With steely resolve, Patriots not looking back

By Jerome Solomon
Globe Staff / September 23, 2005

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FOXBOROUGH -- No one knows who originated most of them, but there are an abundance of coaching cliches that apply to the situation the Patriots face this week.

When a team loses as the Patriots did last Sunday against Carolina, the challenge is to bounce back.

Any measure of fret over a disappointing loss could lead to a poor week of preparation, and another defeat.

As the saying goes, ''Don't let one loss beat you twice."

The Patriots have avoided that pitfall better than any team in the NFL. Not only have they won three Super Bowls in four seasons, including the last two, they have an NFL-best streak of 35 weeks of games without suffering back-to-back losses.

The last time New England lost consecutive games was in December 2002, when it lost to Tennessee, 24-7, and the New York Jets, 30-17. It was also the only season in the last four the Patriots didn't win the Super Bowl.

What's their secret? Erasure. Or as an old football coach once said, ''You've already burned those pancakes; might as well throw 'em out."

''We don't even worry about what happened the week before, win or lose," tight end Daniel Graham said. ''We take the next game ahead of us and that's where we put all our focus on.

''What happened last week has no effect on this week."

San Francisco (mid-1995 through early 1999) holds the post-merger NFL record for weeks without losing consecutive games, at 60. The 49ers lost 14 regular-season games during that stretch, but responded with a vengeance, winning nine of the games that followed losses by 10 or more points.

The Patriots have responded similarly, winning the four games after defeats in its streak by a combined 63 points, with the smallest margin being 8 points.

A team's mental toughness is a significant factor in avoiding losing streaks. And if you don't think losing two games in a row is that big a deal, consider that when the 49ers' streak ended, they lost eight games in a row and 14 of 15.

The Patriots haven't lost in consecutive weeks in three years, but they had three four-game losing streaks in coach Bill Belichick's first three seasons.

Belichick hasn't been reluctant to toss out cliches during the team's successful run.

''You've heard me saying here a thousand times: Every week is its own week," Belichick said. ''That's what I believe. I know a lot of [reporters] don't believe it, but that's what I believe and I think that's what the players [believe]. If they don't believe it, that's what they should believe.

''Last week doesn't mean anything. Next week doesn't mean anything. Right now we have a one-game season. Pittsburgh. That's it."

Coincidentally, the Patriots' opponent this week is second in the NFL with 26 straight weeks without back-to-back losses.

Of course, Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher believes his team faces a more difficult task because the Patriots enter having lost the last time out.

''They are a football team that is not used to losing at all," Cowher said. ''For them to come off a tough loss against Carolina has really probably compounded the challenge that we have."

One streak the Patriots don't own is the longest current streak of regular-season victories. That belongs to the Steelers, who have won 16 in a row, including a 34-20 whipping of the Patriots last October.

That victory ended the Patriots' NFL-record run of 18 consecutive regular-season wins. New England extracted revenge with a win at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game. Even so, and the Patriots won't admit it, this week is special because of the chance to halt the Steelers' regular-season run.

Naturally, the Steelers claim their streak isn't a factor.

''We don't think about that," Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ''We take it one game at a time. Every week we have a one-game season.

''This week we are 0-0 and going against New England."

Yet if the Steelers lose, rest assured they will be ready to move on.

That's how the Patriots feel about the Carolina game.

''I think that what's happened is really done; you have to move on," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. ''We realize that we lost and we were disappointed by it and we were frustrated after the game.

''I don't think we really say, 'We've really got to play well this week because we lost last week.' No. You've got to play well every week. If you don't play well against any team, you will get beat."

Jerome Solomon can be reached at

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