The defense has been shaky, especially against the pass, but held the Rams scoreless after a 50-yard touchdown pass on their opening drive. With four rookies playing key roles, it’s important that they pace themselves during the longer pro season.
“A big adjustment for a first-year player coming into this league is the length of the season, the intensity of the season. Certainly they’re playing against good players every day in practice, every week on the field,” Belichick said. “In college, they were probably the best player on their team or one of the best players on their team. The other teams might have had some good players but it wasn’t this level of competition on a daily or weekly basis and there’s a lot more of it.”
It resumes Nov. 11 at home against the Buffalo Bills, a team the Patriots already have beaten 52-28. They’re home again against the Indianapolis Colts then visit the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Their two toughest remaining opponents follow, at home against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers, before they wind up the season at the Jacksonville Jaguars and at home against Miami.
Can they go 8-0 again?
“I obviously hope it’s true this year,” offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said, “but I just think our mantra around here is to improve every day, and I think that that holds true from day one to wherever we are now.”
Belichick has been preaching that since he became coach in 2000. The Patriots went 5-11 that year. In the 11 seasons since, they have at least 10 wins 10 times and are 73-15 in the second half.
“You can’t afford losses in November and December. You’re in the middle of the race. Everything you do before that set you up for that race,” Fears said. The players “finally understand what Bill’s been harping about all year long.
“It makes it a little easier to sell it to them and their sense of urgency gets heightened, and they go after it.”
Can they peak, again, heading toward the postseason?
“In the end,” cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer said, “all that really matters is that we’re improving each week and we’re playing our best ball down the stretch.”
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