FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Almost one month to the day in which the exhausted New England Patriots returned home from an exhilarating 10-day road trip to Colorado and Mexico, the primary challenge is the same.
How well can they refill the tank?
Coach Bill Belichick acknowledged in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI that Sunday's stunning 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers summoned every ounce of energy, which is why, in its aftermath, everyone was spent.
"That game drained a lot out of everybody that coached or played in it," Belichick said. "That was a very emotional, intense football game."
Recovering from that, and matching that energy level, won't be easy when the Buffalo Bills come to town on Sunday, even though the game has significant meaning for both teams. With a win, the Patriots would remain the front-runner for the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Bills are still in the playoff hunt.
When asked his view on how the Patriots have responded in similar situations this season, Belichick said, "Some weeks better than others. I don't think it's perfect. It's certainly not all bad, but really it doesn't matter. This week is all about week, so we'll have to do a great job against a good Buffalo team."
Patriots coaches quickly turned the page earlier in the week -- by Monday afternoon, they were accelerating into Bills preparations -- and with players returning Wednesday for their first practice of the week, they'll do the same.
"Our process is what we kind of hang our hat on each week," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "In our league, you can't sit there and look back. You've got to look forward. Win, lose or draw, you have to take what you can learn from the game you just got done playing and apply those lessons to hopefully make your team better, or your unit better, as you move forward, and really get your focus turned to the next opponent as fast as you can."
Some of the best teams in Belichick's tenure (2000-present) had the knack for turning the page each week with decisiveness, and bringing a high level of energy and emotion. The 2007 undefeated team might have been the best of them all.
As for where the 2017 team will ultimately rank, it is still a developing story.
"Each team has its own chemistry and its own personality that the players on that team form every year," he said. "Really, every game is different. There's constant change in the emotions and in the makeup of the team. We'll see how we respond with this team. I know that the other teams were what they were. Some were great, some weren't quite as good. But this team will write its own story and none of us know how it'll come out. We'll see, but it's one of the challenges we face, one of the many challenges. And it's certainly present this week."