FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Accountability.

That was a topic of discussion as wide receiver Chris Hogan and center David Andrews addressed the media at Gillette Stadium after the New England Patriots latest road loss, a 17-10 defeat at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

“We still have some really important games in front of us,” said Hogan, mindful that home games with Buffalo and the New York Jets the next two Sundays remain, with the AFC East division title still up for grabs. “So today is just a day to kind of reflect on what we did in the game and correct the mistakes.

“I think the big thing is just holding ourselves accountable and moving on, knowing that these next couple of games we have in front of us are very, very big games. I know the guys in this locker room and I know what type of men they are and type of players they are and I think they’re going to hold everyone accountable to going out and playing the best football we have all year.”

Fourteen penalties for 106 yards aided the Steelers’ cause at Heinz Field, and while Andrews put much of the blame at the big men’s feet.

“It’s not good,” said Andrews. “We’re a pretty prideful group. … We’ve been letting our teammates down and it’s not easy when you’re watching the film and you’ve got a good play and you’re stopping yourself and you’re putting yourself in third and 15 and second and 15. That’s a hard way to play football.”

Indeed, much of the blame can go to the offensive line, which had three holding penalties and three false starts.

“Offside penalties aren’t fundamentals, necessarily, but the holdings and things like that, it’s all the result of poor fundamentals,” said Andrews, “so we have to do a better job of that and hold ourselves accountable for it.

“We just have to be better.”

The loss was the second straight for the Patriots – both on the road after a 34-33 loss at Miami – which is a repeat of the two-game slide in September when they rebounded from losses at Jacksonville and Detroit to win six straight.

Andrews wasn’t buying when asked if the “been there, done that” aspect, the bounceback ability it showed earlier this season, would benefit his team going forward.

“I don’t think losing any games ever really helps you, so you’ve just to learn from your mistakes and move forward,” said Andrews, one of the team captains. “Unfortunately, it comes at a loss, but we’ll make it right and move forward here this week.”

AS DIFFICULT AS it was for Patriots fans to watch another road loss, New England’s chances for a first-round bye in the playoffs are not lost.

The Patriots would be the AFC’s No. 3 seed if the season ended after Week 15, playing Baltimore at home in the wild-card round. Kansas City is still the No. 1 seed and Houston is No. 2.

But if history is a guide, and the Patriots can beat their division foes – Buffalo and the Jets – in Foxborough over the final two weeks, they could reclaim the No. 2 seed if the Texans lose one of their final two games. Houston plays at Philadelphia on Sunday, then finishes at home against Jacksonville. New England holds the tiebreaker over Houston if both teams finish with the same record.

If the Texans win out and New England wins the division, the Patriots would host either the Ravens, Colts or Titans in the wildcard round. In this scenario, a New england win would set up a divisional round game in Houston.

It might be the long way around, but the Patriots may still end up playing in Kansas City for the AFC championship.

IN THE WAKE of his team going 3-5 away from home, Coach Bill Belichick was asked if this Patriots team mentally tough?

“I think it’s a tough group of players,” he said. “Like anything, like any year, there’s always room for improvement, and that’s the way it is every year. We always try to perform at our best in every area, whether that’s mental toughness, situation football, running game, passing game, kicking game, you name it. We always try to perform at our best and being physically and mentally tough is a big part of this game.”


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