Patriots Notes: Home Field Is Huge Advantage

New England finished 8-0 at home this season for the first time ever and did it with a suffocating, opportunistic defense and an offense that avoided costly mistakes.

They outscored opponents at Gillette Stadium by a 169-68 margin. Their four defensive touchdowns on their home turf matched the touchdown total they allowed all season at home. In their last six home games, they allowed just one touchdown and that came late in a win over Jacksonville with the Patriots leading 27-6 and less the 4:00 on the clock.

After allowing a touchdown to the Jets in the home opener and two more against the Titans in early October, the Patriots allowed just 22 points over their final six home games for a 3.7 points per game average.

They also finished with an amazing plus-15 turnover ratio at home aided by the fact that Tom Brady didn't throw one of his 12 interceptions in Foxborough. Overall, New England allowed just 8.5 points per game at home while scoring 21.

The Patriots are 17-3 in their last 20 home games, including 13-3 at Gillette Stadium, where the winds swirl and the field is chewed up something rotten.

"My job is to coach the team and get the team prepared to play and that is really where my focus is. Doing the fields isn't my strength," Belichick said. "I think we all know at this point in the season in New England that there is going to be a lot less growing than there is at other points in the year and the field has a lot of wear and tear. It is what it is. It's our home field and we are comfortable playing on it. The fans have been great. The atmosphere at our games has been good. Whatever we play on, we will show up and play on. That's our attitude. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it."

The 2003 Patriots allowed an average of 14.9 points per game, the lowest total in franchise history and they led the NFL in points allowed with 238, including a franchise record three shutouts. But as stingy as his defense was, Belichick has coached better. His 1994 Browns team allowed just 204 points (12.8 points per game) during the regular season on the way to an 11-5 Wild Card berth. After knocking off the Patriots in the opening round, Belichick's Browns lost 29-9 at Pittsburgh.

Count former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe among those who believe New England will be a formidable postseason foe. "They're a darn good football team right now," Bledsoe said. "I think it is a credit to their players and a credit to their coaching staff and a credit to their organization that they were able to, through a ton of injuries this year, continue to pay well. They are playing tremendous football right now. They are going to be tough to beat."

During the bye week, Belichick will give his players Thursday-Sunday off after working them out Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. They will return Monday to get an early jump on game preparation. It is the same schedule the team used during it in-season bye week.

BY THE NUMBERS: 98
The total number of games missed due to injury by players who started for the Patriots this season. QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I am glad to have the week off so I can watch my Michigan Wolverines kick some Trojan butt." -- Quarterback Tom Brady on the Rose Bowl match up between his alma mater, Michigan, and top ranked USC.

Brady was in California and attended the Rose Bowl and he hopes that the Patriots due better in their first playoff game than his Wolverines did in Pasadene at the Rose Bowl. The USC Trojans defeated Michigan 28-14 on Thursday afternoon.


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