Patriots Ready For Giants?

The Patriots victory over the Packers in Green Bay went a long way toward addressing concerns about the New England rush defense. In one week gaping holes and blown assignements were corrected, allowing the team to contain one of the best runners in the league. With final roster cuts looming after the next preseason game, the Patriots are tuned up and ready for their next challenge, even if it is only going to be a display of backups.

Tuned Up and Ready For Giants
By Staff

Expecting Bill Belichick to laud his team for its 27-3 preseason pounding of the Packers last week? Forget it. The game is gone and forgotten. The loss to New Orleans the week before? He remembers that one. Last year's 31-3 preseason loss at Cincinnati? He already discussed that one ad nauseum this summer.

It's his selective memory. Super Bowl? What Super Bowl? Preseason loss to the Bengals? He'll tell you every detail. So following his team's most impressive summer performance, one in which his oft-questioned run defense played quite well, Belichick wasn't ready to declare his team ready to defend its title.

"Overall, there are certainly a number of things we can do better," Belichick said. "We had problems with penalties and there were some situations where we didn't execute like we wanted to. There's plenty of work we have to do."

Belichick treated the Packers game with the utmost importance. After using personnel unconventionally in the first two games and taking a long look at some prospects, Belichick stressed to his team that the Packers game, the third of the preseason, should be treated like a regular-season game. That preparation showed up at Lambeau Field last week, and Belichick hopes it's the building block to prepare his team for the Thursday night season opener against the Raiders.

Consider that the Patriots allowed Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson to average 6.7 yards per rush and New Orleans' Deuce McAllister to average 4.4. Predictably, questions swirled surrounding the middle of the Pats run defense, where newly acquired linebackers Chad Brown and Monty Beisel are trying to replace longtime Patriots Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi. The defense also allowed the Bengals to convert 57 percent of their third downs, and the Saints were even better, hitting on 61 percent.

But the Patriots defense improved dramatically last week, limiting the Packers to 38 percent on third down while also bottling up Ahman Green, limiting him to 2.1 yards per carry on his 11 rushes. The performance gave New England something positive to build on, and while Belichick understands that to be the case, his approach remains consistent. He has a way of knocking his team down to keep it focused on what's ahead. It's why there is no fear of the team resting on its laurels.

Asked if his current team is better than his last two championship teams, Belichick said, "It really doesn't matter to me. What does is our ability to maximize our talent and what we want to do this year. It's irrelevant really. It's about us becoming the best we can be. That's where our emphasis is. You can't compare other years. It's not a level playing field."

What can be compared is his team's defensive performance aganst New Orleans in Week 2 of the preseason and its effort against the Packers. He was disgusted after allowing 37 points to New Orleans. So the three points his team allowed last week had to please Belichick, even if he didn't show it. Now he will get his team focused on the Raiders while preparing mostly his remaining reserves to play against the Giants in the final preseason game, in which Tom Brady and Co. will see little, if any, playing time.

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