Commentary

Patriots get off mat, deliver knockout

New England puts heartbreak in the past with decisive victory over Jets

Updated: November 23, 2009, 1:44 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie receiver Julian Edelman had heard all about one of the defining characteristics of the New England Patriots from his time at Kent State. After a loss, his college coaches routinely told players they had to bounce back -- like the Patriots.

This week, Edelman got an up-close view of that resiliency.

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick
Stew Milne/US PresswirePatriots coach Bill Belichick was "really proud" of the way the team handled itself Sunday.

He saw quarterback Tom Brady set a hardworking, don't-feel-sorry-for-us tone. Then he listened as veteran linebacker Junior Seau -- who hasn't played the past three weeks but has provided important leadership in the locker room and team meeting room -- delivered motivational words.

These are some of the things that unfolded behind the scenes after the Patriots had been devastated by a heartbreaking 35-34 loss to the Colts on Nov. 15 and had to hear questions all week about the now-infamous fourth-and-2 call.

"They're just great leaders," Edelman said of the message provided by Brady and Seau, who urged the players to have a short memory in trying times.

Otherwise, Edelman didn't see anything out of the ordinary in how Patriots players responded from arguably their most difficult regular-season loss in the past decade. He said the amazing part about it was how simple it was, "just a bunch of guys going to work, who do their job and are committed to getting the job done."

The Patriots officially put their Colts collapse behind them Sunday at Gillette Stadium, registering a 31-14 victory over the turnover-prone Jets. When coach Bill Belichick arrived at his postgame interview, it took him only 10 seconds to say, "We came off obviously a tough weekend last week."

The sting of losing to the Colts had still lingered in the immediate aftermath, but Belichick felt that by Wednesday, players had begun to turn the page, working with a strong purpose. He believed that was the springboard to the bounce-back.

"Sometimes when you're the head coach and you're in front of the team, you can kind of feel it, and sometimes you can't, but I definitely felt it Wednesday," Belichick said. "I thought that whatever happened over the weekend was gone."

With impressive resolve, players turned the shock that permeated through the locker room on Nov. 15 in Indianapolis into motivation to get things back on track.

"I'm really proud of the way they handled themselves," Belichick said.

Forgetting about such a difficult loss is easier said than done, but the Patriots have mastered the skill: They are 21-1 since 2003 after a regular-season loss.

"It was a normal week, not to say everyone wasn't disappointed with how the game ended last week," center Dan Koppen said. "Everyone knew we had to move on and get ready for a good team. I think we have guys in here who understand it's week by week, and you can't let things in the past affect what you do in the future. You can't let the Colts beat you twice, so you just let it go. [Stuff] happens."

"It was coming back here Wednesday and understanding what's really important," running back Kevin Faulk said. "Our goal as a football team, any football team, is to make it to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. At this time of year, the goal is still reachable. Last week's loss was devastating, but you have to realize what the real goal is."

Although everything collapsed so suddenly for the Patriots last weekend, the pieces fell into place nicely this past weekend.

Not only did the Patriots win, improving to 7-3 and maintaining a two-game lead over Miami (5-5) in the AFC East, but two of the teams they could be jockeying with for a first-round playoff bye -- Cincinnati (7-3) and Pittsburgh (6-4) -- lost Sunday.

Although Indianapolis (10-0) is in terrific shape to earn the No. 1 seed, the race for the No. 2 spot just got a lot more interesting. Certainly, the smiling Belichick had to have this in mind as he arrived for his postgame news conference and said "all the credit needs to go to the players."

Said Brady, "It was a long week for all of us. We put a lot into it, and Wednesday's tough to get over the emotional drain of the last game."

Faulk said weeks like this, rebounding from such a crushing defeat, can help define a season.

"It was a very emotional and physical loss that we had last week," he said. "It's very difficult, but at the same time, that's what makes your team, and that's how you know what team you have."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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