Phil Perry

Why the Patriots aren't panicking (yet) after back-to-back routs

What's the current morale of a team that's been outscored 72-3 in the last two weeks?

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FOXBORO -- It's a long year. That's the mindset Patriots employees, across roles within the organization, have adopted this week.

They aren't panicking. They believe their season can be saved. For them, the sky isn't falling. Yet.

Is that blissful ignorance? No. They know it's bad. They know things need to turn soon.

Is it a coping mechanism? Maybe. In part.

But it's also indicative of the head-down approach folks within the organization have taken to their jobs since coming off back-to-back shellackings at the hands of the Cowboys and Saints. 

"There's always obituaries being written," offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said this week. "But there's a lot of football to be played. Let's see if we can get better. I think the NFL is always about who can improve the fastest. We have a long way to go, don't get me wrong. But hopefully we can get there."

What else can they do? Many already spend inordinate amounts of time at work as it is. What exactly would panicking look like? And how frazzled might that leave them three weeks from now after games against the Raiders, Bills and Dolphins?

There is a freedom of sorts in grinding yourself down to a nub on a regular basis while on the job. When things go bad, you just keep on keeping on. You search high and low for solutions. You meet. You teach. You practice. You rinse, lather and repeat.

Bill Belichick said the team will "start over" and drill down on fundamentals this week. Think of the early portion of the week almost like a bye week, I've been told of the approach. In addition to fundamental work, there is self-scouting and real introspection to find out what it is the team does well.

Outside of that? There are few easily-identifiable answers for what the Patriots can do to remedy what's ailing them.

Their schemes can be streamlined, the volume of the playbook reduced. But their menu of calls is what it is. Their personnel on the offensive line and in the receiving room isn't getting demonstrably better in the near future. And as Belichick confirmed on Wednesday, they're sticking with Mac Jones at quarterback.

Hunter Henry was asked recently why Jones is the best player to lead the Patriots offense moving forward.

"He's been through a lot of adversity in his own way," Henry said. "I think the proof is in the work, man. That guy goes to work every single day no matter the circumstances. No matter what is going on around him.

"We've put a lot of work in together, and we've got to rely on a lot of that work that dates back to the spring, the summer, to the times that no one was around, too. Just rely on that. I think the daily coming in, putting everything behind him and still going to work, that shows a lot about him."

Assistant head coach Joe Judge provided the team sweatshirts recently that had a message on the back: "No one is coming, it's up to us." 

The Patriots are undoubtedly in a love-the-one-you're-with mode right now. What other option do they have? Panic won't help. But if they can't figure out a way to salvage their season quickly, it'll be hard for them to prevent that feeling from setting in organically.

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