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How The Times Have Changed For the Patriots

The New England Patriots have been a powerhouse in the NFL for over a decade. Players like Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison are some of the names forever linked with the franchise. But take a look at the current roster and you’ll see, the familiar faces once associated with greatness, are no longer there.

When you compare the Patriots 2001 roster with their 2013 roster, one player remains, Tom Brady. The second longest player on the Patriots is Vince Wilfork, who was drafted back in 2004. For the past few years the Patriots have been trying to create their new crop of greatness that will keep their team atop the league for years to come.


Kevin Faulk and other Patriot greats no longer litter the sidelines, instead a new crop of greatness is being developed. (FILE:USPresswire)

Players like Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were among the guys who came into the fold after serving time with other teams and made a big impact on the way the Patriots ran their offense. They helped the team transition from the Super Bowl dynasty to a year without Brady, to two more Super Bowl appearances. Without the introduction of proven veterans, the Patriots could have fallen off the map. But they’re still elite and their challenge now isn’t to bring in more veterans, it’s to develop the young guns to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.

Stevan Ridley is working his way to becoming a great player for the Patriots organization. The same can be said for Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The past few years, the Patriots have stepped up their draft efforts in order to secure guys who they could develop. Just take for example Nate Solder and the shoes he had to fill. It’s not easy protecting Brady’s blind side, let alone as a rookie. The Patriots found a player who they believed could do the job and so far, he’s proven he’s up to the task.

The way the Patriots manage to work their rookies in is through the help of guys who have been there before. The culture they have created weeds out the bad eggs quickly. When a guy isn’t fitting the system, as Brandon Lloyd and Chad Ochocinco proved, they’re let go. The Patriots do not waste their time working with players that don’t fit their mold.

As these young players continue to improve, I think we will start to see a new batch of franchise names develop. The Patriots fill the gaps with veterans but take their time to develop the rookies that maybe not every other team would have given a chance. The way this team sticks by its younger players will only benefit them going forward. It’s easy to get frustrated but remember, the dynasty wasn’t built in a day. This isn’t the team of the early 2000s and they are going to have growing pains. New players will continue to be introduced, the systems will change, but one thing will remain, the winning culture.

It’s not about the names on the roster it’s about the effort on the field and for the Patriots that’s something that will never change.

There’s a New Look to AFC East

The Patriots have made one or two splashes so far this offseason with the releases of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd and the signings of running back Leon Washington and safety Adrian Wilson. But they haven’t been the only team in the AFC East doing work. The Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, have had their fair share of losses and gains. With the Patriots offense taking on a new look in 2013, let’s see how some of the other teams will shape up come September.


Tom Brady and the Patriots will face some revamped AFC East teams in 2013.(FILE:USPresswire)

The start of free agency saw the Miami Dolphins take center stage. Signing big names such as wide receiver Mike Wallace and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to pricey contracts. They’ve got a new look that has the potential to shake up the AFC East. However, we’ve seen big money not pan out before, and one can’t help but wonder, is this the next case of a Miami meltdown?

It wasn’t cheap picking up these big free agents, as Wallace has $30 million in guaranteed money on his five-year, $60 million deal and Ellerbe is guaranteed $17 million of his five-year, $35 million contract. They completely blew his former team, the Ravens, out of the water, as they were looking to give him just around $5 million per year with about half as much guaranteed money. Moving from Maryland to Miami was the obvious choice.

At quarterback, with his first year in the league behind him and the rookie dust shaken off, Ryan Tannehill is poised to take his game to the next level. He showed improvements over last season and started to pick up some touchdowns by the end of the year. He threw for 3,294 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 76.1 passer rating. While those numbers are nowhere near outstanding, it shows room for growth. One has to think the introduction of Wallace combined with his connection with current wide receiver Brian Hartline, will only help his game. Not to mention the Dolphins snagged tight end Dustin Keller from the New York Jets. A little addition by subtraction in the AFC East. If all these pieces line up for the Dolphins, it’s going to make playing in Miami even tougher for the Patriots.

One team that hasn’t been making waves is the Buffalo Bills. They re-signed back up Tarvaris Jackson and were planning on having an open competition for the starting role between him and Ryan Fitzpatrick. But after losing Fitzpatrick to the Tennessee Titans, that is no longer the case. The team is now holding private workouts with quarterbacks such as West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Florida State’s EJ Manuel. The Bills aren’t looking like they’ll change too much in the 2013 season and the Patriots should still find a way to handle this team with ease.

