Curran: Patriots put selves in position to sit pretty

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Curran: Patriots put selves in position to sit pretty

FOXBORO If you think the Patriots were lucky to get a little help from the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, theres an old saying to remember. You make your own luck.

Everything broke right for the Patriots on the final Sunday of the 2012 regular season (with the exception of whatever broke or was injured in Rob Ninkovichs hip). But they were in position to benefit from whatever slip-up the staggering Texans executed by being the best team in the AFC in 2012.

The Patriots played four of the other five playoff entrants in 2012. They beat Denver and crushed Indy and Houston. They lost to the Ravens on the road in a game that was impacted by the nearly-forgotten blight on this year, the replacement officials.

For their troubles, the Patriots get a week of rest before they saddle up a week from Sunday for the final game of the Divisional Playoffs.

On the line then will be a trip to their seventh AFC Championship game since 2001. The likelihood is high that it will be another epic matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Its a damn long way from 3-3, which is what the Patriots were after they lost in the rain out in Seattle, 24-23.

Well, weve won 10 of 11, so its pretty good, noted Tom Brady. We were 2-3 at one point (Editor's note: Patriots have won 9 of 10, were 3-3 at one point - not 2-3), and we had some tough games early in the year. We won 10 of 11 and the only loss was a against a pretty good football team where we turned it over four times. So if we dont turn it over four times, I like our chances.

Their chances of getting where they want to be Louisiana in early February ballooned when Houston lost and the Dolphins took their tentative steps into the cold air of Foxboro and raised the white flag.

Then, the Patriots werent playing just for the intangible seed but a very tangible need. The need for rest.

Talking to Brady briefly at his locker after the game, he immediately ran through a litany of teammates who will benefit from the extra time off. He started with the secondary, mentioning Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib first. Brady knows that in the playoffs a steady defense will keep you in the game no matter how of a rock fight it becomes.

And the rock fights are coming.

Everything rises to a whole other level now, said Vince Wilfork. Every team you face is a good football team. You're not playing any teams that are below average; you're playing all top quality teams, so we have to be at our top. We have to be at our best every play, every situation for 60 minutes sometimes it might be more. Every time we take the field, we have to understand that we have to make a play. These guys have done a really good job all year. Theyve done a really good job all year and I'm expecting for them to do the same thing, but just raise our level of play just a little bit each week. More and more each week and hopefully it will get us where we need to be.

If the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak or wounded taking it up a level is a tall order. But with another week to heal, the best quarterback-coach combo of all-time and the knowledge in their pockets that they can beat any team in the AFC field, the odds-on favorite to be in Nawlins next month has now become the Patriots.

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

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Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”