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New England Patriots Links 10/21/11 - Bye Week Brings Rest, Reflection, Review

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<em>The Patriots will always have a shot with this man under center</em>.
The Patriots will always have a shot with this man under center.

Ian Rapoport notes Bill Belichick says that by this point in the season teams have been through it all, and have enough of a sample size to be evaluated.

"We have enough of a view of them that you’re not just looking at a snapshot," Belichick said. "You’re looking at a pretty good (sample). They’ve been ahead, they’ve been behind. There’s enough red area plays, there’s enough third-and-long plays, there’s enough third-and-short plays, there’s enough two-minute plays. There’s enough plays there where you can get a much better handle on what it appears that the makeup of that team is, as opposed to Week 1 or 2 where you only have a couple of plays of regular season."

Mike Reiss tells us five things we've learned about the Patriots.  Here's his first:

This is one of Bill Belichick's more mentally tough teams.  Unlike the 2009 season, when the Patriots went deep into late December before proving they could win in a true road game, this club checked that off the list in Week 1. Add in a Week 4 win at Oakland, and then a clutch fourth-quarter comeback against the Cowboys at home last Sunday, and a picture starts to come into focus of a team with a steely resolve.

"I thought the win against Dallas was a good, tough win for our football team that, in all honesty, we haven't had a lot of those lately," coach Bill Belichick told Showtime's "Inside the NFL" program. "The players stepped up. They made it when they had to, and you have to feel good about that, in spite of some of the other mistakes we made that day."

Some have compared that game to a Patriots-style 2003- or 2004-type win. It's well said. While there are sure to be obstacles ahead, this team seems to have a solid core to overcome them, not to mention a positive locker-room dynamic where most of the players seem to be pulling in the right direction.

Chris Forsberg lists his five things we've learned about the Patriots so far. Here's one of them.

Andre Carter has been the most important defensive free-agent pickup.  When the Patriots beefed up their defensive line this offseason, much of the spotlight (and rightfully so) fell on the trade for Albert Haynesworth. Heck, even Shaun Ellis drew more headlines given the 11 years he spent on the other side of the Patriots-Jets rivalry. But no free agent -- and maybe no player on the defensive side of the ball overall -- has made a bigger impact than Carter.

After losing his starting job in Washington last year, Carter has already essentially matched his total 2010 production in six weeks with New England (23 tackles, including four for losses, and 2.5 sacks). According to PFF metrics, Carter is graded the seventh-best 4-3 defensive end in the league through six weeks, and only Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett has been better against the run.

Fresh off a two-sack effort against the Cowboys, Carter's steady play hasn't gone unnoticed. "I think he's performed well all year. I really do," said coach Bill Belichick. "I think he's had a really solid year for us. I think he's performed well pretty much since the first training camp practice. He's a very consistent, high-effort player, strong, experienced, knows what he's doing, very professional. He's been really consistent."

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