Patriots

Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

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Patriots veterans trust in team's youth movement

FOXBORO -- First it was Donte' Stallworth. Then Jabar Gaffney. Then came Dan Koppen, Deion Branch and Brian Hoyer. One by one, veterans fell, casualties of training camp cuts. And with them went the Patriots' average age.

Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe pointed out over the weekend that of all the teams fielded by Bill Belichick during his tenure with the Patriots, this is the youngest roster he will take into a Week 1 game.

It's a youth movement that's opened eyes in the locker room.

"Yeah this locker room is starting to make me feel old now," Wes Welker said. "But it's been good. A lot of energy, a lot of energetic type guys and young guys. And, you know, I think the main thing is focusing day in and day out and understand it's a long season and you gotta keep on maturing and keep on playing well throughout the season."

Logan Mankins -- all of 30 years old -- joked about it, too.

"I am getting old," he said. "See all this gray hair? I guess it happens to us all."

Between New England's young tackles and tight ends, Mankins may find himself surrounded by relative whippersnappers, but he trusts them as he trusts veterans. He doesn't really have much of a choice.

"We are a lot younger team," he said. "Some older guys are gone so you just gotta count on each other that they're going to do their job, put in the film study, put in their work on the field so hopefully it shows up on Sundays."

The defense is where the Patriots have seen the most significant infusion of youth. Its starters, including rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, average 25 years old. Second-rounder Tavon Wilson also worked his way into a prominent role for the defense during training camp. And second-year corner Ras-I Dowling should also contribute a great deal to the secondary when healthy.

"To be honest with you, I think we have a mature group," said Jerod Mayo, now in his fifth season one of the elder statesmen of the defense. "Guys come to work every day. They come in early and leave late. We're fortunate to have them."

But even Mayo knows there's no substitute for experience, and he's hoping that the enormity of playing in their first regular season NFL game doesn't get the best of his rookie teammates, from whom much is expected.

"It's definitely an unknown," he said. "We talk about the different speeds of the game, we talk about the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs. But I'm sure those guys . . . We've been prepared. We've been preparing, and the coaches have been doing an unbelievable job of getting us ready."

Game notes: Patriots tie Browns for second-longest streak of .500-or-better seasons

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Game notes: Patriots tie Browns for second-longest streak of .500-or-better seasons

Notes from the Patriots' 33-8 victory over the Raiders in Mexico City . . . 

-- New England is now 8-2 and is guaranteed to have a .500 or better record for the 17th consecutive season, tying the 1957-73 Browns for the second-longest streak in NFL history. The record is 21, held by the 1965-85 Cowboys. The Pats last had a losing season in 2000, when they were 5-11 in Bill Belichick's first season in New England.

PATRIOTS 33, RAIDERS 8

-- The Patriots have now won 13 straight road games, setting a franchise record. They remain in second place on the NFL all-time list, behind the 18 straight road games won by the 1988-90 49ers.

-- Tom Brady completed 30 of 37 passes (81.1 percent) for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 131.9 passer rating. Brady has 82 career games with at least 300 passing yards and is the only player in NFL history to record a 300-yard passing game in three different countries (United States, United Kingdom and Mexico). Brady is also the first player to have a game with at least three passing touchdowns in three different countries.

-- The Pats are now 3-0 in international games, and have outscored their opponents by a combined 113-22 score in those games. 

-- Stephen Gostkowski scored 15 points on four field goals and three PATs and moved into the top 20 on the all-time NFL scoring list.

-- Gostkowski set a franchise record for longest field goal, 62 yards, in the light air of Mexico City.