Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland


Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- New England's upcoming matchup against the Oakland Raiders is its second road game in as many weeks. For quarterback Tom Brady and seven other Patriots, it's a free flight home.

Not like that will make the assignment easier.

"It's been a while since I've been there," Brady said Wednesday. "Last time I played there was '02, so I think my parents are the most happy. They don't have to come very far this week. For us, it's a road game, it's an important one. So we've got to go out there and try to win."

The teams last met in 2008, when the Patriots inflicted a 49-26 beating on the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. But the offensive firestorm -- the four touchdown passes on four opening drives -- is credited to Matt Cassel; Brady's bum knee wrote it as such. He hasn't faced the Raiders since a 30-20 win September 8, 2005. And he hasn't visited The Black Hole since November 17, 2002 -- a 27-20 loss.

"We haven't played them -- I haven't played them -- in a while, so it's been kind of a crash course the last few days in getting to know them, getting to know their personnel, their schemes. But they're very good. They play well at home. They're very physical. They're tough. They're big. They're fast. It's always a certain type of player out there: big, tough, fast . . . It's a good front. They're good in the secondary. ... It's going to be a big challenge."


The Raiders haven't had a winning season since 2002; last year's 8-8 record was a boon. But, as it was said about the Bills in Week 3, this team might be different. Oakland's 2-1, coming off a 34-21 win over the Jets. The triumph, which started with a no-huddle first snap and two minute, 24 second 76-yard touchdown drive, was demoralizing for New York. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Oakland's opening "had us on our heels." Nose tackle Sione Pouha called the game "embarrassing" and "humiliating."

Raiders running back Darren McFadden plowed through the Jets for 171 yards and two touchdowns, abusing one of the AFC East's top teams upped his average to 131 yards rushing per game.

If the Patriots don't want to be pushed around by the "bully" Hue Jackson is building, they can't just lean on their quarterback. Brady's 1,327 passing yards through 2011's first three games is an NFL record. But 387 were wasted in last week's loss to Buffalo. Mark Sanchez's 339 -- part of 439 total yards of offense for the Jets -- weren't good enough to beat the Raiders.

A more complete game will need to be played in Oakland.

"I think the goal is to be pretty balanced in what we're doing," Brady said. "Just based on how the game's played out, it's kind of dictated a certain style of play. When we do run it we need to run it efficiently and effectively and when we throw it we have to do the same. We can't turn the ball over. So whatever we need to do to get the ball in the end zone, we've got to do it well."

Brady throwing four picks, as he did in Buffalo, is unlikely. New England's defense giving up a 21-point lead would be less surprising. The Patriots give up a league-worst 468.7 total yards per game, a stat McFadden must be drooling over. Their 377.0 average passing yards allowed also tops the NFL's naughty list.

Better to look ahead, then.

"I think it's really a fresh week for us," Brady said. "Like I said, there's nothing that we can do about what's happened. We're trying to bring a fresh, new plan, new energy, we're trying to put it together against a damn good football team. We're going to learn more about going on the road and playing a tough opponent than anything. ... We're trying to get a win.

"We've moved on from Sunday and we're focused on what we need to do in our preparation," Brady continued. "I think we've been studying the different challenges Oakland presents to us and we're going to prepare hard like we always do and try to go out there and play well. There's nothing we can do about last week. Certainly nothing we can do about next week. The only thing you can really do is focus on what we have ahead of us today."

From here it looks like one hell of a homecoming.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day


Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'


Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.