Patriots Inside Slant

Belichick is not taking Houston lightly

In the wake of Sunday night's Bill Bowl win over the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys, Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked about his team's penchant for doing just enough regardless of the opponent or the opponent's style. It may have been his way of saying that his team is versatile enough to play any style of game successfully, an element that could be beneficial down the stretch as the Patriots position themselves for playoff seeding.

"I think this team is taking on the theme each week of doing what we need to do," he said. "Some weeks it is one part of the game or one type of game, but we just find a way to win."

The Patriots' six-game winning streak is eerily similar, yet more impressive than the six-game winning streak on which it finished the 2001 regular season on the way to a world championship and it has them at 8-2, which equals the best start in franchise history. Back then, the Patriots received contributions from unlikely sources and found a way to win even if they didn't earn style points.

A look at the team's eight wins this year shows triumphs over passing teams (Tennessee, N.Y. Giants) and running teams (Miami, Denver, Dallas). It shows low-scoring slugfest wins (Dallas, Cleveland, Miami, N.Y. Giants) and high scoring wins (Tennessee, Denver). The Patriots have been able to adapt to any style of game, which is a credit to the coaches and to the veteran leadership in the locker room.

"It's never pretty," safety Rodney Harrison said. "The offense does just enough and we take the attitude that if they don't score, they can't win."

That formula has been obvious in wins like the 12-0 victory over Dallas, the 9-3 win over Cleveland or even the 17-6 win over the Giants. It was just as apparent in the team's 38-30 win over the Titans and 30-26 comeback win over Denver. But perhaps the most impressive fact is that New England is 5-0 against teams that currently have winning records, the best mark in the NFL.

So now the Patriots head to Houston to take on a Texans team that has won road games at New England's AFC East rivals, Buffalo and Miami, and is a surprising 4-6 through 10 games despite being hit hard by injuries to its defense.

"Houston went in and beat Buffalo, which is a lot more than we can say," Belichick said.

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