The Patriots are heading out a day early to San Diego, trying to get a jump on avoiding any potential “jet lag” since the flight is 6-hours out to the west coast. According to published reports the team will head out around 5pm, which doing the math should get them there somewhere around 8pm local time.
A couple of guys who aren’t expected to make the trip are Patriots runningback Fred Taylor and safety Jarrad Page, who are both battling injuries. Taylor continues to be plagued with a toe injury, while Page suffered a calf injury last weekend against the Ravens. Page’s loss will be a little tougher because he’s been a major contributor on special teams, so they’ll need either someone else, or a combination of guys to pick up the slack.
Special teams is an area where the team should have the edge. San Diego has been dismal in this area, with Tim Sullivan of the San Diego Union-Tribune telling our own Russ Goldman the Chargers’ special teams unit has been responsible for most of their losses this season.
“The primary cause of the Chargers’ problems has been special teams,” said Sullivan. ”In three of their four losses, they have experienced significant lapses that have put points on the board for their opponent: two kickoff returns for touchdowns in Seattle, a punt return for a touchdown in Kansas City and two blocked punts in Oakland. Last week, a critical field goal attempt was blocked, possibly because of a groin strain that limited kicker Nate Kaeding. Without these severe lapses, the Chargers figure to have won at least two of those four games, maybe more.”
A few other things to note:
- Jeff Howe of NESN points out that Belichick’s plan for the plane ride is to tie up a few loose ends, because he said the game plan is more or less done.
“I’d say more so it’s just kind of getting caught up on a lot of little loose-end things that come up, getting ahead on the next team, watch some film, breaking down the next team you’re going to play for some of the coaches, the coaches that are involved in the pre-scouting preparation,” said Belichick. “And for the play-callers, more of prioritizing your calls, maybe making sure, just thinking about the meetings that we have tomorrow, the Saturday morning meeting, the Saturday night meeting, how you want to present the thing to the team, what reminders, what priorities, what film you want to show and so forth. Just kind of preparation for that.”
- Wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice today for the second day in a row, after getting knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Ravens by linebacker Ray Lewis. The official word at the time was a “head injury,” and he definitely got hit hard on the play. Edelman had been one of the guys responsible for returning punts, so it will be interesting to see if he can go, or if that will fall on Wes Welker – who took over that role after Edelman left on Sunday.
- The players expect a tough game, and know that it’s even tougher because they’re facing the Chargers at home. San Diego’s only two wins came at their home stadium, and at 2-4, they desperately need this one. While five losses won’t kill them in their division (both the Raiders & Broncos are 2-4, while the chiefs are 3-2), it’s more important for them to get back on track after losing back-to-back games against the Raiders & Rams. Three in a row would be a tough blow, as their last win came at home back on October 3rd, where they blew out the Arizona Cardinals 41-10.
- It’s unknown if Chargers tight end Antonio Gates will play this weekend, but it hasn’t changed New England’s preparation. They’re preparing as if they’ll have to cover him this weekend, with James Sanders telling NECN that they’ll be ready if he’s out there.
“Oh yeah, you always got to assume he’s going to play,” said Patriots safety James Sanders prior to the team’s flight to San Diego. “If he doesn’t, I mean, that’s a bonus for us. But we still got to be ready to play for four quarters, because they’re a good football team, especially playing at home.”
- Last Sunday we saw rookie Jermaine Cunningham have a field day against Ravens left tackle Michael Oher, forcing false starts and a holding penalty. It was his first big game as a pro, and so far he seems poised to be the pass-rushing presence they’ve been looking for. He’s seen his workload increase as of late, with Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com pointing out that his snaps have increased in recent weeks, going from 26, 23, 28, to 53 and 59 in the last two games.
For now, Cunningham told Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald that he’s happy about his play last Sunday but was just trying to do his job. The good news for the rookie seems to be that the way he’s played has moved him ahead of Tully Banta-Cain on the depth chart.
“I don’t know what it was, you’d have to ask him,” said Cunningham on his play against Oher. “But I was just trying to do my job, and fortunately, the dice rolled my way, plays came my way.”