Most improved: Running game or defense?

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Most improved: Running game or defense?

The Patriots did two things really well on Sunday that they didn't do in more than spurts last season: run the ball and defend well.

Mike Felger likes the way the Pats ran the ball, saying that it not only helps the offensive line who is still working on protecting Brady, but it also takes pressure off of Brady.

Andy Gresh notes that it makes the Pats much more complimentary in terms of the pass and the run together.

But is a run game the missing ingredient to a Super Bowl win? Or is it defense? Most likely, it's both.

Bill Belichick an eclipse guy? 'Yeah, it's great'

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Bill Belichick an eclipse guy? 'Yeah, it's great'

FOXBORO -- During Bill Belichick's Monday press conference, voices could be heard coming from the Gillette Stadium tunnel shouting about the solar eclipse and protective eyewear. Clearly, Belichick's some of Belichick's players were spending part of their day off as amateur astrologists. 

A few minutes later, after a lengthy back-and-forth with reporters, Belichick was asked if he was an "eclipse guy."

Belichick laughed and shrugged his shoulders. 

"Yeah," he said. "It's great."

The Patriots will get back on the field for practice Tuesday in preparation of Friday's preseason game against the Lions in Detroit. 

Gronk’s preseason activity part of new approach

Gronk’s preseason activity part of new approach

There’s a saying attributed to Tom Brady: "If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all you'll ever get is all you've ever got."

I don’t know if he said it first or if it’s even a phrase worth hijacking, but there’s probably a kernel of truth there. And it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t something that Rob Gronkowski’s had whispered in his ear this summer.

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On Saturday, Gronk was famously on the field for the first time in a preseason game since 2012. He didn’t get any touches and played just 14 snaps before calling it a night. But his presence was noteworthy in that he was ready to play and did so despite the fact the game meant nothing.

Why the change from preseasons past?

A big reason -- but probably not the sole reason -- is because Gronk’s been working with Brady’s body coach, Alex Guerrero. Both Brady and Guerrero believe strongly that the best preparation for live football is playing live football. And Gronk hasn’t really done that in the past whether because of injury or design.

On Saturday, Brady was asked about Gronk’s presence on the field and answered, “Different times of your life you try different . . . different types of experiences force you to do different things and I’m just proud of his effort.”

Gronk’s 2016 was cut short by disc surgery that came after he was landed on in New York. But Gronk also missed a game after being hammered by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas two weeks before the injury against the Jets.

Whether either of those injuries would have been prevented by a different training regimen is debatable. But Brady and Guerrero believe strongly that learning to fall and training the body to absorb violent hits rather than tense up as they occur makes a difference. So too does muscle pliability and hydration. The weight training that the Gronkowski Bros. were reared on by their father Gordie absolutely helped them get to the NFL, but you have to mix in a resistance band once in a while, it seems.

The light’s gone on for Gronk who earlier this summer acknowledged, “It felt like it was that time in my career where I just really needed to focus on it and go to the next level or else I could’ve possibly been out of the door. So just wanted to take it to the next level and keep on going."

You can’t be immunized from injury, but Guerrero’s had success turning a number of injury-prone Patriots -- from Willie McGinest through Julian Edelman -- into pretty durable players. We’ll see if it takes with Gronk.

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