That was the buzzword of both Tom Brady and Randy Moss at their respective news conferences on Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands. Head coach Bill Belichick added "outcoached" to the mix.
Given the 16-9 loss in which the Patriots — and especially the offense — looked thoroughly out of sync, it's easy to see why.
"We just didn't execute well in that two-minute possession," Brady said. "That's something we've been good at, but the Jets were better at it [Sunday]. It's frustrating because I think we had high expectations for this game."
Moss, who was held to just four catches for 24 yards, felt the same way.
"With the firepower that we have, it gets a little frustrating," the wide receiver said. "I'm not going to sit here and lie, but at the same time, when things go bad, you have to find ways to win. At the end of the game, we kept going backward. As a whole offensive unit, we just didn't make things happen."
However, after the initial shock of a Jets win over the Patriots in New Jersey (it hadn't happened since 2000) in a game in which New England failed to score a touchdown (that hadn't happened since 2006), there are plenty of reasons to believe this loss isn't as bad as it originally seemed.
The Patriots' defense was good. Not great, but good.
Before the game, it was generally expected that the Patriots would mix up their blitzes on defense to confuse rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. That didn't happen, but the Pats' defense remained relatively stout, even without its heart and soul, Jerod Mayo.
The Jets had the ball twice in the game's final 6:39. The Patriots needed the ball back in order to even have a chance, and the defense forced the Jets into two quick drives. The first lasted three plays and took just 1:29 off the clock, while the next lasted four plays and 1:36.
In total, the Patriots held the Jets to a modest 254 yards. Add to that Adalius Thomas' near-interception in the red zone, and the defense did all it could to help the Patriots win this game. Though it didn't result in a win on Sunday, playing as well as it did without Mayo is a testament to what this group is capable of.
The running game was excellent, if underutilized.
When your two top backs average 5.8 and 3.8 yards per carry, the only way you're going to lose is if you don't hand them the ball enough. That's exactly what happened to the Patriots on Sunday, as Fred Taylor introduced himself to Patriots fans with eight carries for 46 impressive yards and Laurence Maroney provided a serviceable 23 yards on six carries.
The Patriots, however, weren't focused on the run. Maroney's last offensive touch came in the opening minutes of the third quarter, while Taylor picked up 32 yards in one drive in the third quarter, only to touch the ball once more the rest of the game.
Of course, the Patriots were playing catch-up and fighting against the clock. They also had one of the best comeback engineers in football under center. It also still isn't clear who exactly is calling the plays on offense. Is it Belichick, Brady, Bill O'Brien or a combination of the three?
Regardless of who is in charge, it's much easier for a team to improve its play-calling than it is to make up for an inefficient ground game.
The Jets' defense is as complicated a system as the Pats will see all season, yet Brady managed to avoid any sacks.
True, Brady was hurried, knocked down and thrown out of his rhythm for the balance of Sunday's game, yet the quarterback managed to get the ball out of his hand to avoid any negative plays.
One thing was for sure on Sunday: Brady didn't look like Brady. He was throwing behind receivers, throwing out of bounds, flailing a prayer to Moss, taking delay of game penalties — sights that nobody is used to seeing from Brady. The unknown about Brady's performance was whether the Jets forced him into these mistakes or whether he is still getting readjusted to the game speed of the NFL.
The answer probably lies somewhere in between, though it probably sits closer to the Jets' end of the spectrum. Brady was not only dealing with bodies flying toward his facemask but also with unfamiliar bodies wearing Patriots jerseys. The fact that Julian Edelman, a Kent State quarterback playing receiver in his first NFL game, led the team in receiving is a telling sign that the offense, which was without co-MVP Wes Welker, was just not right.
This offense is simply too talented to stay that way for long.
Every year cannot be 2007.
There's an absolute fact in the NFL that might have been forgotten in New England: Teams lose games. The Patriots won all their regular-season games in 2007, and all that got them was arguably the most embarrassing runner-up banner in the history of professional sports.
The fact is that Super Bowl-winning teams need to lose in order to get better. The 2001 Patriots lost a tight one to the Rams in the regular season — a loss that likely helped them beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The 2003 Patriots got smashed by the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. The Pats went on that season to start the NFL's longest winning streak, and the Bills finished 6-10.
Patriots fans need look no further than last season for more evidence. In their first five games of the season, the Patriots suffered two seemingly devastating losses, one a 38-13 drubbing by the Dolphins in Foxborough and the other a 30-10, much-worse-than-the-final-score-indicated loss on national TV in San Diego.
Following that loss to the Chargers, things looked bleak for the Matt Cassel-led Pats, yet they responded in a big way just one week later, demolishing the Broncos 41-7 on a Monday night. Though they didn't make the playoffs, the team finished 11-5 and looked more than capable of making some noise in the postseason had it gotten the opportunity.
This year's team is undeniably better. It just hasn't played to its potential. Super Bowls — and division titles, for that matter — aren't won overnight, and for the Patriots, a little patience will go a long way.
The other "contenders" aren't faring much better.
Though it rests outside of the Patriots' control, consider this: The Steelers, Cowboys, Packers, Chargers, Bears and Cardinals are all 1-1. Before the season began, all those teams were considered playoff teams, if not Super Bowl contenders.
Yes, a lot has happened in two weeks, but a lot more will happen in the next 15. The 2007 Giants (you may remember how their season ended) lost the first two games of the season, one a blowout loss at home to the Packers. That didn't stop them from getting where they needed to be when it mattered the most.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know what they're doing.
The phrase "In Bill We Trust" may be thrown about a bit liberally in New England, but it exists for a reason. The man's resume speaks for itself, and given the talented team he has at his control, mediocrity won't be an option.
The same applies to Brady, who spoke to the team's ability on Monday morning.
"We believe that we have a good football team," he said in a radio interview on WEEI. "We just need to go out there and perform better. Two weeks ago, we were the greatest team in the history of the NFL, and we’re going to go 16-0 again. Last week, it’s like, 'Yeah, there’s things they don’t do well.' This week, it’s now, 'They’re terrible and they can’t do anything.'
"We don’t want to ride the roller-coaster. We really want to just focus on what we need to do and go out there and perform better. If we do that, we’re confident we’ll win the games. But if we don’t, we’re not going to win the games. Nobody can do that except for us."
It's clear through two weeks and one loss that the Patriots can play better. Anyone who's watched this team — with this coach and this quarterback — knows that it's only a matter of time.
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