They got back to work, studied the film from their 22-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins and headed home. It was a unique feel in the Patriots' locker room, which was more barren than usual. Running back Laurence Maroney and defensive end Jarvis Green addressed larger media groups, while defensive back Shawn Springs, defensive lineman Mike Wright, special teamer Matthew Slater and running back Sammy Morris spoke with smaller groups. Several others, including quarterback Tom Brady, strolled through but did not talk.
For the fifth time this season, the Patriots know they've got to bounce back after a loss. And for the first time in three years, the Patriots are trying to recover after a divisional loss in December. If the players appeared a little shell-shocked Monday, it's because they were working through a unique situation on multiple levels. Even still, Maroney said there is "no panic whatsoever" among the team.
"Everybody definitely wishes that we were better," said Maroney, whose touchdown streak was snapped at six games Sunday. "We know we should be better than what we are right now. It's all about finishing for us right now, and that's what we've really been having a problem with, finishing games. Our whole focus is playing 60 minutes and finishing from here on out."
After blowing their third double-digit lead of the season, the Patriots are understandably annoyed, but Maroney provided another realistic view. With a 7-5 record, the Pats still control their divisional destiny in a race against the Dolphins (6-6) and New York Jets (6-6).
"People can lose focus, but you've still got to let them know we are in this driver's seat," Maroney said. "We still can control our own destiny. We're one game up now, so everything is a lot closer, but we still control our fate. Instead of sitting around waiting for somebody else to lose to [help] our fate, we're still in the driver's seat. We've just got to go out there and keep playing and keep fighting."
The Patriots also have a much easier schedule than their AFC East counterparts throughout the remainder of December. New England closes with games against the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. The Dolphins have the Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers. And the Jets close out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.
"[The loss] puts us in a tighter race, and now every game counts from here on out," Maroney said. "Now, you can't afford to lose in December because you don't have that many games to make up. It's always hard to lose a division game, especially this late in the season."
Per usual, the Patriots are off Tuesday, and they'll return to Gillette Stadium for more meetings and the first weekly practice Wednesday when they'll begin preparations for the Panthers.
Luckily for the Patriots, they play Carolina at Gillette, where they're 6-0 this season. That, and the Panthers have had trouble getting out of their own way in 2009, so New England's newest alterations should pay immediate dividends, which could provide a confidence boost going forward.
"This is a team that straps up every day, goes to practice and puts our helmets on on Sunday," Green said. "These are the guys that we have here in our locker room. These are the guys who play football and try to win football games.
"We know what's going on right now. We know the situation. They're going to come play football. They don't care what happened to us last week."