After practicing Tuesday and Wednesday, they've got five days off before fully engulfing in their preparations for the Steelers next Tuesday. The new CBA mandates that players must receive four consecutive days off during the bye week, so the Patriots clearly got an extra one for good behavior.
With that, let's embark on this week's Two-Minute Drill.
1. Left tackle Matt Light deserves a ton of credit for sticking it out for the final three plays of the Patriots' game-winning drive against the Cowboys. Light hurt his right ankle or knee during Tom Brady's sneak for a first down and writhed in pain for a moment before getting up to rejoin the team.
2. Because the clock was running in the final two minutes, the Patriots would have been charged their final timeout if Light didn't pop back up almost immediately. That could have thrown off the offensive game plan at that point, and a timeout could have also given the Cowboys a minute to collect themselves and rethink their defensive approach.
3. Also, if a timeout was called, Light would have been forced to leave the field for one play, and the Patriots didn't have any backup tackles who were active Sunday. The two reserve lineman, Ryan Wendell and Donald Thomas, are interior players. Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware would have had a field day with that matchup.
4. Plus, if Light came off the field, it would have been difficult to get him back on the field if the Patriots couldn't find a way to stop the clock on the ensuing play. At the very least, Light's substitution would have chewed up a few more seconds in that situation.
5. Light had his moments during 25 one-on-one snaps with Ware, who also had a brilliant game against the Patriots. But Light's ability to stick it out after appearing to be in pain — and Light doesn't hit the ground often, so something was obviously off — was the most underrated performance of that last-minute touchdown drive.
6. Light didn't practice Tuesday, but I saw him in the locker room prior to the blue-and-white scrimmage. He looked to be OK. I'm guessing it was a precautionary day of rest.
7. Defensive lineman Ron Brace said his recovery process from elbow surgery was hindered due to the lockout because he didn't have access to the team medical staff. Because Brace was told he'd need a full year to recover, I don't think the lockout affected the fact that he started the season on the PUP list, but I'm guessing he realized how valuable those trainers can be once they're taken away.
8. During Sunday's broadcast, FOX color commentator Troy Aikman — a three-time Super Bowl champion for the Cowboys — compared Brady to Joe Montana. And this was moments before Brady's game-winning touchdown pass. Obviously, Brady has been compared to Montana plenty of times in the past, but it's noteworthy when someone of Aikman's stature says it.
9. Based on everything I've heard, as well as everything I know about tight end Aaron Hernandez, I strongly disagree with the notion that he was eating chicken during Thursday's media interview as a shot at the Red Sox. You can take that to the bank.
10. The Patriots have a catered lunch every Friday, and the veterans have the input on the location. It sounds like they mostly — if not exclusively — order from Patriot Place. Five Guys, Qdoba and Tavolino's are among the places that supply those lunches. I don't know about professional athletes, but when I eat a burger from Five Guys or a burrito from Qdoba, I'm ready to call it a day.
11. A few weeks ago, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was caught on camera telling center Phil Costa he was going to kill him if Costa couldn't figure out how to snap the ball correctly. So, I'm guessing Romo wasn't thrilled when Costa — or his publicist, or whoever he tried to pin the blame on for his now-defunct Twitter account — referred to Vince Wilfork as a "speed bump." Well, the Patriots defensive line played its best game of the season Sunday, and Pro Football Focus gave Costa his worst grade of the season.
12. Do you know how much of an effect Ware had on the Patriots' offensive game plan? Read this breakdown.
13. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is having another strong season. While talking with him last week, I asked him about the most difficult part of last season's injury, and he responded, "watching someone else out there do your job."
14. The life of the 53rd player on the roster: Safety Ross Ventrone has now been released six times since the summer of 2010, and two players — cornerback Phillip Adams and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison — were with the Patriots for about 24 hours before getting released last week. The Patriots signed Adams on Tuesday. It's the third time he's been signed by the Pats since Sept. 21.
15. It's always tough to hear about what guys go through after suffering a severe concussion, a la Mike Wright, who has trouble watching TV or surfing the Internet because he gets nauseous. I remember covering the Celtics from 2007-09 when Brian Scalabrine went through the same stuff. It's chilling stuff.
16. Pretty wild, since the start of the 2003 season — when Chad Ochocinco began one of the most statistically productive five-year stretches in NFL history — he's been held without a catch in just two games. One came in the 2009 regular-season finale when Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis put a bounty on footballs thrown in his direction. And the other time was Sunday, when Ochocinco was a bit part in the game plan and got taken off the field after running the wrong route.
17. That route came on the first play of the second drive of the third quarter when the Patriots lined up two receivers and two tight ends to the right side, and Ochocinco was wide left. Brady quickly turned right to look at Hernandez for a screen, but that play was either a decoy or Brady didn't throw it because it was perfectly read by the defense. That's when Brady turned back to his left to look at Ochocinco, who was supposed to run a quick slant but jogged aimlessly up the left sideline before Brady threw it away.
18. I couldn't tell if the screen to Hernandez was supposed to be the first read or if it was a decoy to get Ochocinco an easy catch. Either way, Ochocinco had no idea what he was supposed to do on that play.
19. Ochocinco was pulled off the field after that play, and the Patriots ran 34 offensive plays after Ochocinco's gaffe. He was on the field for just one of them — a screen pass to Danny Woodhead on their first offensive snap of the fourth quarter.
20. If there's a story you want me to write, give me a shout on Twitter. I'm always open to ideas, and I'd like to know what Patriots fans are interested in reading about.
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