Patriots

Patriots ready for possible Detroit trap

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Patriots ready for possible Detroit trap

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- A team tied for the best record in the NFL will have an impressive resume. New England does.

Going into Week 12, the Patriots are undefeated at home. They've beaten tough teams on the road (Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh). They've come from behind to steal wins. They've preserved leads despite late opposition rallies.

So it's interesting that one of the few hurdles left for the Patriots to clear is winning the trap game.

The 2-8 Detroit Lions, sandwiched on the schedule between Indianapolis and the Jets, certainly have trap-door potential. But cornerback Kyle Arrington says the Patriots are dialed in to the Thanksgiving matchup.

"We have to take it one game at a time and the next game is the most important one,'' he said on Tuesday. "The goal this week is 60 minutes. We've played a lot of tough, competitive games and we've played a lot of games where we've had a lead in them as well. So the goal is just to finish every game that we play and there's no game like the present."

Tom Brady echoed Arrington's sentiment. The quarterback said the team isn't expecting to sweep through the short week on momentum won by beating the Colts last Sunday. The Patriots have moved on, but are pacing themselves.

"It always comes down to that nothing we did last week is going to help us this week, other than learning from mistakes. Weve got to put everything into this week,'' Brady said.

It would help to look back on the 34-14 loss to the Browns. The Patriots had beaten Minnesota 28-18 and had to go through Cleveland to get to Pittsburgh in Week 10. Say what you will about the Browns being scrappy, but the game was considered a lock for New England -- a gimmie-game at best and a speed bump at worst. That's why jaws were on the ground as time ticked down at the Dog Pound.

Nobody in the Patriots' locker room would say they underestimated the Browns, though. Of course not.

"I dont think thats the reason why we lost to Cleveland,'' Brady said. "I think the reason we lost to Cleveland is because we didnt play well. The reason we are going to win or lose this game is because we play well or we dont play well. We came in Monday and we didnt even talk about the Colts. We talked about the Lions and what we need to do to beat them.

"I don't think there was a letdown,'' Brady insisted. "We certainly didn't think that 'Man, we can't lose this game. We'll just run out there and run around for 60 minutes and come back and fly home victorious.' And I don't think we think that way against Detroit, either.''

He'd better hope not. He'll have to ignore the facts to do that, though. Like the fact that the Lions haven't won on Turkey Day since 2003. And the reality of the upcoming Jets game -- on Monday, December 6 -- may wind up being the most important of the season.

Rob Gronkowski maintains the Pats' current mindset has no Jets anywhere in sight.

"We haven't even talked about the Jets game one bit,'' the tight end said. "We just focus on Detroit. They're a great team, they're always playing hard and they've got great players. We've got to be ready.''

Why should you believe them? Poor play like in the loss to Cleveland -- whether as victims to the trap or a team that just couldn't get it together -- isn't likely to come from the Patriots again. But they won't have to sink too low for Detroit to keep it close anyway. And New England knows that.

"They're a great team, they're better than what their record says,'' Gronkowski continued. "Way better than what their record says. They're in every single game so we've got to go out there like it's one of our biggest games, which it is."

Five of Detroit's eight losses have been by five or fewer points. The top NFC North teams, Chicago and Green Bay, beat Detroit by five and two points, respectively. NFC East frontrunner Philly beat the Lions by three. The AFC East-leading Jets only won by three, in overtime no less. (The other close loss: By two, to just-as-lowly Buffalo.)

Nobody will argue that the bottom line runs under the way things stack up in that WinLoss column. At the same time, you've got to think that with the Lions coming so close so often, they'll hit that target eventually.

"We just have to prepare like we always prepare, that's what it always comes down to,'' Danny Woodhead said. "Anyone in the NFL can beat anyone. They're a great team and they just don't get the credit."

A win over New England would be a hell of a way to turn things around. Can't imagine it happening? Tom Brady can. For him, it would actually be deja vu of a particularly unfortunate milestone. In 2000, the quarterback made his NFL debut against the Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 23, 2000. The Lions gorged themselves on a 34-9 win.

Of course, a lot has changed for Brady and New England since then, but the Patriots don't need to go back that far. They just need to hope that things have changed since coming home from Cleveland and that their eyes stay wide for any traps.

"This team does a lot of good things they've been in a lot of close games against a lot of good teams,'' Brady repeated. "If you don't get it going early, that dome's gonna be rocking and we gotta get it going early."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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