FOXBORO -- It's a word that seems to rule the Patriots universe: consistency. Players who want to play need to show it. It can be heard in the soundbites provided to the media. And the team fosters it as much as possible with its schedule.
Lately, it's eluded the Patriots on the field. In Week 14, they beat one of the best teams in the NFL when the Texans came to Gillette Stadium. They lost to the Niners the following week after spotting a second-year quarterback a huge lead and responding with a remarkable comeback that fell short. Then they beat the Jaguars, but without playing close to their best game.
When the Patriots play the Dolphins on Sunday, their hope is that they can rediscover the consistency that's eluded them.
"We try to do that every week," Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. "This week, every week, the early part of the season, end of the season, middle of the season. Yeah, its always about consistency. I think you can look at every team in the league and find good plays and players doing things really well. These are professional football players: theyre very talented, they can do a lot of things. The good teams, the good players, they do them more consistently. Its not about talent as much as it is consistent performance teams and individual players. Its all connected."
Tom Brady echoed those same thoughts yesterday.
"I think its about playing consistent football and I think weve got to do a better job of that," Brady said. "It hasnt been as consistent as we would have liked, but weve still got a chance to improve it. And really, if were consistent this week, which I hope we are, thats ultimately whats going to help us win this game, not really what happened in the previous month or two months. Our goals are ahead of us and thats where were looking and thats the direction were heading in."
The rest of the Patriots know what their coach and quarterback are looking for, and they're trying to find it in the most obvious of places first.
"I think it just gives us reason to want to get better to go out there and practice hard and do what we need to do to get better," Wes Welker said today. "I think it's constantly us just trying to push each other in the right direction."
Vince Wilfork said that sometimes finding consistency is as easy as getting on the right track early, and letting it find you from there.
"We have to do a better job of starting games," he said. "We can play with anybody, we can play for 60 minutes, but there's just so much up and down. Part of that is how we start. We gotta do a better job of starting fast. That's gonna be the motto here from here on out: Start fast and finish strong. It's a good week to start this week. last week of the season, being at home, division game, against a team that's not gonna come in here and lay down."
However it happens, if the Patriots can find some consistency before the end of the regular season, it would be an opportune time for order to be restored to their football universe.
Playoff football awaits.