Former New England Patriots research director Ernie Adams once compared football teams to race horses. They have to put on their blinders, and just keep looking forward regardless of what is happening around them.
For the 2023 Patriots, this is a definitive “race horse week.” Coming off a 38-3 shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, they are in dire need of some momentum.
The upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints, who will visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday, provides an opportunity for the team to start building it. It also is a chance for the entire organization to cleanse itself from the most lopsided loss of Bill Belichick’s 24-year tenure as its head coach.
“We’re ready for the Saints. It’s a dirty taste in our mouth after the loss last week, but it’s a new week. You can’t dwell on the past right now,” said linebacker Jahlani Tavai on Wednesday.
Tavai was not the only player to employ the “bad taste” idiom to describe the feeling coming out of Week 4. Edge linebacker Josh Uche also used it when asked about the mindset within the Patriots locker room heading into a pivotal matchup with New Orleans.
“It’s the next game, next opportunity. Next chance to get the taste out of our mouth type stuff,” he said. “Next opportunity, next game.”
The Patriots are not only coming off a blowout loss, they also are already looking up in the race for a playoff spot. Standing at just 1-3 four weeks into the season, they are currently the 12th-seeded team in the AFC.
There is obviously plenty of football left to be played, including games against possible competition for a spot in the postseason tournament. Before even thinking about making a serious push for the playoffs, however, New England needs to begin stringing successful games together — starting against a 2-2 Saints team that is itself coming off a one-sided defeat.
For the Patriots, it is therefore all about flipping the page in order to flip the season-long script as a whole.
“We can correct those mistakes. We will. And we just have to move forward from here on out,” said Tavai. “We can’t sulk and complain. It is what it is, and we’re going to do our best to make sure that we prepare like we should against the Saints. We got to know what weapons they have, and we just got to do our jobs. So, that’s pretty much the point: just to make sure that we know what we’re doing and we’re executing.”
That is true to an extent for a Patriots defense that just lost starters Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez for an extended period of time, and possibly the rest of the season. However, the team’s offense is under even greater pressure heading into Week 5.
It all starts with quarterback Mac Jones, who played the worst football of his career versus the Cowboys.
“Every week’s a new week and the goal is to go 1-0,” he said. “We’ve been in this situation a few times here since I’ve been here, and all you can focus on is the process and doing your part. Once everybody does that — I know it’s hard to say — and all 11 guys do it, including myself, then the product will be a lot better.”
So far, the product has not looked the part on that side of the ball. But with a forgettable day now in the rear-view mirror, the direction is onward and the mood optimistic.
“I think everybody’s ready to attack this week, attack today, attack this week of practice,” said tight end Hunter Henry. “This is a big opportunity for us. We’re excited for the next challenge.”