New England Patriots: News and Notes

The New England Patriots have a number of challenges to work on for Sunday's game in Atlanta. Tom Brady expects to play better, the defensive line plans on getting better pressure, and injuries may still play a factor in who's available to slow down the Falcons. Get Inside for notes, quotes and news on the Patriots.

New England Patriots: Weekend Notes
By Site Staff

SERIES HISTORY

11th meeting. Falcons lead series 6-4, but Patriots won the last meeting 24-10 at the Georgia Dome in November, 2001. The Falcons had won four straight in the series before that. In that 2001 game, the Patriots recorded nine sacks, three of them against Michael Vick, who replaced an injured Chris Chandler. Vick was 2-of-9 passing for 56 yards with a 35-yard scramble.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Backup QB Doug Flutie and third-stringer Matt Cassel were slated to play the role of Falcons QB Michael Vick on the scout team this week. That's an easier task for 42-year-old Flutie than it is for Cassel, a seventh-round rookie.

Flutie, whose scrambling (1,635 career rushing yards) is legendary, joked that he could give a pretty good impersonation of Vick ... 20 years from now. Still, if can't replicate Vick's jaw-dropping speed, at least Flutie knows where Vick is coming from when the Falcons star pulls the ball down and takes off.

"To do some of the things that he (Vick) does - not to the extent that he does - that's pretty natural to me," Flutie said. "Instead of making myself stand in there and deliver the ball, I just do what comes naturally to me and that's take a look at one or two guys (as potential receivers) and then bolt out of there and make the defense react."

--QB Tom Brady's career record as a starter dropped to 50-16 in the regular season after last week's loss. Since the start of the 2003 season, he has been incredibly sharp in games following losses. In 2003 and 2004, he was 4-0 in those situations with a combined eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

In his first crack at redemption this season - Week 3 in Pittsburgh - he completed 31 of 41 for 372 yards and was 12 of 12 passing in the fourth quarter as the Patriots nipped the Steelers, 23-20.

"It is not about rah-rah speeches, it's not about what you did last year," Brady said of bouncing back from defeat. "It is about what you are going to do next week."

--With so many injuries and with two tough road games (Atlanta, Denver) up next, a lesser team might be having a crisis of confidence right about now. Not the Patriots. Veterans such as Brady, WR Troy Brown and LB Willie McGinest remember that the 2001 Super Bowl team was 0-2 and 5-5 before catching fire. Even the 2003 champs started 2-2 before winning 15 in a row.

"It's not about losing confidence," DE Jarvis Green said. "It's about us getting better at the little things." DE Ty Warren agreed, saying last week's 41-17 loss to San Diego "definitely is a bitter taste in your mouth, but at the same time you can't harp on it ... If it was the last game of the season it would be tough to leave behind, but we've got 12 more games to play and how many other (playoff) games beyond that."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Takeaways this season for the Patriots, putting them on pace for 12. Since 2001, they have never had fewer than 29.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just assumed you talk about your own team. You don't talk about our team. He has no business talking about our team. He's not our coach. We'll let our coach talk about our team. We'll let our players talk about our team."- QB Tom Brady on Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer's postgame observation that teams can only overcome so many injuries before the personnel losses begin to take a toll.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SS Guss Scott, in his second year, and rookie LT Nick Kaczur are both expected to make their second NFL starts, even though their first ones weren't works of art.

Scott, pressed into service because of veteran Rodney Harrison's season-ending knee injury, was part of a shabby secondary showing against San Diego. Kaczur's struggles were not as glaring, although he did get beaten cleanly by blitzing linebacker Steve Foley in the first quarter. Only a heads-up play by QB Tom Brady prevented a sack. Like his offensive teammates, Kaczur did not do nearly enough in the second half when the Patriots were outscored 24-0 and mustered only three first downs.

The Patriots could make changes. They could flip-flop Kaczur and RT Tom Ashworth (the two have played on both sides) or they could slide rookie LG Logan Mankins out to left tackle and plug in veteran Russ Hochstein at left guard. However, Mankins did not have a strong game last week, and given the Falcons' fierce pass rush, Atlanta probably is not the team you want to be experimenting against.

At safety, the Patriots could use rookie James Sanders (provided he is active for the first time this season after battling an ankle injury) or free agent Michael Stone, who saw special teams action only against San Diego after signing the week before the game. Sanders practiced Wednesday and could be close to returning.

--Expect FB Patrick Pass to continue to be a big part of the offense. The team signed ex-Steeler/ex-Raider RB Amos Zereoue last week when third-down RB Kevin Faulk was lost to a foot injury. However, it was Pass who picked up the slack against San Diego with career highs in catches (eight) and receiving yards (55). Pass is one the Patriots' most versatile players. His receiving, running and blocking skills are all underrated. Plus, he's a core special teams performer, meaning he will never be inactive as long as he's healthy.

Pass was limping after last week's game but appeared fine at Wednesday's practice.

PLAYER NOTES

--CB Tyrone Poole (ankle) was not on the field Wednesday during the first 30 minutes of practice that the media was allowed to watch. Poole, who has sat out the last three games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable.

--CB Randall Gay (ankle) was not on the field Wednesday during the first 30 minutes of practice that the media was allowed to watch. Gay, who has sat out the last two games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable.

--CBs Duane Starks (thigh) and Chad Scott (shoulder/hand) are expected to play, despite being listed as questionable.

--DE Richard Seymour (knee) was added to the injury report on Wednesday for the second time this season. He was listed as questionable. Seymour was questionable for Week 2 with a thigh injury but played and had 14 tackles, two shy of his career high.

--WR/KR Bethel Johnson (knee) was added to the injury report Wednesday. He was listed as questionable. Johnson was inactive for Weeks 1 and 2 while recovering from off-season foot surgery.


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