CINCINNATI -- On most Sundays, Tom Brady and his offense would have no problem overcoming 13 points surrendered to the opposition.
But 2013 has proven to be a struggle out of the gate for the Patriots offense, which is averaging just 19 points per game as it continues to play without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was joined on the inactive list by starting running back Stevan Ridley in Week 5.
Those struggles reached a nadir on Sunday in Cincinnati, as Brady was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 53 games and the Patriots were unable to find the end zone in a 13-6 defeat.
The offensive output overshadowed what was, at least from the outside, another standout defensive effort, though cornerback Aqib Talib was among a chorus of defensive players who were not satisfied following the game.
"Definitely not, man, we lost the game," Talib replied when asked whether he felt the defense had played well enough. "We let them come down, drive on us in the fourth quarter and score that touchdown. We could have played better."
The Patriots allowed just one touchdown, a running score from former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis, that culminated an extended drive. It was that series that Talib pinpointed as an example of where his group should have been better.
"That drive at the end, we've just got to, as a defense, we've got to stop them on that last drive, whether it's the last play on fourth down or one of the third downs we gave up," he said. "We've just got to be able to stop them on that drive."
Echoed safety Steve Gregory, "In the end, we just didn't make enough plays to win the game. That's how sometimes it is in this league, you've got to play your best and overall, throughout the entire game, we just didn't play our best. There were a few things here and there that ultimately led to us losing the game."
While the Patriots themselves aren't examining their defensive effort as a silver lining -- coach Bill Belichick said, "I don't think we did a good enough job anywhere -- it's fair to say that the group more than held up its end of the bargain."
Talib keyed the effort to neutralize star receiver A.J. Green, who finished with just 61 yards on five catches. The defensive front produced four sacks, including 1.5 from rookie Chris Jones, the first of his career. All that came without nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.
But, as Gregory pointed out, the Patriots measure their efforts in wins and losses, and Sunday they came up short in the one category that matters.
"We'll need to get back, work on the things that we didn't do so well, try to find ways to win games," he said. "That's the main goal, to win the game."
And, while disappointed in an effort to achieve their goal, the Patriots will be back to work tomorrow, starting fresh with the 5-0 Saints coming to town.
"Next week is a new week, man," Talib said. "We feel this loss until we get back to work tomorrow and then we get into whoever we've got next."