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How a mid-week practice change played a role in New England’s victory over Detroit

Related: Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe earns a victory in his first career start

NFL: OCT 09 Lions at Patriots Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the New England Patriots prepared for a Week 5 matchup against the Detroit Lions, head coach Bill Belichick called an audible mid-week. Instead of a typical Wednesday practice, the Patriots moved inside the Socios Field House and dialed back the intensity.

While the switch to a walk-through type of practice may raise eyebrows from a 1-3 squad, the move proved quite beneficiary to New England.

“I think we were locked in all week,” Patriots captain Devin McCourty said postgame. “I would say from the beginning of the week, talking about what we needed to do, we had, I would say, a less physical practice Wednesday. I think sometimes everybody’s like ‘oh my goodness they’re not in full pads.’ But I think the good thing about that is guys being locked in.

“We were able to talk about a lot of different plays, see a lot of different looks, kind of figure it out and come back in the play calls and the things that we had scheme-wise. We were able to watch the film together. Talk about it, what we liked, what we didn’t like. I thought you saw that progress throughout the week with our play calls. I thought then Sunday, today, we were able to come out and play fast.”

Playing fast is exactly what the Patriots did on Sunday, as they shutout the league’s leading offense en route to a victory. The walkthrough setting not only helped the team reset in a way on the field, it also allowed an extra day of recovery off of it.

“I think it was helpful,” Matthew Judon explained postgame. “This is a tough sport, as you can see. It just allowed us an extra day to get our bodies back right. Mentally, going through the walkthrough and everything like that, we were mentally locked in. When you’re able to rest your body and sharpen your mind — and the two work well [together] — that’s something you got to do and we took advantage of it.”

Staying conditioned and healthy is a major part of Judon’s game. After getting off to a scorching start last season with 12.5 sacks through 13 weeks, Judon failed to record a sack in New England’s final five games.

Now off to a similar start this season with six sacks through five games, the Patriots defense cannot afford another late season collapse from their star rusher.

“I’ve gotta stay conditioned and healthy,” Judon said. “When I can do that, I can play like I do first game and last game the same, I think I’m a different person. So if I stay in condition and healthy, I think I’ll be able to play throughout the year at a high level.”

After a 29-0 victory, we’ll see how Bill Belichick chooses to approach this week of practice as New England prepares for a Week 6 matchup against Jacoby Brissett and the Cleveland Browns.