Statement Game For Patriots

New England takes control of the AFC East after blowing out Jets 37-16 on Sunday night. Can the Patriots use the win to mount a playoff push?

Patriots make statement with win over Jets
The Sports Xchange, Nov 14, 2011

   After stumbling a bit through a tough stretch of games against a slew of potential playoff teams from both conferences, the Patriots get a bit of a breather this week as the slumping Kansas City Chiefs head to Gillette Stadium for Monday Night Football.

   Coming off last Sunday's key 37-16 victory over the Jets in New York, New England improved to 6-3 on the season to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East. They also statistically have the easiest schedule in the NFL over the next seven weeks with a chance to build momentum heading toward the postseason.

   Despite losing consecutive games for the first time since 2009 with losses to the Steelers and Giants, New England got off the skid on Sunday.

   Despite fielding a defense that ranks 32nd in the NFL against the pass that itself fields a slew of undrafted players and castoffs from other teams, New England looks down the stretch with a far more positive outlook than it had just a week earlier.

   Clearly the Patriots weren't the team that was left for dead by many after the consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and New York.

   They're probably not as good as many may project now that they've reclaimed first place for themselves by sweeping the Jets on the season.

   But coach Bill Belichick was rather pleased with his team's effort to bounce back, high-fiving players coming off the field.

   Nothing has come easy for New England this season, especially on a patchwork defense. Belichick has clearly earned respect for the fight his players have shown in recent weeks.

   "I know one thing, these guys are tough, mentally and physically," Belichick said. "They'll stand up to the challenge and they'll give their best. That counts for a lot. The games are not too big for them."

   The challenges won't be nearly as big in the coming weeks as games with the Chiefs, Colts, Redskins, Broncos and Dolphins replace the likes of the Jets, Steelers, and Giants from recent weeks.

   There is a long way to go, but as always seems to be the case, the Patriots appear to be in the driver's seat in the AFC East as the calendar turns toward the latter part of the season.

   "The good teams really need to get better this time of year," quarterback Tom Brady said. "That's what we need to do."

   LINEUP WATCH: The if-it-weren't-true-it-might-be-funny rotation continued at safety last week for the Patriots. With Patrick Chung out of action with a foot injury, and the other safety spot having been a open tryout all year, New England started James Ihedigbo and Sterling Moore at safety in New York. Ihedigbo is a former undrafted player out of UMass who's been primarily a special teamer in the NFL, while Moore is an undrafted player who played cornerback at SMU. The situation in the back end continues to get uglier for the Patriots.
   BY THE NUMBERS: Patriots second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski has 18 touchdowns in 25 career games. After tying a record for rookie tight ends with 10 last season, Gronkowski already has eight in nine games this season after his two-touchdown game on Sunday night against the Jets.

NOTES

   --S Patrick Chung was inactive against New York with a foot injury. The safety made the trip to MetLife and worked out with the training staff pregame, but was unable to go for the second time this season.
   --WR Taylor Price, who was limited all week with a hamstring injury, was inactive against the Jets. The 2010 third-round pick has now been inactive/DNP in 22 games to open his pro career.
   --LB Brandon Spikes missed his first game with a knee injury suffered a week earlier against the Giants.
   --DE Shaun Ellis returned to action against his former team after missing a week with a rib injury.
   --LB Dane Fletcher missed his third straight game with a thumb injury.
   --G Brian Waters limped off with a left knee injury on the first drive of the day against New York, but returned a series later.
   --CB Devin McCourty left the second quarter of the loss in New York with a right shoulder injury. He went to the locker room early and was listed as questionable for a return but he did not.
   --DE Andre Carter set a Patriots record with 4.5 sacks in Sunday night's win in New York, and could have had another when he forced Mark Sanchez into an intentional grounding call.


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