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Bill Belichick sets tone as Patriots look to avoid first 0-2 start since 2001

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It wasn’t so much what New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday. It was how he said it.

In a conference call with reporters, and then later in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, his answers were short and his tone reflected how this is going to be a long week at Patriots headquarters. He sounded like a coach determined to clean up the mess from this past Thursday’s season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which means he'll be cracking his head-coaching whip.

“We learned a lot against Kansas City, certainty in the fourth quarter,” Belichick said of being outscored 21-0 in the final 15 minutes. “Hopefully we can improve on it and do a better job here the next time around.”

If they don’t improve Sunday in New Orleans, one of the more impressive early-season marks in the NFL will be in jeopardy of ending.

The Patriots haven’t started a season 0-2 since 2001, which was when Drew Bledsoe was still the team’s starting quarterback. Only the Denver Broncos have a longer active streak of seasons without an 0-2 start (since 1999).

So it’s no surprise that the urgency is rising at Patriots headquarters, with the team’s fourth-quarter fade against the Chiefs a point of emphasis.

“Just don’t quit, keep going. I’ve heard some of the players say we should have kept fighting and that’s true,” rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler said. “That stuck with me.”

In addition to attempting to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 2001, the Patriots are also hoping to avoid falling two games below .500 at any point in any season since they were 1-3 on Oct. 13, 2001. At that point, quarterback Tom Brady had only two career NFL starts and Belichick had just completed his 100th game as an NFL head coach.

For more perspective, here are some nuggets from the last time (5,812 days ago) the Patriots were two games below .500 in a season:

  • The team was still playing home games in old Foxboro Stadium.

  • The Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918.

  • Quarterback Drew Brees was less than a month away from taking his first NFL snap.

  • Jim O’Brien was the head coach of the Boston Celtics.

  • Bill Geurin led the Boston Bruins in goals scored, with 41.

  • Albert Pujols had just completed his rookie season.

  • The average price of gas was $1.31 per gallon.

Brady had used the words attitude and competitiveness after the season-opening loss, saying the Patriots needed a higher level in both areas. Belichick, as is usually the case, is setting the tone this week in hopes of helping the team achieve that.

“Obviously,” he said, “we have a lot of work to do.”