Now the team that is always in the headlines for one reason or another, the one we love to hate, the Jets are back at it again. This time their spotlight is focused on Darrelle Revis. On Friday coach Rex Ryan refuted reports that the team was shopping the cornerback to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, among others. There is also no news about who the starting quarterback will be. A competition will be held to see who gets the nod. Ryan was asked by Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN New York 98.7 FM whether or not he wanted Tim Tebow on the roster and he diverted by saying “Tim’s under contract, and I also understand that this is the early stages of building our roster, so we’ll let it play out and we’ll see what happens.” So only time will tell if Tebow Time is once again on in New York or if he’ll find a new home come opening night.

Even with all these changes, the Patriots still have the edge in the AFC East and should be well on their way to winning another division championship. However the shakeup in Miami and the problems Wallace will create for the defense is definitely something to watch. There’s plenty of work for the Patriots to do, including finding a pass rusher as well as someone to stretch the field, but there’s still some more time in free agency and we’ll see how they handle the draft come April. In Bill We Trust we say because he’s led us to championships with unlikely teams before and he can most certainly do it again.

Tom Brady: “We Didn’t Earn It”

In the AFC Championship game the Patriots took a step backwards. The balanced attack turned pass heavy and the linebackers performed a disappearing act in the second half. If you didn’t watch the game and looked at Joe Flacco’s stats, you might have thought the statistician got it mixed up. He finished the day 21/36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Tom Brady on the other hand was 29/54 for 320 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His 53.7% completion percentage was his worst of the year.

The Patriots know they didn’t do enough to win. They were on a big stage and came up short and the common sentiment after the game was one of defeat. This loss didn’t come down to one play or one side of the ball, it was a lot of little things that added up. For Brady, he knows his team didn’t make the “critical” plays when they needed to.


Tom Brady and the Patriots didn’t do enough on either side of the ball to defeat the Ravens. (FILE:USPresswire)

“You have the opportunity to win the game and we came up short. There’s frustration in that we wish we could have done better. But they’re not going to give it to you. We didn’t earn it; they earned it. They played a good game.”

On defense the Patriots had some key losses with Kyle Love and Aqib Talib both going down. The Talib injury seemed to be the Patriots achilles heal because in the second half the Ravens changed their game plan and got mighty comfortable in the shotgun. One couldn’t help but wonder if he didn’t pull up on his hamstring, would things have been different? Vince Wilfork said he doesn’t know if things wouldn’t have been different but it was a big loss.

“Those two losses were big losses for us, but all year guys have stepped in and done a great job. I think even tonight, we stepped in and we had to change a few things. Who (knows) if it would have been different if it wouldn’t have happened? We don’t know that. I just think the Ravens played better and they made more plays than we did.”

Those plays came in the red zone. Saying the Patriots struggled in that area is an understatement. All of their scoring took place in the first half and when you’re playing in the Championship game, you can’t win like that. They were 1 for 4 in the red area whereas the Ravens were a perfect 4 for 4. The offense was forced to settle for field goals when they needed touchdowns.

“We had a 13-7 lead,” said Bill Belichick. “Look, we missed a lot of opportunities tonight. We were 1-for-3 in the red area; we couldn’t stop them in the red area. We gave up too many points and didn’t score enough.”

They didn’t score because the Ravens defense was armed and ready and their fearless leader Ray Lewis knows just as well as the Patriots how big the red zone was. He had some kind words for the Kraft family and Brady saying he is “one of the greatest warriors to ever play this game” but in the end it was his defense over Brady’s offense.

“And we knew red zone was going to be big going against this team. Because they’re big in the red zone and their fast-paced offense is everything, so we really had to settle ourselves down. Again, I tip my hat off to my defense, the way we came out and never wavered.”

So now it’s the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, or HarBowl, whichever you prefer. The Patriots didn’t play a game worth of a championship. They scored 13 points, a season low, and left a lot to be desired both offensively and defensively. This one will sting for a while but may it also serve as a reminder of how hard it is to make it to the top. Now it’s the offseason so let the rebuilding begin.

Patriots Light and Faulk Honored To Be Captains

This Sunday for the AFC Championship game, the Patriots are bringing back seasoned champions, Kevin Faulk and Matt Light to be the honorary captains. Both were a part of five AFC championship games as well as the three Super Bowl titles. On Friday afternoon, Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced them during a press conference and reflected back on how the team got to this point.


