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Reports of the New England Patriots’ imminent demise may have been premature.
Bill Belichick and the Tom Brady-less Pats have stormed back from their 2-5 start with four wins in their last five games to get back to .500, punctuated by Sunday’s 45-0 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers.
While it remains a long shot for the Patriots to capture their 12th consecutive AFC East title – they trail Buffalo (8-3) by 2 ½ games entering Monday night and Miami (8-4) by two — they at least have positioned themselves back into the conversation for a playoff berth.
“We understand what position we are in, and everything is pretty much in front of us,” Patriots quarterback Cam Newton said after scoring two rushing touchdowns against the Chargers. “We just really got to hone in and focus on the opponents we have to face that week, and maximize each and every opportunity we do get. I think if we keep that going on, we’ll be in good graces.”
The Patriots (6-6) will remain on the West Coast to practice at UCLA this week ahead of Thursday’s game against the Rams (8-4) before closing out their season with divisional games against the Dolphins, the Bills and the currently winless Jets (0-12).
“We’ll see. Next week is a new week. We’ll see where we are on Thursday,” Belichick said.
“I think the best way for us to look at it is just, every game, we want to go out and win,” running back Damien Harris said. “Obviously, we know the circumstance of the season, but, regardless, our job is to go out and win. That’s the business we’re in… Talking about the postseason, that’s not something we’re that focused on. Every game, we just want to go out and win.”
While Newton has thrown only five touchdown passes in his first season in Foxborough, the former league MVP’s two rushing scores Sunday gave him 11 for the season, the most among NFL quarterbacks.
The Pats also scored twice on special teams Sunday: a 70-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski and a 44-yard return on blocked field goal by Devin McCourty.
“I think for us, it’s my belief that we’re starting to find out our identity and who we are, and how we’re going to have to win,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “Maybe it took a little longer than we would have liked, but I still believe in the culture we have here.
“It starts with our head coach and our ownership and I think the culture we have is very sustainable if you do it the right way.”
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