The short week that follows a Monday night road game often works against a team preparing for its opponent the following Sunday. But after the 38-17 drubbing at the hands of the Saints, it’s exactly what the Patriots need.
"That’s the good thing about football: Once the game is over and you’ve got 24 hours to reflect back and collect your thoughts … it’s another week," Randy Moss told reporters Monday night. "So a game like this, it really hurts. But once Wednesday comes, we’re focusing on the Dolphins and putting this one behind us. For right now, it hurts. They put it to us. It’s as simple as that."
Not dwelling on the painful loss won’t be difficult for the Patriots, who had almost all of their highlights in the first 12 minutes, as they jumped out to a 7-3 lead. Laurence Maroney was handed the ball six times on the Patriots’ opening drive — picking up 39 yards, a key fourth-down conversion and a touchdown — while Tom Brady completed an efficient 3 of 5 passes for 33 yards. The Patriots looked poised to control the ball following that 14-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 7:40.
Then, everything unraveled. Maroney rushed for just 35 more yards the rest of the game. Brady completed just 58 percent of his next 31 passes. And the defense opened the floodgates.
After the game, Brady already had his eyes on the Dolphins — Sunday's opponent.
"You lose games, and you have to find ways to get motivated again and get energized," Brady said. "It’s a short week, and you have to understand the opponent we’ll be facing. They have a lot to play for, we certainly have a lot to play for — 8-4 is certainly a lot better than 7-4. We’ve got to find a way to get a win this week."
If Brady and the Patriots are looking for a silver lining, finding a way to win shouldn't be too difficult. The Pats handled the Dolphins just three weeks ago, winning 27-17 behind a 332-yard passing day from Brady and one memorable stiff-arm from Moss.
Though the Patriots have struggled historically against the Dolphins (37-48 all time), particularly on the road, New England dominated a late-November clash at Miami last year with Matt Cassel under center. Though the Patriots got shut out in Miami in 2006 and got crushed by the Dolphins at Gillette last year, New England generally has won the games it’s needed to win against Miami this decade.
To prepare for next week, everyone in the Patriots’ organization has a role to play.
"We’ve got to do a better job than we did," coach Bill Belichick said. "To be competitive against a team like this [Saints], we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to coach better, play better. We’ve got to be better at everything — players, assistant coaches. We’ve all got to do a better job than this."
The Patriots have now completed what was considered to be the gauntlet of their schedule. It was widely believed that if they could get through the three-week stretch of facing the Jets, Colts and Saints with one or two wins, the Patriots would be in prime position to win the AFC East. That's precisely the situation in which they find themselves at 7-4, but there's no question they would have liked to win at least one of their "measuring-stick games."
Equally as troubling for the Patriots has been their inability to win on the road. They won in London, which presented its own set of unique challenges, but have yet to prove they can win in a noisy, hostile environment.
Moss refuted the notion that that type of trend can affect players mentally.
"I don’t really think it’s psyche,” the veteran wide receiver said. “I think it’s just work. I think hard work pays off. I think [Belichick] strives for things like this in trying to overcome a lot of obstacles. I look forward to a hell of a Wednesday, really a hell of a week. We’ll just go back to the drawing board and see if we can put this thing back together again to get rolling into the direction that we need to."
Even after such an excruciating loss, the Patriots remain optimistic about the rest of the year and trust that Belichick can get them back on track.
"I got big, big hopes and dreams for this team, and I don’t think Bill is going to let us down," Moss said. "I know he’s going to put it to us this week and further on. We’ve just got to take our lashes, and keep working hard and see if it pays off."
Fortunately for Moss and the Patriots, they'll be able to find out in just five days.