Kevin Faulk will be back on the field for the AFC Championship game as an honorary captain alongside Matt Light. (FILE:USPresswire)

“Today, we’re sitting here on the eve – our family has owned this team 19 years and this is our 17th home playoff game. We have a record of 14-2…Our two captains this year have been here for five (championship games). How do you do this? It’s about having great coaches, but most of all, it’s having great players and we’ve been blessed to have some wonderful players here.”

Both Faulk and Light took to the podium to thank the Kraft family and the organization for the opportunity to represent the team on Sunday. For Faulk, being on this side of the ball, isn’t what he thought he’d be doing, but then again, he didn’t expect his NFL career to last as long as it did either.

“You never think about what is going to happen at the end whenever you are done playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volumes for the organization, the players, the coaches and just everybody around here.”

The Patriot way is something that has been engrained into players minds since the start of the Belichick era. He forms a humble team that takes each week one game at a time and stays focused on the team mission. Belichick doesn’t let his players get comfortable with their success and for Light, he remembers team meetings where all the new faces in the room would get pointed out and it would be made clear that they would have to work just as hard to repeat their success. At this year’s meeting the players obviously decided to join together and Light says that’s the key.

“Everybody talks about that foundation, about the system and everything else, but you have to have individuals that are really better than anybody else to make that work. You have to have the top, and I am not saying that they have (people) better than anybody else in the league; I am just saying you have to people that really understand what it means to be selfless and put in a lot of time and never be satisfied and all those kind of things.”

Satisfied, they are not. The Patriots know they have a target on their back and a game to win. Bill Belichick may have been excited last week to get the playoffs started, but this week he’s back to work and has his team back on schedule. After a good week of practice and with a good level of energy, he knows his team will have to be at its best come Sunday.

“I know that everybody wants to make the most of it. I think the attitude is good. We’re looking forward to playing a great football team and going out there and knowing we need to play our best to beat them but that’s the way it should be.”

And as for the coin toss, Light and Faulk have differing opinions of what is going to happen. Light says this is a big game so they’re going to take it seriously and have that conversation with the coach but as for Faulk, “whatever we’ve been doing, that is what is going to happen.” Seems like some things never change. Once a Patriot, always a Patriot and there couldn’t be two more deserving honorary captains for Sunday’s game.

One Rematch Leads Into Another

On Sunday the Patriots ran their way to victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional round. Their 41-28 win secured Tom Brady’s spot as the most winningest quarterback in postseason history and also showcased some hidden talent. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley were the stars of the show after Rob Gronkowski went down hard on his injured forearm subsequently re-breaking it. He is now out for the rest of the postseason which is something no one was expecting. But when one door closes another opens and this week the Patriots showed their depth in a new way.


We saw a new side of Shane Vereen this week and his versatility made the difference against the Texans. (FILE:USPresswire)

Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to running backs. In the second quarter Ridley picked up a TD on an 8 yard pass from Brady and then in the fourth quarter PatsNation got a surprise. Vereen outran his linebacker counterpart and scored on a 33 yard bomb from Brady. That was something we haven’t seen this season from the Patriots. Utilizing the speed of their running backs to get the better matchup and score. In all of the regular season Vereen had four touchdowns, three rushing and one receiving. Against the Texans on Sunday he had three, one rushing and two receiving. Somebody flipped a switch and it was a good call. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, Vereen played a career high 31 snaps only eclipsing the last time he faced the Texans with 24 snaps. Who knows if that would have happened had Woodhead not left the game temporarily with a thumb injury.

But while the Patriots were busy trying to get a win, one Raven was busy on Twitter voicing his opinion about their style of play. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has a problem with the way the Pats like to quick snap and catch a defense off guard. They managed to do that to the Texans again this week and it’s not against the rules so what’s the problem?

The trash talking began before the win was even posted and with guys like Terrell Suggs on this team you can be sure this week will be a media member’s dream. Lots of talk and buildup to an AFC Championship rematch. Last year the luck of Myra Kraft swayed Billy Cundiff’s kick to go wide left and the Patriots found themselves in the Super Bowl. But that was then and this is now. In Week 3 the Patriots lost a tough battle to the Ravens and you might remember how the replacement officials got to Bill Belichick and his wallet. For Brady that memory seems fresh and he knows his team will have to make the necessary adjustments for a tough matchup.

