Irene forces Patriots to call an audible
Outage sends team away from Gillette, but replay of Detroit horror show follows
The New England Patriots probably thought the worst was behind them as players trudged off Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday, licking their wounds after getting clawed by the Detroit Lions in exhibition play.
The adventure was only beginning.
New England endured a bumpy flight back to Boston (Darius Butler utilizing Twitter to request some divine guidance) and the team didn't arrive at Gillette Stadium until 4 a.m. By the time most players woke up later that morning, power had been zapped at the team's facilities thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Irene, forcing the team to alter its game plan over the past two days.
A lack of power at the stadium couldn't prevent the highly unanticipated film session to review Saturday's horror show in Motown. The Patriots were forced to move offsite for a portion of Monday's team activities so that the coaching staff could break down the damage from Hurricane Suh.
"We made some adjustments, just more so as far as the facility," explained defensive end Andre Carter. "We utilized the facility real well. There was definitely some lighting and things of that nature. So we took advantage of [another site] the best way we could and we were able to watch the film, and critique ourselves from the special teams, defensive and offensive standpoint. So, whatever has happened, especially with the storm, we're very fortunate to have some resources to pretty much do what we need to do and be professional for this team."
Carter hinted the team still engaged in limited activities at Gillette Stadium despite the lack of electricity. You get a vision of players in a pitch black weight room, silence replacing the typical bombastic music that blares, as players lifted in the dark, Mother Nature unable to spare them from their daily chores.
"We shuffled down a little bit here," Belichick said. "We're working outside of the stadium today, but we should be back there in a little while and it sounds like we'll be back to normal."
Normalcy is something the Patriots are desperately craving after Saturday's throttling. Players expressed a desire Monday to get back on the practice field and start correcting the mistakes that littered Ford Field.
"It was just one of those games that, unfortunately, we didn't play to the best of our ability," Carter said. "We didn't play on a level that we expect to play on. It was just one of those games that you learn from it and just move on. That's something that we've done. ... From a player or a coach's perspective, all you can really do is say, 'OK, these are the things we need to work on and continue to grow, and these are the things we should never do again.' And that's the best way to put it."
Patriots players such as Tom Brady stressed that, while there was no excuse for the way New England played, a preseason loss is better than one of the regular-season variety, and the team hoped to take as much from the defeat as its two strong performances to open the exhibition season.
"I certainly try to go out there and expect to perform at a very high level every single game and, when I don't, it's extremely frustrating to me," Brady told sports radio WEEI during his weekly call-in Monday morning. "That's why, for a day and a half, all I do is think about the game, whether it's a preseason game or not, because, look, when you don't play to the level you're capable of, you rack your brain. Play after play, 'Why did I do that?' What am I doing? What do I have to do better?' There is an awareness created by it so you can go out and play better. I'm sure we're all -- it's not a regular-season loss, it doesn't count in the standings -- but [Saturday's loss] identifies things we have to do better."
Complicating matters was Tuesday's looming roster cutdown. The Patriots cut 11 players (and signed three others) to bring their roster to 82 players. They'll have to slice two more to reach the 80-man limit. Belichick shrugged off any suggestion that a lack of power complicated that process.
"We've been on the road before -- been away for weeks, a week at a time, whether it was the West Coast trips a couple of years ago, the London trip, or whatever it happened to be, so we're managing. We're OK.
"We weathered the storm and we should get back hopefully into a normal flow of things here [Tuesday]."
Regardless, it's certainly been a wild couple of days. Jerod Mayo laughed while noting the power remains out at his nearby home (the same was true for players like Carter living in the team hotel while waiting for final roster cutdowns).
"I did witness Hurricane Andrew... when I was in Fort Lauderdale," Carter said. "When that thing went down it was pretty rough. Fort Lauderdale fortunately didn't get hit bad compared to Miami. Miami had it rough, but I just remember that, as a kid, hurricanes were nothing to play with. They can cause some devastation. The palm trees were uprooted; there were cars that were flipped over. It was definitely one of those storms that was worse. Just kind of reading the news and hearing what cities got hit the worst -- it's definitely unfortunate, but it seems like some cities that were hit were prepared and hopefully the power will be restored and people can go back to their normal lives."
Chris Forsberg covers the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.