Hannable: Inside Patriots locker room, which had different vibe following ugly loss to Lions

Ryan Hannable
September 24, 2018 - 2:31 am

Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports

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DETROIT — This was not the typical postgame locker room for the Patriots, even after a loss.

This felt different.

Following the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Lions, the locker room felt like it took a bit longer than usual to open, and then Bill Belichick quickly made his way to the podium in a room across the way for a typical Belichick press conference following a loss.

“We have to coach and play better,” Belichick said.

“We just have to do a better job,” he added.

That was pretty standard, but it was the answers inside the Patriots locker room that were different. Typically, the players who have been around awhile express confidence the team can bounce back and get things right. But, following two straight ugly losses, the first time the team has lost two straight games by double digits since 2002 — and only the third time in the Belichick era -- the leaders of the team have more questions than answers.

“We’re in the midst of some adversity right now and we’re going to find out what kind of football team we have — what kind of men we have in this locker room,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “We have to get a lot better.”

“We have to trust our process,” he added. “Our process is working hard, preparing hard, putting ourselves in positions to be successful on game day throughout the course of the week and we have to do that better and better. Obviously, what we’re doing right now isn’t good enough and then ultimately you have to execute on game day.”

While he didn’t come out and say it, Slater may have hinted things are not going as well leading up to games as they should, and typically New England is one of the most prepared teams in all of football. They don’t beat themselves, and perhaps over the last few weeks they have.

Even Tom Brady was different.

The 41-year-old rarely calls out players in public settings and he appeared to twice Sunday night. Brady seemed disappointed in Phillip Dorsett when he was asked about his interception by Darius Slay.

"We had a post off the play-action and I was just trying to throw it up early and Slay got his eyes on the ball faster than Phillip and Phillip couldn't adjust and [it was] kind of an easy interception," he said.

And then when the quarterback was asked about James White, he gave a strange answer which may have been either calling out Sony Michel for his lack of production -- 50 yards on 14 carries and one catch on three targets -- or offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for calling Michel’s number so much.

"He had a great catch and some good runs there at the end," Brady said. "He's just a great player for us. You're right. He's got to be involved. Guys who can make plays, those are the ones that should be involved, and James is definitely one of them."

For the record, White had 37 yards on four carries and then three catches on three targets for 14 yards. It was the fewest passing yards Brady has had (133) that he’s played the entire game in since 2013 when he had 116 yards in a 27-17 win over the Dolphins.

This isn’t even mentioning Rob Gronkowski going completely off the Patriots script and acknowledging he shut down a trade by threatening retirement that would have sent him to the Lions. The tight end said he would not play for another quarterback besides Brady.

Questions instead of answers and an edge we haven’t seen before were the biggest takeaways from the locker room, which some players cleared out of very, very quickly.

Saying Belichick has lost the locker room is not fair at all, but it is worth pointing out the Patriots allowed the Lions to jump out to a 13-0 lead and went three-and-out on the first three offensive drives when getting off to a fast start was a major point of emphasis this week after falling behind by double digits last week in Jacksonville.

Things don’t get any easier this week, as the team will host the 3-0 Dolphins in what has massive early-season implications on the AFC East standings. A loss would have the Patriots a full three games out of first place and four games, including the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“It’s big,” Slater said. “They are playing really well. You don’t want to fall too far behind in the division and put yourself in a tough spot. This is a huge game for us. We have to have a good week of preparation and then we have to execute come game day.”

Related: Lions react to Matt Patricia winning first NFL game

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