“I think the two best teams are in the finals. I mean certainly Baltimore deserves to be here and so do we, so it’s very fitting. We played them early in the year, they got us, we blew a pretty big lead there at the end, but we’re going to have to play our best game this week.”

There will be no shortage of emotion in this Championship game given the history between these two teams and the fact that it could be Ray Lewis’s last NFL game. The Patriots showed this week they still have a few tricks up their sleeves, however short they may be. Come Sunday they’ll have to lay in all out on the table to punch their ticket to New Orleans.

This Matchup With The Texans Will Be Different

This week, much has been said about the matchup between the Patriots and the Houston Texans. The Texans took a fall from their top spot and now find themselves back at Gillette Stadium to take on the team that beat them 42-14 in Week 14. It was a clean sweep for the Patriots with Tom Brady throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the Texans’ best pass rusher, J.J. Watt, was held without a sack and Matt Schaub finished the day with a 19.1 QBR. Overall a poor performance that now gives Patriots Nation some serious confidence.


Bill Belichick doesn’t expect the same type of game against the Texans this time around. A duplicate matchup is impossible to recreate so for him Sunday is a clean slate. (FILE:USPresswire)

But don’t take that confidence to the coach. In his press conference yesterday Bill Belichick, as he usually does, was quick to point out to reporters that duplicating a matchup is impossible.

“But even if it did, the chances of it matched up, the number of plays that we run and the number of defenses that they run, for it to be the exact same is infinitesimal,” said Belichick. “It’s not going to happen. I don’t think that’s really important.”

What is important is having a game plan that you know will bring success.

“It’s about being prepared to deal with whatever it is we have to deal with on Sunday and going out there and executing it well. It’s not trying to replicate a matchup, you can’t do it. ”

Once again, Belichick telling it like it is and not letting the noise get into his head. For this Patriots team the focus has always been on what is ahead, not what has happened in the past. One need look no further back than 2010 when the Patriots blew out the Jets in the regular season and then got their behinds handed to them in the playoffs. It can happen, and it does. The Patriots are obviously aware of this and are making the adjustments to make sure they don’t get caught again.

As for the Texans, there’s no doubt they have analyzed and reanalyzed the tape from their Week 14 matchup. They saw what they did wrong and what they can do to correct it. Weather will not be an issue this week as it’s supposed to be downright balmy for January with temperatures in the 40s. And another driving factor for the Texans could be the fact that some are already planning the AFC Championship game for the New England Patriots. That’s something that Arian Foster has used as locker material this week and is sure to rest as a chip on the team’s shoulders.

Some motivation for the Patriots could be the fact that Brady is one playoff win away from breaking his tie with Joe Montana for the most postseason wins by a starting quarterback. He has been this team’s leader for so long and he is a player this team will fight for. Some may say his time is running out and his age is showing, but that’s not what the coach thinks. According to Belichick he is as consistent as they come.

“He’s won a lot of regular season games, won a lot of playoff games. I think he’s a pretty consistent player all the way through.”

Consistent he is and on Sunday he’ll need to be at his best to help his team execute the game plan against the Texans. But don’t think they’re going out there to play it safe, no, as Belichick says there’s only one way to win a game.

“You don’t win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it. You have to go out there and attack. You have to go out there and make the plays you need to make to win. It’s a one-game season.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Texans Open Up Door For Patriots Heading into the Postseason

Thank you Houston! With their second consecutive loss, the Houston Texans opened up the door for the Patriots to walk into the second seed in the AFC. All they had to do was take care of Miami and the spot was as good as theirs. Well, they did their part and squished the fish with a final score of 28-0. Now the playoff picture is clear and all the Patriots have to do is focus on getting healthy.


The Patriots locked up the bye which means Aqib Talib and the rest of the banged up Pats have an extra week to heal. (FILE:USPresswire)

As for Houston, the team once praised as the best in the AFC has hit a stopping point as the regular season has drawn to a close. This week they lost to a fired up Indianapolis Colts team 28-16 and last week they took a beat down from the Minnesota Vikings 23-6. In the second half of the season they’ve gone 5-3 with two of their wins coming in overtime. Matt Schaub has thrown 10 interceptions in the past eight games after having only thrown four in the first half of the season. This team seems to be on the downward trend which is not where you want to be come playoffs.

