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It adds up to average

Patriots face mediocrity

FOXBOROUGH -- Perhaps Bill Belichick's most overused phrase is, ''It is what it is."

There was a virtual DJ megamix of that heard yesterday throughout the Patriots' locker room when the team's 4-4 record was mentioned.

The Patriots may not embrace the tag of defending Super Bowl champions, but their surprise at having the same number of losses as wins doesn't keep them from accepting the mediocrity of a .500 record at the season's midway point.

''It's not like it was given to us and it was something that we didn't earn," linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said. ''That's what we are because we went out there and played like that."

Another reality check came from quarterback Tom Brady, as he spoke about what has to be done for the team to turn around its ''average" season. Brady said the entire team needs to pick it up, but he feels the offense must be prepared to shoulder more of the burden for a struggling defense that ranks near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories.

''Our offense has to be better than it's ever been, it really does. That's the reality of it," Brady said. ''Our defense is making changes and they're trying hard to improve. In the meantime, we have to do everything we can to pick it up and try to be better than we've ever been to help our defense out.

''Those guys are fighting through things and they're working hard. As a team, we need to carry the torch for each other.

''In order for us to win, we have to score points. There's no doubt about that. Our defense, I'm confident they're going to turn it around, and they're going to start playing Patriots-style football. I'm confident our offense can go out there and continue to score points, and really, that is what we are going to need to do in order to be successful."

The Patriots are allowing 27.5 points a game (30th in the league), and have given up 40 or more points twice at home in a season for only the second time, and the first since 1967.

After Monday's 40-21 loss to Indianapolis, the third time this season the Patriots have suffered a double-digit defeat, receiver Troy Brown said he thought the team lacked passion. Colvin said the defense's play was pitiful and embarrassing. Brady was in such a sour mood he elected not to entertain questions from the media.

''What'll help everybody . . . is to win," Brady said. ''That'll help everybody's mood. There's nobody that's really going to be in a good mood around here when you're losing. I think with this team, everyone will feel much better when we start playing the way we're capable of."

The team's four losses in two months match its number in the past two seasons combined. According to Brady, expectations that New England could continue to roll through the league were irrational.

''Every day is a dogfight. Every game is a dogfight," he said. ''These illusions that we might have, or that a lot of other people might have, that we can just show up and win . . . the reality is that doesn't happen very often.

''We've had some great years around here, but to sit hear and compare this year to last year is [a waste of time]. At some point you just have to dig out what's going on. We're 4-4, it doesn't mean the season's over."

Actually, far from it. The Patriots were 4-4 in 2001, and were 5-5 two games later, before putting together a run of nine straight wins to claim their first Super Bowl title.

''We have more work to do," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. ''We have to recognize that we still have a great opportunity, coming back with a division game on the road, and playing for first place.

''I think that obviously it's not where we've been in the past, but it's also recognizing here's where we're at, this is what we have to do -- try to battle to get back to stringing some wins together. You don't have two wins back-to-back all year, that's kind of tough."

The first game of the rest of the year is at Miami Sunday. As Vrabel mentioned, the Dolphins are 3-5, so a win over New England would put the Dolphins atop the AFC East standings.

The Patriots talk about winning the division, but more importantly, they say, improved play is the first goal, and that starts with erasing the past from memory.

''[The key is to] have a good week," Tedy Bruschi said. ''Just focus on right now. Move on and focus on a division opponent coming up on the road. That makes it a big game for us.

''That's the most important game for us this year because it's the next game."

Jerome Solomon can be reached at

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