By Mary Paoletti
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."