MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- It was a simple question and, in the world according to Bill Belichick, deserved a simple answer. Shortly after the Patriots’ eight-game win streak came to an end at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, a reporter asked Belichick if there was any chance his team was looking ahead to next week’s regular-season showdown in Pittsburgh with the Steelers.
“No. Give me a break," he said. "Any questions about the game, or no?"
There were, but not many answers to be given. In the aftermath, Belichick’s players seemed to have a better grasp on the team’s performance than he was willing to offer up. A keyword kept being repeated. Energy. The Patriots felt like they just didn’t have enough.
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“We know we can’t come down here in a place like this and not play with energy,” said Duron Harmon. “We saw what happened to the Broncos. We just got behind too early and dug ourselves a hole that was too hard to come out of.”
“You gotta come down here with a ton of energy. A ton of determination,” said Nate Solder. “That's just the environment down here. We know that those guys play great at home. We know that we've had a lot of hard games here, and that just has to be the mentality.”
“They definitely played with a lot more energy than we did,” added Shaq Mason. “We got behind the eight ball and were just trying to fight uphill.”
For a team that has overcome plenty of deficits in the past, their reaction to Monday night’s slow start was troubling to Devin McCourty,
“I think it impacted us a little too much,” he said. “We knew this was a game we wanted to play from ahead but we gotta have the mental toughness that if it doesn’t go the way you want, you just gotta keep fighting.”
There was no sense that the Pats were primed for a letdown. In fact, the mood as the week went on was one of confidence but not overconfidence. Just days prior to the loss, McCourty was talking about how the team understood what they were and how they had gotten to this point - by preparing well and avoiding those bad days that eventually will catch up to you.
“We had a good week,” said McCourty. “In football, sometimes you come out and don’t play as well as you want to and that’s what it was. You play another good team that knows you well and you know them well and they’re on it a little more than you are. You’re a half step late. You saw that. It wasn’t like we never got anything going. We got some things at different times in the game but it was just too late.”
“I felt like the energy all throughout the week, all throughout warmups, I felt we were ready to go,” Harmon said. “Sometimes it’s just not your day.”
Cameras captured Harmon giving a fiery speech during the game. Most of his teammates were stone-faced in response but to their credit, did seem to respond afterward. When I asked Harmon what the message was, he went back to the word of the night.
“Just trying to play with a little bit more energy. That’s it. We wasn’t playing the way we wanted to play. We wasn’t playing consistent. Everything we talked about doing as far as a Patriot defense, we weren’t doing.”
They paid the price for that, now must quickly reset and get back after it. This is a short week, and the Steelers are waiting.