After losing against the Dolphins and seeing their shot at a number one seed potentially slip through their fingers as well as a missed opportunity at clinching the AFC East, quarterback Tom Brady knows that Sunday’s game against Baltimore is pivotal as they continue jockeying for playoff position.

A victory against the Ravens now holds two big keys for the Patriots, who fell to 10-4 after their loss to Miami last weekend.  A win locks up the AFC East, and also secures a playoff spot, but more importantly beating a team in a tough environment might be just what the doctor ordered for a team that needs a win like that to cure what’s been ailing them in recent weeks.


Tom Brady knows how important Sunday’s game against Baltimore is to his football team.
(USA TODAY Images)

Brady feels it’s a game they need, and he noted the importance on Wednesday as he spoke to the media.

“We need it,” Brady said. “There’s no bigger game than this one for us. We have to put everything we can into it. It’s a very important game. As the season goes on, each of these games gets more and more important. We know how important this one is to try to win the division.”

After a season that has seen a lot of slow starts and heart pounding finishes, Brady admitted that it would be nice to finally go out and put 60-minutes of solid football together.  However, he expects that to be a challenge considering how tough the Ravens have been in recent years.

“It would be nice to go out there and play this team and play them well for once,” Brady said. “We haven’t done a great job playing against them offensively. They present a lot of challenges. They’ve always had great players there; they still have some great players that are carryovers from last year’s team and different guys that they’ve added this year. It’s a really good group and they put a lot of pressure on you. They’re good in the red area, they’re good on third down. They do some really good things. It’s going to be a big test.”

They’ve struggled on the road, with a 3-4 record away from Gillette Stadium. Sunday’s loss in Miami was the latest blow for a team that has had an up and down season, and they’ll now try and avoid losing back-to-back games during a critical stretch.  Each game has been a grind, and they’ve battled through injuries, new personnel, all the while trying to put themselves in position to be a contender when all is said and done.

That’s the position they’re in right now, and Brady admitted that despite all the criticism and adversity, none of that matters.  In order to beat Baltimore, they need to just go out and make the plays.

“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how well we execute, whether we make the plays or not,” said Brady.  “The players will have plenty of say of the outcome of the game once we get out there on the field.”

There was a lot of disappointment coming off of their loss to the Dolphins, which cost them a top seed and delayed their shot at a “hat and T-shirt” to lock up the Division.  They have a shot once again Sunday, and a win also ensures they’ll play at least into January.

Needless to say, while the defeat was tough, what happened in Miami is over and it’s on to Baltimore.

“Putting Sunday behind us is important and moving onto this week,” said Brady.
“There’s nothing really from the last game that’s going to help us this week.”

MANKINS TALKS ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE PLAYING TACKLE

When Patriots left tackle Nate Solder went down with his second diagnosed concussion in eight days, it forced Logan Mankins to have to step up and be the guy to protect Tom Brady’s blind side for the remainder of the game.

Mankins did a respectable job, although it’s not a complete surprise.  He actually played left tackle at Fresno State before the team selected him 32nd overall in 2005, but at the time Matt Light was here so the team instead moved him inside at guard next to Light.  Since then he’s excelled in that role and has been a key component of New England’s offensive line, and fortunately his versatility ended up helping them immensely following Solder’s exit from the game.

Mankins admitted that the position is definitely different, and requires him to be a little quicker on his feet.

“Scheme-wise, it’s not that hard,” Mankins told Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe.  “I know all the plays at every position so that’s not too tough, but just the overall different angles, different footwork, that kind of thing. I have to process that pretty fast.”

“You’re running around a lot more,” said Mankins.  “Those guys are faster, you’re not always just getting someone slammed into you. Your feet have to be a little quicker, move them a little faster.”

We’ll see if he’ll have to do it again this week in Baltimore.  Solder didn’t practice again on Wednesday and it remains to be seen whether or not he’d be able to play coming off of two concussions in such a short span.

Either way, it sounds like Mankins is comfortable enough to be able to do it again if he’s asked to fill in there again against the Ravens.

“It was something I had to get used to and learn on the fly there Sunday,” Mankins said.  “It went pretty well though, so we’ll see.”

INJURY NOTES:

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald pointed out in his Notebook this morning that Solder’s injury simply adds to the laundry list of players who have gone down this year, with New England having had 20 players suffer an injury during the regular season and then miss at least one game as a result. Howe also points out that so far, those 20 players have missed 87 games combined.  That’s a staggering fact considering they’re 10-4, but somehow they’re still in position to win their Division and a relatively high playoff seed.  Needless to say, it should be interesting to see how they respond in Baltimore this weekend.

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Dolphins are closing the gap on Patriots – Ben Volin - Volin offers up his midweek report and feels the Dolphins made a statement in the battle for supremacy in the AFC East Sunday that says, “We’re coming for you.”

Logan Mankins can do it all on Patriots’ offensive line – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young has a good read on Mankins, who talked about the transition from going from guard to tackle on Sunday.

Tom Brady on the Ravens: ‘There’s no bigger game than this’ – Zuri Berry – Berry has comments from Tom Brady, who expects this week’s contest to be a tough one but feels, “We need it.”

BOSTON HERALD:

Patriots Notebook: No Fish net for Shane Vereen – Jeff Howe – Howe has an article on Vereen and writes that despite the drop off in production, it was far from an unproductive outing for Vereen against Miami.

Terrell Suggs doesn’t hide his dislike of Tom Brady – Karen Guregian – Guregian has an article on the rivalry between Suggs and Brady.

Struggling Ray Rice has sympathy for Vince Wilfork – Mark Daniels – Daniels has comments from Rice, who offered up some kind words for Wilfork, who was lost for the season with an Achilles injury.

Logan Mankins shows he’s Hannah-tough – Jeff Howe – Howe has a good read this morning on Mankins, who tries not to compare himself to John Hannah even though others like to.

ESPN BOSTON:

Defensive groupings: Sub packages rise – Mike Reiss – Reiss looks at the total number of snaps in different personnel groupings in this entry.

Penalty watch: Patriots at Ravens – Mike Reiss – Reiss has this week’s penalty update, comparing them against the Ravens and showing their league rankings.

Tedy’s take: Rule proposal for specialists – Mike Reiss – Reiss has an article this morning with comments from Tedy Bruschi, who gave his thoughts on what happened to Bengals punter Kevin Huber.

Solder, Boyce miss practice; 13 limited – Field Yates – Yates has Wednesday’s practice report, which saw another long list this week.

WEEI:

Why Patriots could be primed to push tempo again Sunday against Ravens – Christopher Price – Price has his thoughts on why the Patriots may pick up the pace Sunday in Baltimore.

Brady: ‘Maybe we should [run hurry-up] more’ – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia has comments from Brady on the fact that considering the success they’ve had in the 2-minute offense, they may want to consider doing it more often.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Patriots tackling changes if Nate Solder can’t play – Rich Garven – Garven looks at how New England will adjust up front if Solder can’t go on Sunday.

Patriots’ hurry-up offense is missing in action – Rich Garven – Garven files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact the Patriots haven’t used the hurry-up offense nearly as much this season.