Quick Hits: Patriots - Bills

When the New England Patriots play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, it will be for first place in the AFC East. It's one place New England is familiar with. Midweek news and notes

Advantage Patriots

--The Patriots' nine-game winning streak against Buffalo is their third longest in franchise history, trailing only their 10-game winning streak against the Chargers from 1973 to 2001 and their 11-game stretch against the Bills from 1983 to 1987.

--Since Gillette opened in 2002, the Patriots own the NFL's best home record at 49-10, which is 4 1/2 games better than the Colts, who are 44-14 during that same stretch. The numbers include the postseason, where the Patriots haven't lost a game at Gillette in seven tries.

Brutal Stretch

--The next three games could determine New England's fate in the AFC East race. The Patriots will play back-to-back games against division rivals Buffalo, New York and Miami in the midst of a three-way tie among those teams for first place.

"This is our grind moment, the division games -- all of them tightly packed in together," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said.

Added Mike Vrabel: "I think what's important is this week against Buffalo. After that, it really doesn't matter (right now). I think the Bills are thinking the same thing."

Welker Setting The Standard

--Wide receiver Wes Welker reached another milestone Sunday by tying the NFL record for most games with six or more catches to open the season -- his eighth in a row. Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith set the record in 2001. Welker leads the team with 56 catches for 503 yards.

Streak Comes To An End

--The Patriots were called for a false-start penalty in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, breaking a streak of seven consecutive penalty-free quarters. They hadn't been penalized since the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 20.

Stephen Gostkowski passes Adam Vinatieri as the most accurate kicker in Patriots history .
(AP Photo/Lenny IGnelzi)

Gostkowski "Mr. Accuracy"

--Stephen Gostkowski hit three more field goals in Sunday's loss and is now 19-for-20 this season. He's also hit 26 of his last 27 attempts dating back to last season. He is currently the team's all-time leader in field-goal percentage at 85.7.

O'Neal Happy With Result

--On the political front, many Patriots watched the proceedings from Tuesday and shared their support for new President Barack Obama, who became the first black candidate to get elected.

"You know, when I was a kid, I used to hear other guys -- black kids -- say, 'Someday, I want to be president,' and I was always like, 'Yeah, right,'" cornerback Deltha O'Neal said. "Now, it seems like the sky's the limit. (Obama) worked hard and made his dream come true. Now, I can tell my kids that if they want to be president, it's possible."

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Consecutive regular-season games the Patriots have won against NFC teams, a streak that dates back to 2005.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Had he been there when we took Kareem Brown (in the fourth round), I'd like to think we wouldn't have passed him up." -- Coach Bill Belichick, on whether or not the Patriots expressed any interest in drafting Bills QB Trent Edwards in 2007.

Crable Finished

The Patriots placed rookie linebacker Shawn Crable on injured reserve Wednesday and signed veteran cornerback Jason Webster, who spent the summer with them in training camp.

Crable's loss is no big deal considering the Patriots never activated him this season. He injured his leg in practice two weeks ago and never returned to the field.

The Patriots could afford to lose him because they needed help in the secondary. Webster provides a veteran presence, though his lengthy injury history makes him a gamble as well.

Deltha O'Neal will likely continue to start, assuming he's healthy, though it wouldn't be a surprise if Webster gets the nod Sunday. Terrence Wheatley is dealing with a hand injury and may not be available this weekend, so keep an eye on the newly acquired veteran.

Player Notes:

--RB LaMont Jordan was listed as having limited participation in Wednesday's practice due to a calf injury. This is good news as the Patriots hope he is one step closer to returning to the field for the first time since the San Francisco game.
--RB Sammy Morris did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury and will likely miss Sunday's game -- his third in a row. Morris suffered ligament damage and may need at least one more week until he's ready to return.
--CB Lewis Sanders also did not practice Wednesday due to a hamstring injury and is danger of missing his third game in a row. Sanders has been a key contributor on sub-defense packages throughout the season.
--CB Terrence Wheatley did not practice Wednesday due to a left wrist injury suffered in Sunday's loss. Wheatley could be out of the lineup this weekend, which would force the Patriots to utilize their depth in different ways.
--CB Ellis Hobbs was listed as having limited participation in Wednesday's practice due to a shoulder injury. Hobbs played last weekend and should be ready to go Sunday against Buffalo.


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