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

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)