EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Back in early October, Patriots assistant Jerod Mayo indicated that the non-complementary nature of the team made life difficult for those operating on the more functional side of the ball.
"I'd be lying if I said the players don't feel some of that," he said. "At the same time, us as coaches, it’s our job to remind them, we’re not on that side of the ball. Let’s continue to get them the ball and see what happens. And that’s pretty much the way we approach it."
Since then, the Patriots have lost games when the opposition has scored 21, 20, 10 and 10 points. In the modern NFL, averaging a points-allowed figure that sits in the teens qualifies as a defensive tour de force. Still, the New England record sits at 2-9.
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While Patriots players aren't about to point fingers, they would acknowledge after losing to the Giants, 10-7, that they're in a position where they have to play near-perfect football to feel good about their chances of winning.
"I tell my defense all the time, we can't give up seven points," defensive lineman Davon Godchaux said. "We can't. You give up seven points, you never know. What's going to happen? We can't give up nothing. We can't. Because we gotta look at it like, if the offense gives us seven points, we gotta hold them to zero points or three points."
NFL teams, according to NESN's Zack Cox, are 50-2 when allowing 10 points or fewer this season. The Patriots are the only team to lose, with both losses coming in their last two games to the Giants and Colts.
"Whoever we play, I never feel like we're going to lose," Godchaux said. "We're never outmatched -- specifically talking about the defensive line and our defense. But we gotta put it all together. We haven't been able to put it together all season, which is why you see a record of 2-9.
"It's frustrating. It sucks. Nobody is finger-pointing, but it sucks because when you bust your ass all offseason, workouts, looking forward to a positive season and you get results like this."
"We were 21 points better than that team out there. I believe that. They had, what, three picks? They still couldn't score. We were two touchdowns -- at least -- better than that team. With a 2-8 record. Just couldn't get it done. Shout out to them. They won. But we lost that game more than they won that game, I can tell you that."
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With the Patriots sitting at the bottom of the conference, it's now worth wondering how the Patriots will handle the stretch run of their season. How do they stay on task? How do they play with energy? How do they salvage some respectability?
The Patriots defensive front can't be questioned when it comes to their effort given how they've performed. They're part of a unit that ranks sixth in the NFL in success rate allowed this season. They're first in rush EPA per play allowed and first in rushing success rate. They're first in the league in rush yards allowed per attempt.
"I just try to go out there and just put good film on tape," said Godchaux, who has anchored the middle of the Patriots defensive line. "That's just the pride I have in myself, and I'm sure the other guys feel the same way. We played a really good running back today and for the most part we dominated him. We dominated their offensive line. We knew definitely we were going to dominate this team...
"At this point it's about pride. It's about playing for the name on the back of your jersey. Thirty-one other teams out there watching you. You don't want to be quitting on your team. At this point, it's about pride."
Godchaux added: "At the end of the day, it sucks. You know you're going to be home early. Second week of January you know you're going to be at home, watching football on TV. I'm just going to turn the TV off and travel. I don't even want to watch football.
"... Six more games left? It's just about pride. It's about the last name on the back of your jersey. Your family is in the stands. It's about representing yourself and representing your team. You'll never see me put bad film on tape because it's about pride."