Patriots credit Week 16 victory against Bills as a turning point in their season

Elise Amendola | AP Photo

It was rare and unfamiliar territory - they weren’t playing their best football, and it was already mid-December.

After back-to-back losses nearing the end of the season, the New England Patriots found themselves at an average record of 9-5 with their playoff standings in jeopardy if they didn’t figure things out – fast.

“It was like, ‘We’re running out of time,’” said Devin McCourty.

After suffering a loss to Miami on Dec. 9, in which the team gave up a touchdown on the very last play of the game, then dropping another to the Pittsburgh Steelers the week after, it was time to make a lot of changes.

New England turned toward its running game and straightened up its defense to give themselves a hard push to finish the season strong and carry it over into the playoffs.

“We’ve found a way to play our best the last four games,” said Tom Brady. “Buffalo, Jets, had the bye, played great against the Chargers, played really well [against the Chiefs]. We’re going to need one more great game.”

McCourty went on to say that the team would have liked to be on their A-game by Thanksgiving and all through December, but after uncharacteristic consecutive losses in December, they really needed to get themselves in check if they were going to make a strong playoff push.

“Buffalo was like, ‘All right guys, this is what it takes,’ Playing at home, winning a division championship, was like, ‘Guys, this is championship-level football. This is what we need to do,’” McCourty said. “And then essentially playing another playoff game the next weekend against the Jets, we rolled with that kind of mentality.”

This end-of-season wake-up call was just what the Patriots needed. They will have to continue to play with urgency, execution and belief when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

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