- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If the Patriots' 7-5 record didn't make it abundantly clear, running back Laurence Maroney made sure to stress it Monday: This isn't 2007.
Fair or not, the 2009 Patriots have been saddled with the expectations of that record-setting and near-perfect campaign. But on the heels of yet another frustrating loss, a 22-21 setback in Miami, Maroney said the comparisons need to stop.
And just to be safe, this isn't 2001, 2003 or 2004, either.
"We need to stop living in the past," said Maroney. "The focus is on what we do now. This group needs to make a name for ourselves.
"Everybody definitely wishes we were better, and we know we should be better, but it's all about finishing right now for us. That's what we've been having a problem with: finishing. Our whole focus right now is playing 60 minutes and finishing from here on out."
The irony, of course, is that a Patriots team that hasn't been able to finish games all season is suddenly fixated on finishing strong. If this were any of those prior Super Bowl teams, you might be able to believe in it. But there's more than a bit of doubt as to whether this year's team is up to the task.
Remember, this Patriots squad features just four players from the 2001 Super Bowl team that defeated the Rams. While the coach and quarterback remain the same, the locker room has undergone a massive overhaul, even since the 2004 Super Bowl victory over the Eagles.
As the Patriots proved Sunday, just because teams from earlier this decade rarely lost two games in a row, that doesn't mean this team can avoid trouble in similar fashion.
Just because the jersey is the same doesn't guarantee the result will be.
"That's part of the business," said defensive end Jarvis Green, a veteran of two Super Bowl championships. "Coaches change, players change. We have a pretty old team as far as average age -- a lot of veterans -- but [the Super Bowls are] the past. This is 2009. Now we're 7-5 and that's what we're thinking about right now. We've got Carolina this week, and that's what we're worried about."
James Taylor's "Carolina on My Mind" might as well have been pumping through Patriot Place instead of Christmas music. Even coach Bill Belichick stressed that there's no reason to harp on the past when all you can control is the future.
"We're 7-5 and there's a couple of teams behind us that are 6-6," said Belichick. "I don't think it matters how they got there. Whether you won seven [in a row], then lost five, lost five and won seven, or came up somewhere in between. I don't think it matters.
"It's a four-game season, [but] right now, it's a one-game season. With Carolina, we'll turn our attention there and put everything we have into this one. We'll worry about next week next week. We've just got to play better, we've got to coach better, we've just got to do a better job than we did [Sunday]. We've got to recommit ourselves to that."
What remains to be seen is who steps up to take a leadership role. On a day when the Patriots desperately could have used veteran voices to stand in front of the cameras and declare that all would be fine, only Maroney and Green faced the music.
Even Belichick seemed a bit more somber during his time at the podium.
Maroney, who in recent weeks has talked only on Friday because of his streak of good play, didn't mind breaking his routine and hoped to change the fortunes of this year's team in the process.
The fourth-year running back stressed how the Patriots still have a one-game lead in the AFC East and that they still control their own playoff destiny, a luxury even the 2008 squad never enjoyed. He said that there's no panic in the Patriots' locker room, despite all the question marks surrounding the team's play.
"Man, what's that saying? 'Things happen,'" said Maroney. "That's basically what it is. You have to live with it. You can't really cry over spilled milk. We lost, it's over with. You have to move on, get better from here.
"People can lose focus, but we've still got to let them know that we control our own destiny. We're one game up now. Everything is a lot closer now, but we still control our own fate. Instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to lose, we're still in the driver's seat. We've got to go out and keep fighting."
Maroney might have suggested that that's exactly what the Patriots teams of the past might have done, but he's concerned about only the 2009 squad right now.
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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