Re­cov­ery is all about char­ac­ter

Build­ing off de­feat not as­sured

Boston Herald - - PATRIOTS GAMEDAY PREVIEW - By ADAM KURKJIAN Twit­ter: @AdamKurkjian

FOXBORO — It’s an easy quote to re­mem­ber, but has been used enough times to ren­der its ori­gin more dif­fi­cult to pin­point.

The most re­cent at­tri­bu­tion harkens to for­mer Buf­falo Bills coach Marv Levy: “Football doesn’t build char­ac­ter, it re­veals it.”

The char­ac­ter trait re­vealed in the Patriots’ 42-27 loss to Kansas City on opening night was not a flat­ter­ing one. Over and over, the lead­ers on the team — in­clud­ing its pri­mary one, quar­ter­back Tom Brady — ref­er­enced ei­ther a sub­par at­ti­tude or lack of en­ergy or fight. In other words, there wasn’t just a break­down in ex­e­cu­tion in the 4227 loss, but char­ac­ter.

To­day in New Or­leans against the Saints, the Pats need to prove that old maxim has its ex­cep­tions, and that the Chiefs loss is some­thing they can build off, not be de­fined by.

The com­mon be­lief among fans is that when these types of losses hap­pen un­der Bill Belichick, the taskmas­ter turns into Darth Hoodie in prac­tice the next week and scares his team into im­prove­ment.

While there is some truth to a greater sense of ur­gency from the top down, Pats Hall of Famer Kevin Faulk said it’s ac­tu­ally not that cut and dried.

“It’s not about Bill’s de­meanor . . . it’s about you,” Faulk said. “As a team­mate, ev­ery­body’s got to be fo­cused on what’s go­ing on.”

Faulk should know. He played in sev­eral Kansas City-type losses. In 2008, the Dolphins unveiled the Wild­cat and rolled to a 38-13 win over the Pats at Gil­lette Sta­dium. Fol­low­ing the bye week, Faulk scored a pair of touch­downs as part of a rush­ing at­tack that piled up 144 yards in a 30-21 win at San Fran­cisco.

Even though the Brady-less Pats were blown out twice more that year and missed the play­offs, they showed re­solve. That, Faulk said, is not some­thing that just fil­ters down from Belichick. That ac­count­abil­ity comes from within.

“I think that’s why you get a lot of vet­eran leadership on your football team, so the coaches don’t have to do a lot of (call­ing play­ers out) and mo­ti­vat­ing,” Faulk said. “With that first loss hap­pen­ing, they know, we put pres­sure on our­selves.”

That pres­sure was ev­i­dent in open locker room ses­sions this week. Even running back Mike Gil­lislee, a free agent sign­ing from the Bills this off­sea­son, made note of it.

“As far as for me, this is my first time on this football team,” Gil­lislee said. “For those guys (who have been on the team for longer), they’re used to win­ning. That loss, it mo­ti­vated those guys to work harder. I know that they will this week and I know that I will work a lit­tle harder to just get ready for Sun­day.”

As Faulk de­scribed it, a loss that can act as more of a shock to the sys­tem nat­u­rally height­ens the aware­ness in meet­ing rooms and on the field.

“Ev­ery­body’s fo­cused,” Faulk said. “Ev­ery­body knows that what the or­ga­ni­za­tion is and what they look for in play­ers, they know that week in prac­tice we bet­ter be fo­cused on what’s go­ing on and what we need to be fo­cused on.”

The ques­tion re­mains whether it’ll be a turn­ing point or a sign of things to come. This week, there have been plenty of com­par­isons drawn to the 2014 loss at Kansas City that pre­ceded the oft-ref­er­enced “On to Cincin­nati” blowout of the Ben­gals and even­tual Su­per Bowl XLIX win.

How­ever, af­ter a 2009 rout by New Or­leans, the Pats lost again the next week to the Dolphins. The Pats did recover to win the AFC East, but were em­bar­rassed at home by the Ravens in the di­vi­sional round, 33-14. Teams can fall in ei­ther di­rec­tion. “Is it ca­pa­ble (of fix­ing its at­ti­tude)? Yeah, it is ca­pa­ble of fix­ing it,” Faulk said.

But that’s a char­ac­ter ques­tion, and only the play­ers can re­veal its an­swer.


CRUSH­ING BLOW: When New Or­leans blew out the Patriots in 2009, it was a har­bin­ger of a play­off flop against Bal­ti­more.

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