinator Bill O’Brien to help righten the ship and get the unit as well as quarterback Mac Jones back on the right track.
Four weeks into the season, however, that has not happened: the unit has struggled, with Sunday’s outing against the Cowboys a low point in Jones’ three-year tenure as starting quarterback.
The issues go beyond that one game, however. The Patriots also lost two of their most important players to injury — linebacker Matthew Slater and cornerback Christian Gonzalez are reportedly out indefinitely — and continue to be uneven in the kicking game.
Given all the circumstances, it would be easy for doubt to start creeping in. For Slater, however, this test of faith is one that will define the team.
“Any time that you’re hit with adversity, any human being is going to have some sort of doubt or question in their minds. That’s a part of being a human being,” he said. “So, I think, we have to find it within ourselves to combat that and maintain belief, maintain faith, and hopefully make progress.
“But I’ve always said, anyone who has faith — or in my case, I always compare it to my personal faith in Christ — any genuine faith at some time has been questioned. And I don’t think you have genuine faith until that faith has been questioned and you’ve really had to sift through some things and sort through some things and then move forward. We’re going to find out if we have genuine faith in our process by how we move forward. We have plenty of time to see how that’s going to play out.”
With 13 games remaining on the schedule, including some winnable ones against New Orleans and Las Vegas in Weeks 5 and 6, the potential for improvement is evident. As a consequence, Slater remains optimistic despite the general aura of uncertainty surrounding the Patriots at the moment.
“I certainly still have a lot of faith in this team, that we can get things turned around, no matter what the circumstances may look like from the outside looking in. Let’s control the things that we can control. Let’s all do our jobs a little bit better — with more discipline, more urgency, and more consistency. And let’s see where that gets us.”