FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots players, coaches and fans are all on the same page when it comes to the team's defense. If it's going to be what we saw Thursday night in a 27-25 victory over the New York Jets, in the unit's first game without signal-caller Jerod Mayo, it simply won't be good enough.
So is this it?
I don't think so. Not even close, actually.
Players have been forthcoming when it comes to some of the communication-based breakdowns that occurred in helping the Jets ring up 218 yards on 43 carries. This contributed to the Jets to decisively win the time-of-possession battle 40:54 to 19:06.
Having lost Mayo on Sunday, and then having to play another game four days later without the benefit of a non-walkthrough practice, was always going to be a challenge. It's part of the reason my prediction for the game beforehand was so close.
No, I didn't think the defense would struggle as bad as it did, but after reviewing the game again on Friday, I think there's another reason -- well beyond communication -- that mostly produced the defensive dud.
It didn't take long to see that many of the banged-up players were running on fumes, their gas tank closer to "E." This was probably a result of playing the fourth game in a span of 18 days -- an emotional grind of highs and lows that caught up to them quickly.
Simply put, there wasn't any snap in their performance.
They struggled to get off blocks. They tackled poorly, players often going high and then being carried by the hard-charging running of Chris Ivory. There wasn't much explosion to be found on all three layers of the defense as they were like the boxer spending much of the match on the ropes but somehow finding a way to win a split decision by fight's end because of a few big shots and the toughness to hang in the fight even though they weren't at their best.
Contrast that to when the Jets delivered hits, such as cornerback Darrin Walls rocking running back Shane Vereen with a jarring body blow to end the Patriots' second drive, and it was a notable difference. The Jets were the aggressor. They were fresher.
This happens over the course of a 16-game regular season and it's why I think it's misplaced right now to make any definitive declarations about the Patriots' defense. The best thing for the individual members of the unit right now is to refill their collective tank by getting away from football for the weekend, which Bill Belichick discussed Friday.
"I think there's something to be said for a cleansing of the mind," Belichick said. "Somewhere along the line, I think we need to back off and try to find some space."
That time is now. And when evaluating a team, or a unit within that team, the feeling here is that timing is everything.
For example, the Oct. 5 game against the Bengals was viewed as a fair time to declare it a "statement" game that would tell us a lot about the 2014 Patriots. They had been blown out the week before in Kansas City, not showing much fight, and we needed to see how they responded to adversity.
They passed that test with authority, and then showed more mental toughness the next week against the Bills after losing Mayo and running back Stevan Ridley to season-ending knee injuries. No team strings those types of performances together all 16 weeks. It's just not realistic.
I think that's why Belichick said late Thursday night that the win over the Jets fell into the category of "the kind of games that you have to win during the year somewhere along the line."
Call those survival games.
Now it's about revival for the defense, and the results should soon improve.
If they don't, that would be the time to make a definitive statement on the defense.