The Patriots on the other hand seem to be on the right path once again. Against Miami, the Patriots finally came out with some spirit and got on the offensive early. They dominated the first half and were able to skate by with a lackluster third quarter and returned the “Gronk spike” to Foxboro in the fourth with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown. The front seven looked like it was playing as one cohesive unit and the secondary did their job to allow for several coverage sacks. In all the defense sacked Ryan Tannehill seven times for a total loss of 26 yards. The competition wasn’t fierce offensively but it was good for this unit to build some rhythm and have success especially with the bye next week.

Houston gave the Pats next week off and now they can also help put them in the best position to win their first playoff game. The Denver Broncos are raging hot and it is most likely that the AFC Championship will go through Mile High City. But before we get there, the divisional round needs to be won. What the Texans can do for the Patriots this week is take care of the Cincinnati Bengals. The AFC North is a strong division and the Benglas have one of the better defenses in the league. They would be a tough matchup for a Patriots team that has seemed to have a little trouble getting into the endzone lately. Especially considering their physical style of play, the ideal situation would be for the Texans to come back to Foxboro.

While the cards do not lie solely in the hands of the Texans, they still play a valuable role in the Patriots’ playoff success. All the Patriots need is for Andrew Luck and the Colts to carry on #chuckstrong and beat the Ravens and the Texans to get back on track against the Bengals. But even if it doesn’t work out as planned, by the time their first game comes around, this team will be healthy and ready for whoever shows up at their door.

Patriots Need To Get Up

With the final game of the regular season upon us and two weeks of bad play behind them, it’s about time for the Patriots to get up heading into Sunday’s game against Miami.

There is no time like the present and the hot hand usually fares best come playoff time. This week’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins is the Pats last chance to get their play in order. They’ll need to come out hard and strong to show the league they’re not sliding their way into the postseason.


The Patriots may once again rely on plays from Danny Woodhead to spark some emotion against Miami. (FILE:USPresswire)

After their painful and ugly win against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Tom Brady lit up the locker room with a few choice words. In his post game presser he was obviously upset as well he should have been. His team nearly lost to one of the worst teams in the league and their win came down to the last play of the game. Had the wind shifted and the odds not been in their favor, we could have had a much different week in Patriots media coverage.

With this week’s game now flexed to a 4:25pm start, the weather will be even colder for the Dolphins. They’ll need to layer up and will be stuck in Foxboro a little longer than they had originally anticipated. Once again they’re a team with nothing to play for and nothing to lose which could spell trouble for the Patriots. The Jaguars clearly didn’t sit back and let the Pats roll right over them. Head coach Mike Mularkey even went so far as to pass out baseball bats encouraging a physical game. If there is one obvious weakness with this Patriots team it is their trouble against physical teams. San Francisco hit them hard and we know how that ended, so hopefully this week they’ll be ready should the Dolphins decide to leave everything on the field.

20 Patriots are questionable for this matchup and that leaves me wondering if Bill Belichick is once again going to test his roster depth. I wouldn’t be surprised, but given the Brady blowup and the fact that you want to be playing your best football heading into the playoffs, it seems dangerous. Key players like Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, Aaron Hernandez are on the list. Not to mention Aqib Talib who has been suffering through a hip injury from the Sunday Night game. He’s making progress but still will most likely sit out. Dealing with injuries and the playoffs is a tough job for Belichick. He’s going to have to strike a balance to keep his core healthy but also get the team rolling with improved play.

The past two weeks have been brutal for patsnation. Some are even saying the Patriots may have peaked too early. Their performance against the Houston Texans was something to write home about and since then, they’ve fallen flat.

Miami poses an interesting situation for this team. They have two choices, they can either pull on their big boy pants and play like the contenders we know them to be, or they can slide through, again, and make preparing for the playoffs that much harder.

Problems Continue For Patriots In Jacksonville

For the Patriots, Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was an opportunity to get back on track and roll into the playoffs playing solid football. Unfortunately, one of the worst teams in the NFL nearly got the better of them and they snuck out with a 23-16 win.


Tom Brady did not look his best in Jacksonville as the offense struggled to put points on the board. (FILE:USPresswire)

Mistakes that took center stage against the San Francisco 49ers popped back up again and the defense allowed the Jaguars to score a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since week 5 of 2011. Talk about a breakdown. But it wasn’t just the defense that had miscues early on, the offense was a part of the problem too. Tom Brady threw 2 interceptions, the first of which was a tipped ball and the second was a floated pass to Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd appeared to make no effort to prevent Derek Cox from getting a hold of the ball. Brady was later shown on the sidelines berating his offense, as he should, and finally in the second half things started to pick up.

