BALTIMORE — A loss is a loss. They’re never going to feel good for a New England Patriots team that simply isn’t used to coming out on the wrong side of victory. But a loss feels a little bit different when you’re 8-1 rather than, say, 1-2, as the Patriots started last season.
And though no player in the Patriots locker room would say that Sunday night after New England fell 37-20 to the Baltimore Ravens, it was the general vibe of the group. There were smiles. There was levity. This didn’t feel like the end of the world like it has seemed with many Patriots losses of the past.
“It’s the first loss. We’re 8-1,” safety Duron Harmon said. “We’re still in a good spot. The better team won tonight. We know that. We know we can play a lot better. So, it’s all about just learning from the loss, continue to move forward, continue to get better. It’s Week 9 — still a lot of football left. The real football season doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving, so we’ve got some time just to continue to improve before real football starts.”
And the Patriots know they must improve against the run after allowing 210 yards on 41 carries with three touchdowns to Ravens ball carriers. That rushing attack wasn’t allowing the defense to get off of the field, especially in the second half, when the Ravens put together drives that ate up 8:08 and 9:35 of the clock.
“I think it came down to being stout in the run game,” Harmon said. “The last two weeks we haven’t been the run defense we need to be for our team to be successful. We know the game always starts with stopping the run. We haven’t been able to do that the last few. That was a good team over there. That was a really good football team who knows how to run the ball, knows how to scheme to run. So, just gotta be better there and when we’re better there, everything else falls into place.”
Still, obviously, there’s plenty of optimism. The Patriots’ offense showed life Sunday outside of a fumble from wide receiver Julian Edelman and some costly holding penalties. The Patriots’ defense started out at a historical level allowing fewer than eight points per game. They’re no longer on pace to break the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season, but they know this performance was an anomaly when compared to their first eight games.
“We got a lot of things to fix, and we have the right group to do it with,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said.
Van Noy said there wasn’t much of a difference between the Patriots’ defensive performance Sunday versus the first eight games of the season. He also seemed excited at the thought of the Patriots’ upcoming bye week.
“The bye does come at a good point,” Van Noy said. “I think we have a good group. We’re all professionals and we’ll be able to look at each other and get better.”
And perhaps the Patriots wouldn’t be able to make the corrections they need to make without experiencing defeat. It’s easy to stay complacent when you keep winning despite some obvious flaws. A loss can force your hand.
“I always say whether it’s in life or in football, it’s hard to grow without adversity.” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “And, certainly, things have been going pretty smoothly for us all year. Not to say we haven’t grown, but I think adversity is a great teacher, and hopefully, we apply the lesson.”
Losses happen. Every Patriots team that’s got on to win a Super Bowl has experienced them. Then they moved on and grew past them.
“Any time you lose you’re never happy especially with the performance that we had today,” Harmon said. “We know we can play a lot better, need to play a lot better for us to be the team we want to be. This is just a learning experience.”
The Patriots don’t play for another two weeks. We’ll find out what they learned in Week 11 when the Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images