PITTSBURGH — Despite being on the wrong side of a beating that the Patriots are seldom used to taking, they're planning to take the necessary steps to collect themselves this week and move forward.
It will take some time to determine whether or not the Patriots can use Sunday's loss to the Steelers to become a better team. That's what they're banking on, though.
Less than an hour after the defeat, Patriots captain Jerod Mayo already hoped to get another crack at Pittsburgh.
"Hopefully, we do," Mayo said. "You never want to go out like this, so hopefully we see them again."
Naturally, for that to happen, both teams would have to reacquaint in the playoffs. Since the Patriots departed from Pittsburgh with a 5-2 record, they're well on their way to another trip to the postseason, no matter how much it appeared the sky was falling on them at Heinz Field.
There are issues, for sure. Defensively, the Patriots have to figure out a way to clog up the middle of the zone, which was abused time and again by the Steelers' uncharacteristically disciplined intermediate passing attack. And on offense, they'll have to adjust to teams that try to manhandle Wes Welker and company at the line of scrimmage.
Welker, for one, said everyone has to "take a look in the mirror and really kind of see what we can get better at individually."
Quotes like that were common from the visitors' locker room at Heinz, where the Patriots left no doubt about what just happened. They all stepped up and admitted they got outplayed in every area of the game. Sometimes, a response like that can be simple rhetoric — like the loss in Buffalo, where the Patriots beat themselves — but it was the honest truth in Pittsburgh.
"We just didn't come to play [Sunday]," defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "We just didn't come to play [Sunday], and it showed."
Quarterback Tom Brady knew it, too, and he was equally agitated about their inability to adjust to Pittsburgh's game plan. At the same time, Brady kept things in perspective. After all, it was almost this exact same time last year when the Patriots were bullied and embarrassed by the Browns, and that turned out to be their last regular-season loss.
Obviously, regular-season success is hardly an acceptable barometer in New England these days, and the loss to the Steelers might be a sign of a greater undoing, particularly because it came against the defending AFC champions. But that's something the Patriots are going to probe this week and beyond. They've got plenty of time, and Brady made sure to point that out.
"We kept fighting to the end, as we always do," Brady said. "We're always going to fight to the end. We've got a lot of mentally tough guys and a lot of guys with very high character in our locker room. We're just going to keep battling. No one is going to feel sorry for [themselves]. It's the seventh game of the year. There's so much football left, and obviously we just didn't play our best."