Each of the New England Patriots' past five games, including Sunday's 24-20 road loss to the Miami Dolphins, has been decided by four points or fewer, a trend that quarterback Tom Brady expects to continue the rest of the way.
"Our margin of error is very slim," Brady said Monday morning on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "We can't make any mistakes or give them any opportunities. If we have plays that are there to be made, then I've got to throw it and hit it. We've got to come up with them.
"We're not winning by 30 points. Every game comes down to the end. We've just got to do a better job when we have opportunities as a team in all three phases to make plays to help us secure wins."
The Patriots not only blew a chance to clinch the AFC East, they also failed to maintain the top spot in the AFC. But thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals' loss later Sunday, New England (10-4) has the inside track to the No. 2 seed and the all-important first-round playoff bye.
Coach Bill Belichick said his team wasn't concerned about where it stands in the playoff hunt, a thought that was echoed by Brady on Monday morning.
"It doesn't matter at all," Brady said." We haven't even qualified for anything. We've got 10 wins, and 10 wins is fine, it's OK. But it hasn't gotten us anything. What we need to do is start playing better football. I think that's the only thing I really care about, is us playing better football and seeing if we can do better on a more consistent basis.
"Everyone up and down the roster has to do a better job, because, like I said, by no means are we running away from any team that we're playing; we haven't done it all year. We just haven't played well enough consistently to do that. If you're going to get in these games every week, then when we have opportunities to do it, we've got to take advantage.
"Yesterday we had opportunities to do better, and we didn't take advantage. That's why we sit here pissed off about losses. It makes for a long week when you give a game away that you really have a great opportunity to win."
Brady wasn't in any better of a mood the morning after the loss, but he was much more extensive in discussing his thoughts than he was in his postgame news conference, which lasted just 55 seconds.
"That was really one that we let kind of get away," Brady said during the 15-minute interview Monday. "We had a lot of great opportunities to win the game and to win a division title and just came up short. It's just frustrating all the way around.
"We got off to a better start than we got off to the previous, whatever, three or four weeks, and went in at halftime with the lead. It felt like we moved the ball pretty good all day, we just couldn't get enough points on the board. We've got to try to figure out a way to get the ball in the end zone."
Looking for a fourth straight comeback victory, the Patriots lost when a last-gasp pass with two seconds remaining was intercepted in the end zone. The team scored just one touchdown in four trips to the red zone, a result at least in part because the team's top target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, is out for the season and receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins missed the game with injuries.
On Monday, Brady wasn't blaming injuries for the loss.
"The truth is we had plenty of chances anyway," he said. "Is it great to have everyone healthy? Yeah, of course it is. But that didn't matter yesterday. We had plenty of chances without those guys on the field. We just have to come up with ways to score more points, because it's not going to cut it, 20 points.
"Like I said, we do things well enough at times to move the ball down the field, get ourselves in good position. But then we don't do enough to make plays when we really need to make them."