Patriots can address three key areas following their first loss

BALTIMORE -- Part of the foundation of the New England Patriots' success under head coach Bill Belichick is that they don't ride the roller coaster of emotions that can accompany thrilling wins and disappointing losses.

So they aren't about to panic after Sunday night's disappointing 37-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that magnified some of their vulnerabilities.

"It's not the first game we've ever lost," said veteran safety Devin McCourty, one of the team's captains, early Monday morning. "We've got to get back to work and go play better the next time we're out there."

It's the same process they follow after a victory, because even over the course of their just-broken 13-game winning streak that extended back to December 2018, there were plenty of areas that could be improved.

So as the players return to work Tuesday for the first of two days of work during the bye week, they'll now turn the focus on themselves. Then they will stay true to their game-specific process.

"It's a week-to-week thing. This week, it didn't work out. We didn't win, but after the bye, we have the Eagles, so we've got to watch them and see what they do well and how to stop them," McCourty said. "If we don't do those things, it's going to be the same result. I don't care who you play, you have to figure them out and put in the work that week and try to go out there and play well.

"We can't think we're going to fix every problem we've had during the season in the bye week. It just doesn't work like that. I think if it did, you'd see a lot better football teams."

Here is one viewpoint of the three areas that need the most improvement:

Stopping the run

The Boogeymen have "boogeyed" out of position against the run too often over the past two games.

When the Browns gained 159 yards on the ground last week, slippage in fundamentals contributed to it. Tackling was sloppy, but the rainy weather and slick playing surface created a situation where you wanted to see it again in more neutral conditions to assess how much of it was elements-based vs. Patriots-based.

That's why the run-centric Ravens were a good barometer to assess if the defense truly did have a deeper issue against the run. While credit goes to Baltimore, first and foremost, the Patriots weren't fitting well in the run game -- meaning they didn't have all gaps accounted for despite sometimes devoting an eighth linebacker or defensive lineman in the box.

"We just have to play better fundamental football. That's what it breaks down to -- playing down by down," defensive tackle Lawrence Guy accurately assessed.

As McCourty noted after the game, a key tenet of the Patriots' run defense -- setting the edge -- was not executed at times, opening up wide swaths of real estate for the Ravens.

These are correctable miscues.

Running the ball

When operating at peak efficiency, one of the defining aspects of the offense under coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady is that it morphs its approach on a weekly basis to exploit the vulnerabilities of the defense.

But here's a hot-button question: If the Patriots had to turn to the rushing attack to grind out a win, what is your level of confidence?

It probably isn't high, in part because the attack hasn't given McDaniels enough reason to keep calling runs.

The Patriots' 17 rushing attempts Sunday night were a season low, and part of that was obviously due to falling behind 17-0 early in the second quarter, and also a predetermined game plan to focus on tempo in the passing game.

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was hard on himself last week, pinpointing the line as the primary reason for the struggles. The holes aren't consistently there, with the combination of losing center David Andrews (IR) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (retirement) contributing to the struggles.

Maybe the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn on Nov. 24 against Dallas will be the key to turning things around, as fill-in Marshall Newhouse has struggled at times. If the Patriots can't turn to the run game to settle things down at times, too much of the burden will fall on Brady, which isn't a championship formula.

Eliminating bad football

This one is simple: When the opponent faces fourth-and-3 from your 6-yard line after a nice defensive stop on the first drive of the game, and is lining up for a field goal, there is no excuse for a neutral-zone infraction.

Shilique Calhoun's mistake gave the Ravens another set of downs, which they quickly cashed in for a touchdown. Calhoun's primary job is as a core special teamer (his 21 special teams snaps led the club on Sunday night), and Belichick seemed astonished on the sideline because Calhoun was in a "safe" situation on the play, with no real reason to rush.

So this falls into the category of "Before you can beat the other team, you have to stop beating yourself."

Defensive tackle Adam Butler had another neutral-zone infraction penalty late in the first quarter to give the Ravens another first down.

That isn't Patriots football.