Throughout this week, Patriots players insisted they weren’t treating Sunday’s matchup with the Jets as anything more than another divisional game.

Unsurprisingly, they were lying.

After a 15-10 road win over the New York Jets, multiple players told the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan that special teamer Matthew Slater rallied the troops with a late-week speech. The message, delivered after Friday’s non-padded practice, was simple: New England needed to win this game.

“I just felt like we were at an important part of the season, even though it’s early in the season,” Slater told Callahan. “I try to be a football historian, and I’m aware of the situation that we’re in. Teams that have gone 0-3 to start the season, it doesn’t bode well. So, I just wanted to encourage the guys to have a heightened sense of urgency, a heightened sense of pride in what they’re doing.”

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That Bill Belichick hot seat talk? It can quiet down for a few days. Those stats about 0-3 teams (only four making the playoffs since 1990)? They no longer apply.

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It wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots made the plays they needed to down the stretch to secure a pivotal Week 3 triumph. Belichick’s team had chances to win in Weeks 1 and 2 but suffered from poor late-game execution against both the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. In beating the Jets, New England found a way to get the job done.

“Personally, I just think that we knew,” tackle Vederian Lowe told Callahan. “We knew we really needed this game. The last two weeks, we know that those losses are on us; the ball security and not being able to finish out those drives that we should’ve. (Slater) said it best.”

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Of course, a 1-2 start isn’t much better than 0-3. And Sunday’s baby steps in the right direction won’t mean anything if the Patriots regress next Sunday when they visit the Dallas Cowboys.

But one thing you can bank on: The Patriots are going to play hard and as if their season is on the line. Leaders like Slater will make sure of it.

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images