Why shared practices work for Patriots

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Why shared practices work for Patriots

Wondering why the Patriots have opted to share the training camp practice field with the Saints and Buccaneers this offseason?

Bill Belichick loves doing it.

After a day spent practicing with New Orleans back in August of 2010, Belichick said, "I thought yesterdays practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think Ive been a part of in my career."

Those sessions marked the third time that the Patriots have paired up with an NFC team since Belichick's been with the Patriots.

The first time the Pats shared a practice was in 2001 with the Giants. New England also worked out with the Falcons in Flowery Branch and hosted the Saints.

There were no shared practices last year, likely thanks to the compressed preseason caused by the lockout.

The Saints will be at Foxboro on August 7 and 8 in advance of the August 9 preseason game. The Patriots will work with Tampa on the 22nd and 23rd before playing at Tampa on the 24th.

One reason these practices benefit the Patriots so much is they are an established program. There isn't a lot of orientation and installation that needs to be done on either side of the ball. Offensively, the quarterback is a veteran, the offensive line is made up of returning players, the skill players have all played in Josh McDaniels' system. The same goes for the defense.

This year, the Saints and Bucs stand to benefit quite a bit from working against the Patriots. The Buccaneers are under a new head coach, Greg Schiano, and working with the Patriots will allow them to see the tempo and attitude of a team that Schiano will no doubt try to build his team in a similar way.

The Saints, with all their offseason travails, will benefit from getting outside of their own heads and having interim head coach Joe Vitt get his feet wet leading a team against another, even if its just in practices.

Belichick, who's developed close relationships with both Saints coach Sean Payton and Schiano, will happily help those teams out for friendship and what his team gets in return. Belichick couldn't have been more effusive in 2010.

"We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we havent seen working against ourselves. ...They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but its different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes," said Belichick. "(There's) no better preparation for a game than working against the team youre going to play. Weve seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. Well see a lot more today. Its been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well."

It certainly seems to help that there's a friendly relationship and respect between the coaches. If the tenor is competitive and mutually beneficial but not bitter, it will work.

"Its been so easy to work with them. Its been so easy. Do you want to do this? Yeah, we were thinking the same thing. Do you want to do that? Yeah, thats the way we do it. Most of the conversations, thats the way they go," said Belichick. "If he brings something up to me I say Yeah, great. Thats the way we do it. The individual one-on-one drills, the team drills, the down-and-distance stuff, how we call things, its been very easy to work with them from a structural standpoint, which I expected it would be. I really did, just from our relationship and when we talked about it in the spring and then a couple times over the summer and then when we both came to training camp. Its been very easy. The degree of difficulty on this from a coaching standpoint and working together has been very low. No time and a lot of benefit, so those are the kind I like."

And what's not to like?

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 rout of Panthers

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SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 rout of Panthers

SEATTLE - Behind Thomas Rawls bouncing off and through tacklers and a big-play punch from Tyler Lockett, the Seattle Seahawks rediscovered their offensive star power on Sunday night.

It came at a significant cost to their defense.

Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.

Click here to read the complete story

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

FOXBORO – So they did precisely what they were supposed to do. Poleaxed a bad team that had come cross-country to get its whipping and then return home.

It’s hard to downgrade the Patriots for that. Not this time. Even though they were facing a rookie quarterback making his third NFL start in Jared Goff, even though the Rams were without wide receiver Tavon Austin, the net the Patriots threw over the Rams offense was so stifling that those qualifiers don’t count.

The Rams went 1-for-9 on third down. They were 0-for-8 before the late conversion. They didn’t get over 100 total yards until their final drive of the game and that required a breakdown by Malcolm Butler on Kenny Britt. Britt, the Rams best offensive player this season, hadn’t had a catch before that.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So what if the Patriots used the Rams as their step stool to get to the next rung? So what if they were supposed to do exactly that? They’d had other matchups this season when they hadn’t choked out lesser opponents. This time they did.

And some of the players who figured prominently are precisely some of the players who’ve had their struggles.

Jabaal Sheard, benched two weeks ago, forced a pick and three passes defensed. Logan Ryan, who’s seen his role change and playing time dwindle, had a sack on a corner blitz and had two quarterback hits to go with five tackles. Kyle Van Noy, still fitting into the defense, had a pick, a pass defensed and four tackles. Alan Branch, who hasn’t struggled but had an NFL suspension hanging over his head until the league rescinded it Saturday, was his normal nuisance up front. Chris Long and Shea McClellin, both new to the team this year, had sacks.

“That happens around here,” explained Dont'a Hightower. “The next-man-up mentality has been here for a few years. Guys don’t play early then later in the season, they get right whatever it was that wasn’t right and they come back and we play well. It’s about us playing together.”

Hightower has steadily proclaimed that the defense has the talent and self-belief necessary to get where it needs to be on a consistent basis.  

“I feel like every week should be like this regardless of who we’re playing,” he said. “We had a great week of practice. Everyone was all in the same mindset, the same focus. (Defensive coordinator Matty Patricia) again did a great job of calling the game, mixing it up. We just went out there and executed.”

As the Patriots head into the final four games of their schedule, the caliber of their competition will rise. The next opponent, Baltimore, has won four of five including a 38-6 demolition of the Dolphins on Sunday.

The Broncos are up after the Ravens and that game will be in Denver, never an easy spot for the Patriots to say the least.

The Patriots close at home with the always-annoying Jets and then have to go to South Florida to play Miami in the New Year’s Day finale.  

“We’re just one week at a time,” said Ryan. “You can’t break this season off a couple weeks. Next week, we see what Baltimore [Ravens] just did, they’re a real good team. We know how that’s been in the past so it should be a nice game, a competitive game, competitive atmosphere. We’re just one week at a time, we’re happy we got this game and we’re on to the next one.”

It’s hard to point to this game and say, “All’s fixed.”

It was the outcome expected and there was no letdown. Part of the process.

“It’s December, time to play our best football,” said Devin McCourty. "We’ve been at it for a while now dating back to the beginning of training camp. Things we’ve talked about working on and things we’ve talked about improving, it’s time to start improving on those things and getting them done. Bill [Belichick] said it over and over that who we play each week is not going to matter if we don’t come and fix the things we need to fix and play the way we need to play. I think the whole team understands that and it starts with him, but [also] us echoing it as captains and as leaders. Today I think showed that when we do those things, we go out there and play well.”

The principals in this win – players like Sheard and Ryan – signaled that concerns over buy-in and locker room fissures appearing after playing time was shifted and personnel was shipped out were probably unfounded.

It’s a tough place to play because performance matters and there’s not a lot of, “That’s ok, you’ll get ‘em next time…” with this coaching staff.

It’s mentally challenging.

“That might be an understatement,” laughed Hightower. “But that’s part of the process, that’s part of the Patriot way and we try to adapt to it.”