After completing the greatest comeback in team history, the 8-3 New England Patriots are now preparing for the Houston Texans. Today the Patriots practiced indoors and had two new faces on the team. However, three players were missing, including wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
Rainy Day, Dream Away: Practice Indoors
With torrential downpours ripping through Foxboro, the Patriots decided to hold their morning practice inside the Dana Farber Field House. Normally Bill Belichick likes to take advantage of the rainy weather, but since Sunday's game will be played under a retractable roof, it makes most sense to practice indoors.
Can You See Me: Three Missing
Fortunately, only three players were missing from practice: wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle). Kenbrell Thompkins supplanted Dobson in the second half of Sunday's victory over Denver, but no injury was announced as reasoning for the move. I originally thought Dobson may have aggravated his hamstring injury, but it turns out he is hampered by his ankle.
HooMan remains banged up with a knee injury, but there was a new player at practice, "number 86." While a move has not been officially announced, the player is D.J. Williams, a third-year tight end that was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the Green Bay Packers. He is in the mold of a "H-back," much like Miami's Charles Clay. That is not to say he is as talented as Clay, but that is the style of player the Patriots get with Williams.
Also on the field was offensive lineman Patrick Ford, who was signed to the practice squad. He is an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Kentucky that previously spent time with the Jets. He will wear number 69 with the Patriots.
If 6 Was 9: Ball Security
During the media portion of today's practice, the running backs were focusing primarily on ball security drills. Stevan Ridley has fumbled in three consecutive games and the Patriots are now trying to flip his script. Running backs coach Ivan Fears was yelling "high and tight" to his backs as they were working through each drill. It is paramount that Ridley solves his fumble problems so the coaches can trust him as the playoffs near.
Quotes of the Day
Wait Until Tomorrow: BB wants turkey
Bill Belichick was in a cheery mood today and can't wait until Thanksgiving tomorrow. When asked if he likes white or dark meat, he said, "Whatever is on the plate. I haven't turned down a lot of food in my Thanksgiving lifetime."
All the fixings? "Whatever is on there. I make sure to leave room for pumpkin pie. I don't want to fill up on everything and not be able to eat that pie."
Up From the Skies: 5.08 seconds hangtime
Who is the unsung hero from Sunday's win? Punter Ryan Allen. Belichick was asked about the muffed punt that virtually won the game for the Patriots, and he said Allen's efforts weren't overlooked by the team. Allen hung the ball in the air for 5.08 seconds, putting the pressure on the Broncos. Belichick says, "It's the most important part of the play."
"That was a big emphasis point, for Ryan especially in those conditions, with the wind to get the ball up there, not so much for the wind to carry it but just to get the ball up there to make it hard to handle," Belichick said. "That's a tough ball when it's high. People are around you, there's wind, it's knuckling a little bit, it's cold, which a cold ball is a little bit harder to catch anyway. Just to make that as difficult as possible."
"I would say it's the most important part of the whole play. If that ball wasn't as high and difficult to handle as it was, then it probably would have been caught."
Third Stone from the Sun: Houston is good
You might think he's an alien invading Earth for believing this, but Bill Belichick claims that the Houston Texans, who have now lost nine straight games, are a very talented team. He says, "We've had three games against them in a pretty short amount of time, from two at the end of last year and then here we are. Going back and looking at those games and looking at the Texans this year, I really see a lot of similarities. There are a lot of the same players."
But what about their 2-9 record? "I know the record is different but when you look at the film, I see a very similar-looking team," Belichick said. "They've lost a couple tough, close games, which we've all been there before. They're a play or two away from having a lot of wins. That's a team that we've got to be ready to play. It's a good football team, a team that's really been in every game here the last five, six weeks."
I actually agree with him, so I guess I'm from the same planet. Sure, the Texans are nothing special this year. Their defense is not what it was last season, and the offense isn't the same without Arian Foster at running back. But they have still been competitive in almost every single game this season, and that is something you have to give them credit for. You can't take them lightly, or this could turn out to be a classic "trap game" for the Patriots.
Straight Ahead: Let the games begin
Tom Brady understands the importance of games in the second half of the season. Now is when teams prove whether they are contenders or pretenders. To prove themselves as a contender, the Patriots must first move on quickly from wins and losses, which Brady says his teammates have done. He said, "We were in here today and had a good practice. That's a good way to start."
In order for a team to come with this mindset, Brady says Bill Belichick always puts the pressure on his players to look straight ahead, not backwards. "He keeps the pressure on us all the time, so even though you may win a game early in September, you could be 3-0, feeling good about yourself, you're still not where you're going to be. So, the importance of keeping the pressure on us as players, that helps us improve."
"Right now is when we say football season starts." Brady explains, "The mental toughness, the discipline, the attitude, the work ethic, now's when it really starts to show up. Those are intangibles that you don't really see in September or in August when things are fresh and everyone's hopeful."
"Now you really see where you're at, and you see how you match-up against other teams. You see where there mental toughness is at; you see how hard they'll play. The mark of our team is that we've always tried to make that something we felt was a real strength of ours. We have to go out there and prove it."