Patriots

Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

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Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots-Steelers inactives: Haden out for Pittsburgh

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Patriots-Steelers inactives: Haden out for Pittsburgh

The Patriots have one of their top defenders back in action in Pittsburgh. 

Trey Flowers, who injured his ribs in Week 12 against the Dolphins, will be in uniform against the Steelers. The Patriots have been considerably thinned on the edge in recent weeks so having Flowers back -- both to rush the passer and set the edge against the run -- should be key for Bill Belichick's defense. 

Also in action for the Patriots are Stephon Gilmore (ankle), David Harris (ankle), Eric Lee (ankle), Matthew Slater (hamstring), LaAdrian Waddle (ankle) and Deatrich Wise (foot). All came into the game listed as questionable but will be available. 

There are few surprises on the Patriots inactive list as Chris Hogan's status was reported earlier in the day by ESPN. We broke down how things could look without Hogan could look like right here

On the Steelers' end of things, their defense will be forced to go another week without Joe Haden, who is still recovering from a broken leg suffered earlier this season. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed optimistic earlier this week that Haden could return, but instead he'll rely on corners Artie Burns, Cam Sutton and Coty Sensabaugh on the outside. 

With both Haden and linebacker Ryan Shazier unavailable, the Steelers are without two of their best matchup players, meaning their desire to play more man-to-man defense -- a desire they professed all the way back in the spring -- may not be in the offing. 

Meanwhile, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) will be in uniform, complicating the matchups for the Patriots secondary. Gilmore could spend time on Smith-Schuster or Martavis Bryant if he's not deployed on Antonio Brown. That would likely leave Eric Rowe -- whose size makes him a logical match for Smith-Schuster or Bryant -- on whoever's left.

The Patriots-Steelers inactive lists:

PATRIOTS
DL Alan Branch
OL Cole Croston
RB Mike Gillislee
DL Geneo Grissom
WR Chris Hogan
S Brandon King
LB Kyle Van Noy

STEELERS
QB Joshua Dobbs
DT Daniel McCullers
TE Vance McDonald
OT Matt Feiler
CB Joe Haden
\WR Justin Hunter
S J.J. Wilcox

With Hogan down, what's next for Patriots at receiver?

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With Hogan down, what's next for Patriots at receiver?

The Patriots have been dealt yet another blow on the injury front, it appears. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Chris Hogan is not expected to play against the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. Hogan made the trip to Pittsburgh, but he's still dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out for four games following the bye week. 

Hogan returned to action on Monday night against the Dolphins and was targeted five times, catching one for one yard. He played 55 snaps, taking over the No. 2 receiver role and keeping Phillip Dorsett (zero snaps versus Miami) on the sidelines. 

For the Patriots, not having Hogan against the Steelers stings because he had nine catches for 180 yards and two scores in the AFC title game in January. 

What do the Patriots do if Hogan can't go? The answers shouldn't be all that hard to find. They just spent a month without him. But the acquisition of Kenny Britt, which went down earlier in the week, complicates things a tad. 

From Weeks 10 through 13, Dorsett played an average of 42 snaps -- second only to Brandin Cooks at his position. But for all the work Dorsett saw, Brady threw only three passes his way in four weeks. 

Asking Britt to take on a heavy workload would be asking a lot. The Patriots practiced with Britt three times this week, but one was a walkthrough. The team did as much as it could to get Britt caught up on the week's game plan, but how he works with Brady and the rest of the offense in a game situation remains to be seen. 

The Britt situation, in some situations, mirrors what went on with Michael Floyd and the Patriots last season. Floyd was claimed off of waivers on Dec. 15 last year. He played nine days later against the Jets and caught one of two targets for six yards. 

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Britt is able to play and see extensive action against the Steelers five days after being signed, but he would've blown the Floyd timeline out of the water. 

Though he doesn't have the familiarity with the offense that Dorsett does, Britt's size and physicality could make him an immediate option against a secondary that has openly admitted this week it plans to get its hands on Patriots pass-catchers. He's a more viable option in that kind of game than someone like Dorsett, who relies on his speed more so than his ability to win battles at the line of scrimmage. 

The Patriots should feast on Steelers linebackers in coverage in this game with running backs Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White. Rob Gronkowski will also be a focal point as he returns off of his one-week suspension.

With Hogan out, now maybe Britt can get into the mix as well.  

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