The New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory.
The Patriots entered Sunday's game against the New York Jets at 2-4 with an 0-4 record at home, their worst start to the season at Gillette Stadium in nearly 30 years.
New England was 9-13 over its first 22 games since Tom Brady's departure following the 2019 season, and that uncharacteristic futility isn't sitting well with veteran safety Devin McCourty, who has criticized the team's performance (as well as his own performance) on multiple occasions this season and appeared to question the Patriots' defensive play-calling in a Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"We were in a tough call for the route they ran," McCourty said last Sunday of CeeDee Lamb's game-winning touchdown reception in overtime. "They dialed up a good play for what we tried to do, kind of situational football."
The Patriots safety then implored his teammates to improve in all aspects of the game ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Jets.
"We've got to be better this week," McCourty said Wednesday. "Offense, defense special teams, first quarter to the fourth quarter. ... We've got to have that this week."
During an appearance Sunday on NBC Sports Boston's "Patriots Pregame Live," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer suggested McCourty's public comments about the team's struggles this season have caught the eye of others in the organization.
"Listening to what Devin McCourty said last week, you can kind of see it," Breer said. "Typically these things get taken care of behind closed doors, but seeing Devin McCourty publicly talk about the state of the team I think at least set off some alarm bells down there.
"There's a feeling that I've gotten from some newcomers on the team that maybe it wasn't as tight an operation as they expected it to be. I think the question is going to become whether some of the older guys who aren't what they were on the field -- guys like Dont'a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy -- are able to get through to the younger guys."
Breer also noted that the Patriots have been uncharacteristically sloppy this season, from already allowing a pair of blocked punts to taking 36 penalties through six games after being the league's least-penalized team last season with 62.
"I think the details are kind of what's slipped here, and this is going to be a really interesting Sunday from that perspective," Breer added.
The Patriots indeed need to rediscover their identity and winning mentality in the post-Brady era. Veterans like McCourty are crucial to making that happen, so perhaps his remarks can serve as a wake-up call to get New England back on track.