‘You gotta prove ev­ery­thing'

Af­ter stun­ning loss, Patriots need a big re­sponse in New Or­leans

Boston Herald - - PATRIOTS GAMEDAY PREVIEW - Karen Guregian Twit­ter: @kgure­gian

NEW OR­LEANS — Thanks to an em­bar­rass­ing opening-night loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots find them­selves need­ing to make a state­ment to­day at the Su­per­dome.

How they re­spond against the Saints will es­sen­tially dic­tate their sto­ry­line for the rest of the sea­son.

“Af­ter a loss like last week, you gotta prove ev­ery­thing,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “Your phys­i­cal tough­ness, your men­tal tough­ness, all that.”

Tom Brady called out the team for fail­ing to have a sense of ur­gency in the 4227 loss to Kansas City. Brady ques­tioned his team­mates’ at­ti­tude and com­pet­i­tive­ness on a night the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons didn’t show much fight dur­ing the fourth quarter.

Harsh words for a team that had no quit, and came back from 25 down in the third quarter, in beat­ing the Fal­cons only seven months be­fore in Su­per Bowl LI.

So what will hap­pen to­day against the Saints?

There’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing 1-1 and 0-2. With a win, the Patriots are back on track, back in business. A loss and all bets are off. The hole is dug deeper, and the problems will look much more prob­lem­atic.

“This is huge, just for the fact we know what we did in the fourth quarter was un­char­ac­ter­is­tic. We don’t get taught or coached to play that way,” de­fen­sive cap­tain Duron Har­mon said, re­fer­ring to a 2721 lead that was squan­dered when the Chiefs scored 21 unan­swered points in the fourth. “So I just think for us to get out there, get that taste out of our mouths, get back to play­ing the football that we’re used to play­ing — which is Pa­triot football — that’s go­ing to be the big key this week.”

In­deed. This is about how the play­ers re­spond. While mem­bers of the coach­ing staff also said they needed to do a bet­ter job pre­par­ing the team, it still comes down to the play­ers. They’re go­ing to be fac­ing a Saints team that is also hun­gry to atone for a Week 1 loss to the Vikings on Mon­day night and fired up for the home opener. The Patriots would be wise to start fast.

“We’ve got to be at our best men­tally, phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally. This team re­ally tests you. They play very well at home,” Brady said. “We didn’t play very well last time we went down there (a 38-17 loss in 2009). We kind of got our butt kicked. So it’s a tough en­vi­ron­ment. It’s their home opener. We’re go­ing to be chal­lenged in a big way, so we’ve got to meet the chal­lenge.”

The Patriots de­fense, last year the best scor­ing unit in the league, saw the dam burst in the opener. The Chiefs feasted on big plays and long scor­ing drives. Matt Pa­tri­cia’s unit couldn’t stop the run and couldn’t stop the pass. It was a com­plete melt­down across the board.

“We pride our­self on play­ing good sit­u­a­tional football in the fourth quarter. That’s some­thing we didn’t do. We know it. We’ve been work­ing hard to fix it. Peo­ple are putting in the work. They’ve been putting in the work since the game to fix it,” said Har­mon. “I’m ex­cited about it. I’m ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity. Now we get to go up against one of the best quar­ter­backs ever, and one of the best of­fenses of the last decade. It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge for us, but we have a lot of guys on this team who are up for that chal­lenge.”

As for the of­fense, Brady & Co. could never main­tain a rhythm and failed to con­vert on two key fourth-and-1 sit­u­a­tions, which ul­ti­mately turned the mo­men­tum. By the fourth quarter, noth­ing was work­ing for that unit, ei­ther, as it con­tin­ues to find its way with­out Ju­lian Edel­man, who is lost for the sea­son with an ACL in­jury.

“When you get beat the way we got beat I think that sat with ev­ery­one for a very long time. We’re go­ing to have to go do some­thing about it,” said Brady, who is 16-4 as a starter af­ter a loss. “I mean no one else can do it for us. We’re the only guys in the locker room. No one else is putting on the uni­form. It’s only us. It’s up to us to go do some­thing about it so that’s what we have to be able to do.”

Gronkowski said the play­ers had a good week of prac­tice, but that only gets you so far.

“It starts at prac­tice and that has to carry into the first play,” said Gronkowski. “We need to make plays, get the of­fense rolling, and bring en­ergy the whole game.”

Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees has been around long enough to know the Patriots he saw on film from the Chiefs game aren’t what he’s likely to see to­day at the Su­per­dome.

“That’s a team, es­pe­cially af­ter a loss, that comes out with a vengeance,” Brees said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call this week. “We know that they are go­ing to be ready to play, and we need to make sure that we are ready to play.”

For the Patriots, it’s all about the re­sponse. An 0-2 hole at the start of the sea­son isn’t part of the plan.

TOM BRADY TOM BRADY ROB GRONKOWSKI

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