FOXBOROUGH - When Bill Parcells coached the Patriots, he often said, “You are what you are.” If you were 0-2, then you were 0-2.
But even though the 2001 Patriots are 0-2 and quarterback Drew Bledsoe was carted out on a stretcher after the game with a mild concussion, making what they are seem evident, the team believes it is better than that.
How do these players figure that? They just do.
“The team really deserved better today,” said New England coach Bill Belichick, who did admonish his squad for four turnovers in a 10-3 loss to the New York Jets yesterday in the home opener at Foxboro Stadium.
Certainly, had Marc Edwards not fumbled twice, and had Bledsoe not thrown an interception in the end zone to wreck what could have been a game-turning drive, the results might have been different. But then again . . .
There were uplifting pregame and halftime ceremonies in tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the firefighters and policemen who aided in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center in New York.
While the Patriots seemed on an emotional high at the start, they couldn’t get the job done.
Bledsoe wasn’t able to come out for the final series, because at 4:48 of the fourth quarter he sustained a brutal sideline hit by Mo Lewis, which knocked Bledsoe unconscious for a few seconds.
Bledsoe was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital for observation after the game, and a source close to Bledsoe said he had a mild concussion.
The source, who has no medical background, said Bledsoe, who was joined at the hospital by wife Maura and some teammates, was coherent and “doing better than I thought he would be doing.”
Another source said Bledsoe had sore ribs that may be cracked.
Hospital officials would not say whether Bledsoe was held overnight; they would only confirm that he was under observation.
“I shouldn’t have put him out there,” said Belichick of Bledsoe, who did return for one series after the hit. “Watching him play, he wasn’t himself. He got his bell rung. When I went over to him he seemed coherent and said he was OK. But after watching him I didn’t think he was. I told him what decision I had made. He understood.”
Bledsoe stood on the sideline rooting for Brady, who took over with 2:16 remaining at the Patriots’ 26.
Brady made a couple of first downs - a 21-yard pass to David Patten being the longest gain - but a pair of passes toward the end zone on the game’s last two plays didn’t connect.
“We’ve got a lot of games to play and there are signs that we can compete,” said linebacker Bryan Cox. “We’ve just got to look at the film and digest. They ain’t going to cancel the season.”
While Cox saw signs of hope, there were certainly pockets of concern as well.
Defensive end Bobby Hamilton couldn’t figure out why the defense struggled in the third quarter. Yesterday it allowed a 93-yard touchdown drive for the winning score, capped by Curtis Martin’s 8-yard run, in the third.
“I don’t know what it is about the last two games,” said Hamilton. “We practiced all week playing 60 minutes of football. That was in our heads all week. We do some good things and then we have that problem. I don’t understand it. We know we’re better than that.”
Safety Lawyer Milloy knows the team can’t keep saying it is better than 0-2 for too long. “We kept saying we were better than what we were [last year], and all of sudden we’re at the end of the season and we have five wins,” he said.
The Patriots offense took the kickoff to open the third quarter and set up shop at its 17. But then it drove down the field with ease, making five first downs.
On second and 7 from the Jets’ 10, Edwards ran up the middle for 3 yards, but he got a good pop from linebacker James Darling and fumbled. Steve Martin recovered at the 7 with 8:48 remaining.
“I’ve gone preseason, all kinds of practices, and last week never putting the football on the ground,” said Edwards. “I let the team down. It’s horrible. There’s no excuse for it. It’s about as frustrating as things get.”
With 9:22 left, Bledsoe started a drive at his 31. He went up top for a 58-yard pass to Troy Brown down the left sideline, as beautifully thrown a ball as you’ll ever see, to the Jets’ 11. On third and goal from the 8, Bledsoe threw to the end zone, looking for Charles Johnson. But it was picked off by James Farrior, who returned it 47 yards to the Jets’ 44.
Then came another mistake by Edwards. With 2:52 left, Bledsoe tried a shovel pass to Edwards that went for 2 yards to the Jets’ 36. But John Abraham popped the ball loose and recovered the fumble.
The Patriots ran for 66 yards on 12 carries in the first quarter.
The Jets’ defense was completely discombobulated, and New England eventually got a 24-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, making it 3-0 with 52 seconds remaining in the first.
The Jets marched 89 yards late in the second quarter, and John Hall’s 26-yard field goal with no time left tied it.
The Patriots had some shots in the second half. But they couldn’t pull it off, and today they are what they are: 0-2.