Wednesday marked the start of the Patriots’ transition on defense as they try to once again adjust from another major personnel loss.

With Jerod Mayo placed on injured reserve New England has already made some changes.  According to several reports it appears that Dont’a Hightower will be wearing the “green dot” on his helmet, which means he’ll be the one handling the communication responsibilities to the defensive players.  That’s a role that had been handled by Mayo, so now Hightower will handle the duties, and as we mentioned yesterday that was something Erik Frenz of the Boston Globe previously pointed out, as Hightower also did at times during the preseason. They also designated Devin McCourty as a captain, a role he held in 2011 and 2012.


Brady faces the task of making sure the Patriots have a better performance in this rematch.
(USA TODAY Images)

This weekend’s match-up against the rival Jets will likely be another tough one.  The Patriots won their week two match-up earlier this season against them, albeit by just three points in a 13-10 victory back on September 12th at Gillette Stadium.  In that game New York’s defense held quarterback Tom Brady to under 50% passing after he finished 19-of-39 (49%) for 185 yards and one touchdown, which came on the Patriots’ first offensive series.  That was a play-action pass to Aaron Dobson, which he took 39 yards with no one around him when he made the reception.  It was also his first NFL catch, and it ended up being the only time New England reached the end zone all night.

Overall one of the Patriots biggest issues were being able to sustain a drive after finishing 4-of-18 (22%) on third down, with Ryan Allen punting 11 times and tied the franchise record with 514 punting yards.  Brady struggled on third down that night, attempting 15 passes with just 6 completions.  It wasn’t exactly a strong performance, and Brady knows this time around won’t be any easier.

“We played them in Week 2, had a tough time against them,” said Brady during his press conference on Wednesday. “It wasn’t a good performance by our team – by our offense certainly – by our team it was actually pretty good; our defense played great. But we’re going to have to go out and do a lot better this week.”

Rushing the ball was also an issue, with the Patriots finishing with eight negative carries, their second highest total of the year and it’s also the only game so far this season where they didn’t have a rush that went over 10 yards.

Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off of a 19-6 loss to the Steelers at home last week and New England is going to have the challenge of dealing with a team that’s trying to get back on track while they handle their own issues. Obviously Mayo’s gone and Danny Amendola likely won’t be out there either after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s win over New Orleans. Although he wasn’t on the field during the Patriots previous meeting against New York. That’s at least something that won’t be as big of an adjustment in this week’s game plan since that’s something they’ve already dealt with.  One would have to believe we’ll likely see an expanded role for Austin Collie, who ended up being a key player during New England’s game-winning drive Sunday.

“The role he was put into, he was pretty comfortable with at that point,” Brady said of Collie. “It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s go in there and run 85 plays.’ He got put in for a specific role and did a great job with the things that he was asked to do. He’s been building slowly since the day he got here but he’s really been working hard at trying to understand how we do things. Certainly the other night, he was doing things we were all comfortable with him doing.”

Also likely missing this weekend could be Aqib Talib, who wasn’t in practice on Wednesday.  Talib reportedly suffered a “hip flexor” during Sunday’s game against the Saints and most reports seem to believe we won’t see him against the Jets.  He’s obviously been a key part of the Patriots run so far and we’ll likely find out how this defense handles his absence for the first time this year should he be unable to go in this game.

It’s going to be a challenging week, but Brady says they’ll just have to battle through it.

“We’ve faced some different challenges,” said Brady. “I think in the NFL, a lot of teams face challenges it’s just really how you deal with them. We’ve lost some guys, dealt with some issues, like every other team. We’re handling them OK, we’re 5-1. It’s a decent start. It doesn’t really get you anywhere at this point and I think we’re still looking to make improvements.

“I think that’s the most important thing, to try to improve every day in practice and the walkthroughs and hopefully it ultimately translates to better execution over the course of the season. But we’re not really where we need to be right now; we’re trying to get there. ”

RYAN TAKING AN INTERESTING TACTIC THIS WEEK:

Rex Ryan continues to be an interesting character, including the fact this week he’s told his players to instruct their wives and girlfriends that household chores are off limits as they try and save their energy for Sunday’s game.  Recently signed Josh Cribbs said you could see it in Ryan’s eyes that “he really wants this game.”

“I saw it in his eyes in the team meeting,” Cribbs told the media Tuesday via NewsDay.com. “…I can tell he really wants this game. He was like, ‘Rest your legs, you go home, don’t do nothing for your wife. Say: ‘Baby, next week. I’m going to take out the trash next week. I’ll take the kids to practice next week because I got to rest for this game.’

