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Patriots hoping for win before bye week

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Patriots hoping for win before bye week

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots have one major mission before their bye week. Go to London and bring back a win.

That would be a fine souvenir of the first half of the season and, they hope, a momentum booster for a team that has been inconsistent on offense and generous on defense.

``It would feel really good for that two-week stretch,'' quarterback Tom Brady said on Wednesday.

The Patriots leave on a red-eye flight Thursday night for Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams after squeaking by the New York Jets 29-26 in overtime after losing to the Seattle Seahawks 24-23 when they squandered a 23-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

A win would give the Patriots a 5-3 record and undisputed possession of first place in the AFC East, the same record they had midway through last season when they finished at 13-3 and lost the Super Bowl 21-17 on a last-minute touchdown by the New York Giants.

The Patriots historically have improved over the second half of the season, especially the last two seasons when they went 16-0. That should give them confidence once they return from the bye.

``It does,'' wide receiver Deion Branch said. ``We wish we'd have played a lot better the first half. We don't want to go out and go 4-4 and then try to win the last eight games.''

Brady would love to see the Patriots string some wins together. Their only winning streak this season lasted just two games.

``Part of the mental toughness is putting what happened (behind) and moving forward to next week without wasting any time or energy spent thinking about last week,'' he said. ``That's how you string wins together. That's why you don't win one, lose one, win one, lose one, because at the end of the day, you're mediocre and you're watching all the good teams play.

``The good teams win, win, win, win, win and if you lose you (still have to) win, win, win, win. That's just how it is.''

In Bill Belichick's previous 12 years as coach of the Patriots, they were 8-4 in the week preceding their bye, although Brady has won his last five. They're 9-3 in their first game back, though they lost two straight games after the bye last year.

A loss to the Rams (3-4) could prompt Belichick to give the team a bit more work in their two weeks before returning on Nov. 11 for a home game against the Buffalo Bills.

``It's never good going in with a loss, especially with the coach we have,'' tight end Aaron Hernandez said, ``but I'm sure we'll be fine. And as long as we follow the game plan, work hard and play Patriot football, we should be fine.''

Part of Patriot football is piling up yardage. Last Sunday, they tied the NFL record of 16 consecutive regular-season games with at least 350 yards, set by the Rams in 1999-2000.

``You don't call plays that aren't designed to gain significant yards,'' Brady said. ``If you execute them the right way, they're productive and there aren't a lot of negative plays. I think last week we had 80 plays. There were only two negative plays out of 80, which is pretty good. So, if you're not going backwards and killing yourself with penalties and turnovers and really not beating yourself, you can usually put yourself in a good position to win the game.

``Gaining yards is certainly important, but scoring points is more important.''

The Patriots gained 387 yards against the Arizona Cardinals, 396 against the Baltimore Ravens and 475 against the Seattle Seahawks - and lost to all of them. They lead the NFL with 436.1 yards per game after finishing second with 428 last year.

``We have a good quarterback and a lot of good players,'' Hernandez said. ``You could get the ball out to a lot of different players and as long as some of them come to play, then we're going to have a lot of yards.

``We have enough players, enough athletes and enough dominant players to win every game.''

To do that Sunday, they'll have to overcome the 10th-rated defense in the NFL with an aggressive attitude instilled by new coach Jeff Fisher.

``The trip will be fun with a victory,'' Branch said. ``We've had five road games the first eight. So I think it would be good for us to go out here and play our best football, come back, enjoy this bye week and get ready to come back for the last stretch of the season.''

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NOTES: Brady appeared surprised when told that the team's game notes said he was one of several Patriots, along with Belichick, scheduled to appear Saturday at the NFL's fan fest at Trafalgar Square. ``We're not doin' that,'' Brady said ``Is that what it says? Don't believe everything you read. Not me. Have fun, though.'' ... Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was born in Birmingham, England, and came to the United States as an infant. ``I didn't stay too long, so I don't remember too much.'' ... Devin McCourty was named AFC special teams player of the week for his 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also lost a fumble that led to the Jets' go-ahead field goal with 1:37 left in regulation last Sunday.

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

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USA Today Sports

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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USA Today Sports

Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.

GOING DOWN?

Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.

NO HOMERS

Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.

UP NEXT

Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.