This lackluster performance raises questions about the Patriots heading into their final game of the regular season. It’s no doubt the secondary was a lesser unit this week as it featured the likes of Marquice Cole and Tracy White who both had five tackles. And with Aqib Talib still battling a hip injury, this newly formed group didn’t do much to show they can rise to the occasion. Talib was seen grabbing his hip every time he was on the field on Sunday so it will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick decides to downgrade him to out next week as a precaution. Chad Henne threw the ball 51 times for 348 yards and was only sacked once. As they tend to do, this defense made the opposing quarterback look like a superstar at times.

But even with the defensive questions there is some hope in that the front seven held the Jags rushing game to only 93 yards. Granted they were without their leading rusher but a stop is still a stop. Chandler Jones came up big in the fourth quarter with the lone sack and a hit on Henne to force the interception that would end the game. It was great to see his resurgence after remaining relatively quiet since he returned from his ankle injury. So while there is consistency in some areas, in others, especially tackling, there are questions that have yet to be answered.

Offensively, Brady was off to start the game. There seemed to be a disconnect between him and Lloyd until the second half. The biggest question that seems to be out there is if the Patriots know that Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez run the risk of double coverage, why aren’t there more plays that put others in their spot? It has been good to see Michael Hoomanawanui finding his way into the mix and it has made a difference. Welker is old reliable, but especially when the playoffs begin, it will be difficult to have him carry the load. It’s important for Josh McDaniels and Brady to find a way to make guys like Danny Woodhead burn opponents with those short passes that allow them to keep the pace of a no huddle offense.

Jacksonville could have easily turned into a trap game but the Patriots did enough to win. Henne is good against tough competition and the Jaguars gave the Patriots all they could handle. Luckily for the Pats, there are two halves to every game and they were able to come out in the second half as a changed unit. There are still a lot of mistakes to correct and with one more game to test the roster depth, we might be in for a close game against Miami next week.

Pats Need To Get Back On Track Against Jacksonville

Sunday’s game for the Patriots is a chance for the team to get back to the high level of play that is expected of them. After Sunday’s disappointing performance against the 49ers, this week during practice the Pats had a lot of mistakes to fix. From fumbles to dropped passes and special team breakdowns it seems like the team could benefit from playing someone like Jacksonville. On Sunday we will see if they got back to basics and are prepared to hold their intensity against lower competition.


Tom Brady took the load last week but this week the Patriots need to restore their balance offensively. (FILE:USPresswire)

Currently the Jaguars at 2-12 are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the worst record in the league. Their poor performance this season is supported by one of the worst defenses in the NFL, giving up just over 27 points per game. And their offense isn’t much better scoring just over 15 points per game. With numbers like that, it’s tough for any team to have a winning record.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been ruled out for Sunday and as the leading rusher on the team, that’s going to hurt their game plan. They’re going to have to put the ball in Chad Henne‘s hands and hope for the best. He has thrown five interceptions in his starts since Blaine Gabbert went on IR but has found his groove lately. When going up against tougher competition, take the Houston Texans for example, he has held his own. In that game he threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns but they ultimately loss 43-37 in OT. But against lesser teams, take the New York Jets this time, he hasn’t fared so well. In the Jaguars’ week 14 loss he threw for only 185 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The key for the Patriots will be to work together defensively to shut him down.

Aqib Talib seems to have avoided a serious hip injury when he went down on Sunday night and is day to day he told reporters this week. His return to the backfield will be critical for the Patriots to truly limit Henne’s ability to hit his targets. We’ve seen how much improved the defense is with him on the field.

Another way the Patriots will find success on Sunday is by reestablishing their game plan. There were a lot of little mistakes last week that are uncharacteristic of the Patriots, especially for this late in the season and in such an environment as Sunday Night Football. This game is an opportunity to correct the little mistakes and get back on track. They need to restore the balance and really can’t afford to have Tom Brady throwing the ball 65 times. It was no wonder he missed practice this week with a sore shoulder. With Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley as the main ball carriers I think they won’t have a problem putting the ball on the ground. There’s no sense in getting ahead of themselves so the Patriots need to keep their focus on correcting the mistakes and getting back on track.

There is potential for a letdown on Sunday but the Patriots are obviously well aware of that. Playing a team that has had as little success as Jacksonville can be a curse as much as it is a blessing. But by getting their balance back and holding strong defensively, there shouldn’t be any problems.