BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots may not have the talent to be the best defense in the NFL, but they certainly should be much better than they’re showing.
After allowing 444 yards and 33 points on Sunday in a 33-30 loss at home to the Panthers, the Patriots have now allowed an average of 457 yards and 32 points per game.
The Patriots’ defense also stopped just three of nine third-down attempts from Carolina on Sunday, dropping their season percentage on third-down defense to just 43.5 percent on the year.
Some of the breakdowns on Sunday were glaring, too large to miss and too significant for anyone on the Patriots to excuse. While some of the plays allowed will hurt the pride of the players and coaches involved, they did try to explain — to some extent — what happened after the loss.
Devin McCourty, explaining what happened on the 28-yard touchdown pass to Fozzy Whittaker:
“Everybody motioned. It was a bad play. It had to look like a couple of idiots out there. … It was a simple motion. It wasn’t … it was bad.”
Malcolm Butler, commenting on the defense’s struggles as a whole:
“Basically, everybody’s not on the same page. We’ve just got to stick together, keep working hard and keep communicating. It starts in practice. We’ll get it done.”
Stephon Gilmore, when asked how so many Panthers receivers found so much space in the Pats’ secondary:
“It was communication. We got to get better on communication. I got to get better on communication. I just gotta get better.”
Gilmore, on the illegal use of hands penalty call that cost the Patriots late in the fourth:
“I was surprised, but I was playing aggressive and I don’t know what else I could do. … I jammed him, and [my hand] just happened to go up to his face — I mean, his neck area. So, they called it.”
Gilmore, on the frustration of the problems:
“It’s frustrating when it’s communication, when it’s not really your ability. So I gotta get better at the communication part. That’s my thought on the communication.”
Duron Harmon, when asked directly if Stephon Gilmore’s to blame for the defensive problems:
“Gilmore has been trying to do the right thing since the day he’s been here. It definitely wasn’t all him. I tell him that the whole time. You might have a mistake, but we all had mistakes, we all didn’t play the way we needed to play. It takes 11 to play great defense.”
Harmon, on the communication breakdowns:
“It’s obviously something we need to work a little harder at. Obviously what we’re doing is not good enough, so we need to go take a look in the mirror tonight and just look and realize. Are we doing enough to win? Are we doing enough to be good on defense? Are we doing enough to be a sound football team? Today we weren’t, especially on defense.”
McCourty, on the difficulties of incorporating a new player like Gilmore into the defensive unit:
“I wouldn’t even say anybody’s new anymore. We’ve been here since April, so it’s tough to still be talking about new guys and this guy’s gone, and honestly it doesn’t matter. I think we’ve all played together long enough — you say four games, but we’ve also played preseason games, we’ve had practices against other teams where we’re really straining communication, we’re practicing with loud music where we gotta signal, we do all that stuff here. We’re just not playing well, it’s not showing up on Sunday.”
Butler, on the defense overall:
“It’s not where it needs to be. We’ve got to play better. We’re beating ourselves. We lost the game ourselves. It was nothing Carolina was doing. Basically, we beat ourselves. With the penalties … we’ve just got to do better overall, in every area.”
Butler, on the number of big gain from opposing offenses this year:
“We’ve just gotta be more competitive, play harder, play smarter, play together. We just gotta play hard, everybody on the field. It’s what we gotta do.”
Butler, on what the Patriots’ defense needs to do to start improving:
“Put the tape on. The tape’s not going to lie to you. It’s going to hurt your feelings. But that’s what it takes to make you a better player and to make you play better than this game. So, you’ve gotta get in the film room. … Just gotta play better, man. Talking’s not going to do anything. Actions speak louder than words. … Just gotta play better. There’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do. Just gotta go out there on Sundays and prove it.”
Harmon, on what the Patriots’ defense can do to get better:
“We just gotta find ways to get better. We gotta work harder. Obviously we’re not working hard enough, or we wouldn’t be giving up big plays in the secondary. So we need to really lock in and we need to be better going forward.”
Bill Belichick, when asked how Fozzy Whittaker and Kelvin Benjamin were left unaccounted for on several plays:
“Yeah, we didn’t do a good job.”