Patriots ready for possible Detroit trap

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Patriots ready for possible Detroit trap

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- A team tied for the best record in the NFL will have an impressive resume. New England does.

Going into Week 12, the Patriots are undefeated at home. They've beaten tough teams on the road (Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh). They've come from behind to steal wins. They've preserved leads despite late opposition rallies.

So it's interesting that one of the few hurdles left for the Patriots to clear is winning the trap game.

The 2-8 Detroit Lions, sandwiched on the schedule between Indianapolis and the Jets, certainly have trap-door potential. But cornerback Kyle Arrington says the Patriots are dialed in to the Thanksgiving matchup.

"We have to take it one game at a time and the next game is the most important one,'' he said on Tuesday. "The goal this week is 60 minutes. We've played a lot of tough, competitive games and we've played a lot of games where we've had a lead in them as well. So the goal is just to finish every game that we play and there's no game like the present."

Tom Brady echoed Arrington's sentiment. The quarterback said the team isn't expecting to sweep through the short week on momentum won by beating the Colts last Sunday. The Patriots have moved on, but are pacing themselves.

"It always comes down to that nothing we did last week is going to help us this week, other than learning from mistakes. Weve got to put everything into this week,'' Brady said.

It would help to look back on the 34-14 loss to the Browns. The Patriots had beaten Minnesota 28-18 and had to go through Cleveland to get to Pittsburgh in Week 10. Say what you will about the Browns being scrappy, but the game was considered a lock for New England -- a gimmie-game at best and a speed bump at worst. That's why jaws were on the ground as time ticked down at the Dog Pound.

Nobody in the Patriots' locker room would say they underestimated the Browns, though. Of course not.

"I dont think thats the reason why we lost to Cleveland,'' Brady said. "I think the reason we lost to Cleveland is because we didnt play well. The reason we are going to win or lose this game is because we play well or we dont play well. We came in Monday and we didnt even talk about the Colts. We talked about the Lions and what we need to do to beat them.

"I don't think there was a letdown,'' Brady insisted. "We certainly didn't think that 'Man, we can't lose this game. We'll just run out there and run around for 60 minutes and come back and fly home victorious.' And I don't think we think that way against Detroit, either.''

He'd better hope not. He'll have to ignore the facts to do that, though. Like the fact that the Lions haven't won on Turkey Day since 2003. And the reality of the upcoming Jets game -- on Monday, December 6 -- may wind up being the most important of the season.

Rob Gronkowski maintains the Pats' current mindset has no Jets anywhere in sight.

"We haven't even talked about the Jets game one bit,'' the tight end said. "We just focus on Detroit. They're a great team, they're always playing hard and they've got great players. We've got to be ready.''

Why should you believe them? Poor play like in the loss to Cleveland -- whether as victims to the trap or a team that just couldn't get it together -- isn't likely to come from the Patriots again. But they won't have to sink too low for Detroit to keep it close anyway. And New England knows that.

"They're a great team, they're better than what their record says,'' Gronkowski continued. "Way better than what their record says. They're in every single game so we've got to go out there like it's one of our biggest games, which it is."

Five of Detroit's eight losses have been by five or fewer points. The top NFC North teams, Chicago and Green Bay, beat Detroit by five and two points, respectively. NFC East frontrunner Philly beat the Lions by three. The AFC East-leading Jets only won by three, in overtime no less. (The other close loss: By two, to just-as-lowly Buffalo.)

Nobody will argue that the bottom line runs under the way things stack up in that WinLoss column. At the same time, you've got to think that with the Lions coming so close so often, they'll hit that target eventually.

"We just have to prepare like we always prepare, that's what it always comes down to,'' Danny Woodhead said. "Anyone in the NFL can beat anyone. They're a great team and they just don't get the credit."

A win over New England would be a hell of a way to turn things around. Can't imagine it happening? Tom Brady can. For him, it would actually be deja vu of a particularly unfortunate milestone. In 2000, the quarterback made his NFL debut against the Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 23, 2000. The Lions gorged themselves on a 34-9 win.

Of course, a lot has changed for Brady and New England since then, but the Patriots don't need to go back that far. They just need to hope that things have changed since coming home from Cleveland and that their eyes stay wide for any traps.

"This team does a lot of good things they've been in a lot of close games against a lot of good teams,'' Brady repeated. "If you don't get it going early, that dome's gonna be rocking and we gotta get it going early."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.

Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida. 

Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility. 

Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

(Listen above to hear Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss Cyrus Jones on the Quick Slants podcast.)

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
 
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
 
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017.