Notebook: Patriots Face Their Demons
Broncos have upper hand at Gillette
--The Broncos are one of only two teams to hold a winning record at Gillette Stadium. They are 2-0 with victories in 2002 and 2006. The other team is Green Bay, which won its only game at Gillette in 2002 -- the stadium's inaugural season.
"They'd be a lot more fun to watch if we didn't have to play them," coach Bill Belichick said of the Broncos.
--Belichick was an assistant special teams coach and an assistant to then-Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier in 1978. Belichick later hired Collier's son, Joel, to coach the secondary from 2006 to 2007. Joe Collier also worked in New England as a coach for the team during its expansion years in the late 1960s and later rejoined the Patriots' staff as a defensive coordinator from 1991 to 1992.
Hobbs Has Had Enough
--Cornerback Ellis Hobbs has grown tired of comparisons between the Patriots' 2007 and 2008 teams, particularly in the aftermath of Sunday's loss to San Diego.
Hobbs said last year "means nothing" while pointing out the NFL's competitive balance this season. Last week, five games were decided on the final play.
"Look around the league and how much more competitive it is around the league now, where teams are that much more close together where you're seeing all these close games," Hobbs said.
"Guys are literally fighting it out on the last play -- the last kick -- (or) one crucial play within a series. Last year is last year and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to see another one like that in my career."
A Repeat Performance?
--After watching their secondary get torched in San Diego, the Patriots expect to see more of the same from the Broncos -- and other opponents -- until they correct their own problems.
The Broncos lead the league in total offense and have expanded their passing game under the direction of quarterback Jay Cutler, who is on pace to shatter the team's single-season record for passing yards.
"I would imagine that anytime in this league people have had success with you on certain plays or certain schemes, you're going to see it until you correct it," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "That's how it works."
--With only seven sacks this season through five games, the Patriots have been criticized for their lack of a pass rush in each of their two losses.
Asked to assess the damage Wednesday, Belichick said, "I think the sack statistic can be a little overrated. I thought we had good pressure on the quarterback in San Francisco. It's really about pressure and forcing the ball out, on time or early. You always want to get pressure on the quarterback. There's no doubt about that."
The Unsung Heroes
--The lack of consistency in the running game has produced unlikely heroes for the Patriots. Veteran running back Sammy Morris now leads the team with three touchdowns after scoring from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss. Morris has 20 career touchdowns in his nine-year NFL career and has become the team's primary option in the running game with Laurence Maroney nursing a shoulder injury and LaMont Jordan missing games with an injured calf.
Ross Might Be Ready
--Tackle Oliver Ross, who is back on the practice field after spending the first six weeks of the season on the non-football injury list, spent most of his time away from football learning the playbook.
"You never want to miss time," Ross said, "but it kind of helped out learning the plays and learning the system. Pretty much, the plays are the same throughout the league. It's just different terminology. One block may be different on each play."