“I’m going to tell him to put it on paper, so when I give it to my wife, I’m like, ‘Hey, Rex said that I don’t have to take out the trash.’ He might get a call from my wife.”

Apparently some of the “abstaining” Ryan told his players they felt seemingly meant something else – which reportedly caused Ryan to call another evening meeting last night with the media to “clarify” those comments that he “wasn’t talking about S-E-X.”  Only in New York.

PATRIOTS SEARCHING FOR SIGNS OF INJURY LEAKS:

We’ve gotten quite a bit of information following injuries this season, something that has been an interesting change compared to recent years as the media has done a good job of letting fans know what’s going on with each of the players.  Apparently the team isn’t too happy about it, and Luke Hughes of NESN had a good write-up expanding on a previous report that the team is trying to figure out how it’s getting out, including involving their security team to try and get to the bottom of it.  Needless to say the days of finding out what’s going on may be coming to an end as the team is seemingly clamping down, which may have an effect on how things are reported for the rest of the season.

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Tom Brady discusses team’s rash of injuries – Zuri Berry – Berry has an entry with quotes from Tom Brady surrounding the team’s rash of injuries, which has him saying the they just have to “keep fighting on”.

Former Patriots star Irving Fryar indicted for fraud – AP –  Older fans may remember former Patriots receiver Irving Fryer, who despite being a pastor of a church apparently came up with a mortgage scheme with his mother and stole more than $690,000.

BOSTON HERALD:

Call goes to Dont’a Hightower – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that Dont’a Hightower has now been assigned the play-calling duties now that Jerod Mayo is out for the for the season, which is a responsibility he’s familiar with after handling those duties during the preseason.

Austin Collie shows his drive – Karen Guregian – Guregian writes that Collie was nothing more than a cheerleader on the sideline during Sunda’s win, but became a key part of the offense during the Patriots final frantic moments.

Tom Brady: Show must go on despite key injuries – Mark Daniels – Daniels writes that Brady took the podium yesterday for his press conference and a shiner under his right eye, which he writes is symbolic of how beat up he and his teammates have been these first six weeks.

Devin McCourty regains captaincy with Patriots – Jeff Howe – Howe has an article looking at Devin McCourty getting his captaincy back.

ESPN BOSTON:

Michael Hoomanawanui earning his pay - Field Yates – Yates has a good read this morning on Hoomanawanui, who is coming off a career-best afternoon thanks to his four catch, 57 yard performance Sunday against the Saints.

Can Patriots fill void on defense? – Mike Reiss – Reiss has a great read this morning on the Patriots defense, and how they’ll adjust after the injuries.  He also lays out which guys have been part of the game plan each week as well as a look at which players have been “game-plan specific” players this season.

ESPN: 

The biggest Patriots fan - Rick Reilly – Reilly has a great feature on Robert Kraft, who recently met Patriots fan Sam Berns.  Berns suffers from a disease called progeria, which accelerates the aging process.

WEEI:

Tom Brady explains where he learned to be so calm under pressure – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia has an article on Brady, who said going to a school and playing in front of 110,000 people helped make him a pressure player.

McCourty reportedly back as Pats captain – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia writes that after not being given the designation of captain at the start of this season, Devin McCourty is back at captain now that Mayo is out.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Patriots’ Austin Collie an old dog doing new tricks – Rich Garven – Garven has his notebook for this morning which leads off with the fact that Collie so far his making the most of his opportunities and is also gaining Brady’s trust.

Without Jerod Mayo, Patriots will spread it around – Rich Garven – Garven looks at the loss of Mayo and writes that the team will look to a few other players to hopefully fill in his absence.

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:

Patriots Beat: Mayo won’t be easy to replace – Mike Lowe – Lowe writes that with Mayo out, the Patriots now fall back on their “Next man up” slogan as they try and figure out how to deal with his loss.

ENTERPRISE NEWS:

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Rex Ryan says Tom Brady still resides in Peyton’s place - Glen Farley – Farley files his notebook this morning, which leads off with quotes from Jets’ coach Rex Ryan, who feels that Brady and Peyton Manning are the “best two I’ve ever gone against.”

ATTELBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

Patriots need to dig deep on defense – Mark Farinella – Farinella writes that the Patriots now have a challenge ahead thanks to all the injuries.