FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick has never been a fan of moral victories.
But a day after suffering the worst loss of his 29-year career, the longtime Patriots coach was adamant that it wasn’t an accurate reflection of his team.
“I feel like we’re better than what we played (Sunday),” Belichick said. “I definitely believe that. That wasn’t our best game. So, we’re capable of more than that. We’ve got to work to do better than that.”
Whether they’re capable remains to be seen.
New England’s 38-3 loss to Dallas dropped it to 1-3 for the third straight season. The Patriots finished below .500 in two of those years (7-9 in 2020 and 8-9 in 2022).
Any potential they have of recovering to make the playoffs like they did in 2021 is hard to spot right now, following another loss that was rife with turnovers and self-inflicted mistakes.
Quarterback Mac Jones had his worst outing of the season, throwing a pick-6 and losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Jones, who was replaced by Bailey Zappe in the third quarter, said he’s confident he can find a way out of his current funk.
“That’s one of the biggest things you take a lot of pride in as one of the leaders of the team,” he said. “As a leader, I have to play better first of all. I feel like I’ve made progress this year so far. … I definitely took a bunch of steps back. For me, just continue to be Mac and put a better product out there on Sunday.”
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Though the score didn’t reflect it, New England’s defense wasn’t a no-show on Sunday. It held the Cowboys to just two offensive scores, including one touchdown on four opportunities in the red zone.
It’s part of the reason safety Kyle Dugger, who registered a team-high 15 tackles, said he and his teammates are still very much hungry to find a way to make improvements.
“I definitely don’t see it as a step back,” he said. “I see it as we have the opportunity to look at the film and get better.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Patriots turned the ball over three times on Sunday. All three were by Jones, including his 11-yard fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Leighton Vander Esch and his interception that DaRon Bland returned 54 yards for a score to help put New England in a 28-3 halftime hole.
New England has seven giveaways on offense, fourth most in the AFC.
“We just gotta take care of the ball, first things first. We gotta keep it,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “We got a couple penalties that slowed us down on drives. The biggest thing is, when we have the ball in our hands, we have to keep the ball and be smart with it.”
Cornerback Myles Bryant forced a pair of fumbles in the second half.
Jones dropped to 17-18 as a starter for New England, and his 39.9 rating was the third-worst of his career.
As admirably as the defense played, it could be without two of its biggest contributors for the foreseeable future. Edge rusher Matt Judon left with what was announced as an elbow injury, while rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez injured his shoulder while trying to tackle Tony Pollard.
Judon leads the team with four sacks. Gonzalez has a sack and interception and was named the league’s rookie defensive player of the month for September.
0-12 — The Patriots’ record since 2019 when allowing a defensive touchdown.
The Patriots host New Orleans on Sunday.
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