Patriots players take advantage of bye week

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Patriots players take advantage of bye week

FOXBORO -- With a bye week's worth of practices about to conclude on Wednesday, it's time to look at what's in store for the Patriots during their next couple days off.

Coach Bill Belichick held practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, following Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys. The reason for those practices, he said on Wednesday, was to give his players an opportunity to improve their game in a few areas. Hence, the "situational" tone of both practices this week.

Following Wednesday's practice, Belichick said he'll then give his players an opportunity to "get some rest, relax a little bit, and get away from football for a couple of days."

Then, they'll return to Gillette Stadium next week to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'll definitely take a little bit of a break here in the next couple of days," said Belichick on Wednesday. "Slow it down a little bit, and see if I can get caught up."

As for the players, some -- like Wes Welker -- will go home to be with family, and some -- like Matthew Slater -- will stick around New England.

"I'll probably be in here every day," said Slater. "Still trying to get healthy and just take care of my body, and enjoy a little down time."

During that down time, most of the players who spoke on Wednesday said they would watch football on Sunday. Tight end Rob Gronkowski said that he'll "definitely" be watching the Pittsburgh Steelers' game, mainly because that's who the Patriots will play following the bye.

Other than that, Gronk said he plans on hitting the weights and "getting his body right" during the break.

While home in Oklahoma City, Welker plans to also take advantage of a few days off. But he admits, this isn't time to party.

"It's not like spring break," said Welker. "It's more of everybody understanding that you still have your workout and still do some of those things, but you're not out there running routes and doing all those things that you do on a daily basis."

As for the coaching strategies, Belichick talked about the "misconceptions" of how much more work is put in during the bye week, including advanced scouting.

"We have people in our organization that work on, not this weeks opponent but next weeks opponent, but starting this week so that when we finish with that game," said Belichick. "We have a lot of information thats already prepared the film is broken down, the reports are written on personnel and tendencies and we have individual reports and films of each individual player, how they play, their strengths, their weaknesses, their tendencies, things like that, so thats already there. So we do that on a weekly basis anyway.

"Next week, well start working on the team after Pittsburgh the next week. We kind of have that weekly time by certain people in our organization. Theyre always a week ahead. And then there are others of us that are focused on the week that we have and really dont get to that next team until were done with the team were currently competing against. Now, will some of those people maybe get a little bit ahead of getting ahead? Im sure they will. But thats kind of how it works. Were on sort of the same routine every week."

Belichick also said that the same goes with self-scouting.

"I think it is a little of a misconception," said Belichick. "We dont just self-scout during the bye week. We do it on a weekly basis. We look at our games that we feel like our opponents are looking at, whatever that constitutes. What are they seeing? Does that affect what we want to do? Do you want to change that? Do we want to not change it? And if we do want to change it, how do we want to change it? Thats something that you do every week.

"The bye week, you have a little bit more time. Maybe if you wanted to not just look at the description of the plays or a written report of the plays, maybe you actually go to those plays and say, Okay, not what do they have on paper, but let me actually go look at the plays and see whats happening on our third down or our inside runs or our outside runs or our kickoff returns or whatever it is. You have an awareness of that on a weekly basis anyway. You know what youve been doing the last couple weeks. You definitely sit down at some point during the week and look at that. How many times have we called this in this situation? Whats our run-pass breakdown? Whats our blitz breakdown? How many left returns have we run? How many right returns have we run? What tendencies are we forming? Again, tendencies are like anything else, when its 50-50, 60-40, 65-35, how hard can you bank on 60-40? But when its 90 percent or 95 percent that certain things are happening, thats pretty predictable.

"And sometimes its okay," added Belichick. "Look, Nolan Ryan is on the mound, hes going to throw a fastball. Thats no secret. Is he better off throwing a fastball than a change up? Yeah. Hes going to throw a fastball. Lets see who can hit it. I dont say you have to change up all the time. You just have to know what youre doing. If you want to say, Okay, they know its coming, its our best thing, were going to do it anyway, lets see if they can stop it,' thats alright. You just have to know what youre doing. If you say, Well, we think theyre not going to adjust to it, and they do because its something you do all the time, then you dont want to put yourself in that position. But its not something that just happens during the bye week. It happens every week. Could you take a little longer look at it during the week? Yeah, absolutely and thats a good thing to do. But its something we do on a weekly basis."

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.