Tough loss leads to self-study

Proper execution of plays the focus of coach, players

FOXBOROUGH — While much of the outside focus was on the officiating in Sunday night’s Patriots-Ravens game — and on coach Bill Belichick’s reaction to it — inside Gillette Stadium, the concern was more about the Patriots’ execution. Or lack thereof.

“We had some opportunities,” Belichick said Monday. “Collectively as a team — players, coaches, offense, defense, special teams — all of us just have to do a better job and take advantage of the opportunities that we have and make a little more out of them than we have the last two weeks.”

The Patriots, after all, had chances to reverse the outcome in each of their two losses in the final minutes. Quarterback Tom Brady and the offense had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a lead against the Ravens, and they weren’t able to build on it — or take enough time off the clock — in either instance.

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“Obviously, we missed some opportunities to score touchdowns in the red area,” Belichick said. “Baltimore hit theirs in the red area and also slightly outside of it, 20, 25-yard line, that area. Those were big plays.”

Belichick also mentioned the turnover chances that the Patriots missed. Against Baltimore, there were two opportunities for interceptions by Devin McCourty and one by Kyle Arrington.

“Offensively, we had some negative plays that slowed down our drives or took us out of field position or negated positive plays that we had, however you want to look at it,” Belichick said. “You could go right through the game, from the first quarter to the fourth quarter and find those plays.

“You get in a tight game like that, one play, 3 points, field position, any of that can make a big difference.”

In the end, the takeaway was that the Patriots have to do better — on defense, in the running game — when the opportunities are there.

“You’ve got to be able to make a play in those last couple of minutes . . . ,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “And obviously we didn’t do those things towards the end of the game there that would have helped us win.”

There was no single play that Belichick was able or willing to point to, but he said that playing the way they did on Sunday will not get them into the playoffs.

“It’s a fine line between a good play and a bad play in this league,” Belichick said. “It’s a lot of little things.

“There’s no one thing, no one play, no one person. Collectively, we’re a couple plays short of having a couple more wins. But we don’t, and we have to do a better job.”

Situation having an effect

Belichick wasn’t the only one frustrated with the officials Sunday. After the game, linebacker Brandon Spikes tweeted, “Can someone please tell these [expletive] zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint.”

Ninkovich said about the tweet, “Spikes is a passionate guy. That one particular play that we did have the sack on, they did throw a flag, and I’m sure he was upset about that. But, again, that’s football. You’ve just got to deal with it.”

Ninkovich elaborated a bit on how the situation is affecting the players. He said it has been frustrating at times this season.

“You watch the tape, there’s things that you wish were called and things you wish weren’t called,” Ninkovich said. “You can’t really dwell on all the calls that were made because it’s not going to change the outcome. So we move on.”

Asked if the uneven officiating might lead players to adjust the way they play, Ninkovich said, “You can’t really look at that because obviously that’s not something you can control.

“As a player you just do your best to not really pay attention to the flags that are being thrown and just play as hard as you can. You’ve just got to deal with it.”

Positive sign for Vollmer

Sebastian Vollmer played every snap at right tackle Sunday, a positive sign in terms of the health of his back. Vollmer had a procedure on the back this summer, after having major surgery on it in 2006, resulting in him missing his sophomore season at the University of Houston . . . Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger all lost Sunday, the first time they all have lost in the same week, according to NFL Network research . . . Bills running back Fred Jackson, who suffered a right knee injury in Week 1 and hasn't played since, said he will practice Wednesday and may return Sunday against the Patriots. Meanwhile, fellow running back C.J. Spiller wouldn’t rule himself out after being carted off with a shoulder injury Sunday against Cleveland . . . After Sunday’s game, former Patriots and UMass safety James Ihedigbo said, “Any time you get a chance to go against your former team, it’s kind of personal. I went into this game with that kind of mentality, and when you put the history of these two teams on top of it, it just became a very personal and emotional thing. It was great the way it turned out. It couldn’t be any sweeter.”