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Patriots search for “better” after 2-2 start

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 01: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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The Patriots lost twice during all of 2016, even though they didn’t have quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games. This year, with Brady during the first four games, they’ve already lost twice.

To little surprise, coach Bill Belichick had little to offer by way of specifics to explain the performance. Here’s a sliver of his post-game press conference, from the transcript provided by the team. The key word is “better.”

Q: Is there any explanation for how some offensive players can go unaccounted for on certain plays?

BB: Yeah, we didn’t do a good job.

Q: This is the third straight home game where you’ve trailed in the fourth quarter. Is there any similarity between these games?

BB: I don’t know. They were all different teams. We’ve just got to play better, coach better. We’ve just got to do a better job. It just wasn’t good enough today.

Q: It seems like there are some miscommunication issues in the secondary that are leading to big plays for the opponent’s offense. What is the difference between this year and last year in that regard?

BB: Yeah, well, look, we made some mistakes. They made some plays. We’ve just got to do a better job. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching, a better job of playing. We need to do better in all three phases for 60 minutes. It’s just too inconsistent.

Q: Are some of the mistakes in communication the same week-to-week or are there different looks each week that are causing different problems?

BB: Well, look, whatever they are, they are. OK, I mean, we play a different team every week. Nothing’s quite the same, so in the end the team we play against we’ve got to do a better job of defending. We’ve got to do a better job of attacking, got to do a better job of field position in the kicking game. We just need to do a better job in every area, so that’s what we’ll work on.

Q: How would you assess Stephon Gilmore’s adaptation to learning your defensive scheme since his arrival here?

BB: I think collectively as a total team -- offense, defense, special teams -- we’ve all got to just do a better job. We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better, got to play together as a team better. We’ve just got to do a better job.

None of what he said (or didn’t say) is surprising. What’s surprising is the fact that he needed to say it, over and over again. The Patriots, who a month ago were seen by many as a potential 19-0 juggernaut are currently not over .500 with 25 percent of the season in the books.