There is a different feel about the preseason in New England. Training camp has been more intense. Double practice sessions are more prevalent. And Tom Brady said after the team's preseason opener in Philadelphia that the team is "on a mission this year."
It's no surprise then, that head coach Bill Belichick's postgame assessment of the Patriots 7-6 Aug. 20 loss to the Bengals at Gillette Stadium was overtly critical even for the always perfection-minded coach.
"I think it was pretty obvious out there tonight that we certainly have a lot of work to do and a long way to go," Belichick said. "I thought that we were pretty sloppy in every area of the game, had a lot of penalties, didn't convert on third downs, missed too many tackles. We just generally had too many mistakes, too many errors in every phase of the game with every unit pretty much in every area.
"It was just an inconsistent performance that, even though there were some positive things it was, especially offensively, overridden by mistakes. Quite a few of them were self-inflicted. Defensively we had our opportunities and didn't take advantage of those as well as we should have either. We have a long way to go. We have lot of work to do."
As happy as Belichick had seemed with a win over the Eagles a week earlier, and to some degree with all the work his team had achieved in an intense first few weeks of August, that all came crashing down against the Bengals.
|Cincinnati Bengals Chris Henry Catches TD vs New England Patriots DB Terrence Wheatley Aug 20, 2009 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)|
The game included endless penalties and situational errors from players top to bottom on the Patriots' depth chart. That included Brady, who took his first big hit of the year on a Robert Geathers' seven-yard sack.
"There was a foul up on the play and he was a part of it," Belichick said of Brady getting the so-called monkey off his back with his first real contact of the summer. "That's what happens when you don't do the right thing against another good football team. They make plays and they hit you. Give Cincinnati credit for taking advantage of our mistakes."
According to Belichick there were plenty of mistakes and far too many for his liking and for a football team expected to be among the best in the league. He was unhappy and he let his players know it.
"Wouldn't you be? I mean, it's a loss," Fred Taylor said. "Aside from that -- that would piss me off more than anything -- but it wasn't good football. You have to play good football."
Even if it is just the preseason. Especially when you play for Belichick.
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