Patriots Offense Gets Rolling in Buffalo, Emphasizes Importance of Solid Week of Preparation

Patriots Offense Gets Rolling in Buffalo, Emphasizes Importance of Solid Week of PreparationA big win in Buffalo, which included an unbelievable
45-point second half, should give the Patriots some added confidence as Peyton
Manning
and the Broncos visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

Tom Brady seems to have found a reliable target on the
outside in Brandon Lloyd, and the once-questioned role of Wes Welker has been
pretty well established in recent weeks as he leads the Patriots in nearly
every receiving category. Rob Gronkowski continues to do what Gronk does and,
even though he hasn’t played, Aaron Hernandez is on the mend.

Defensively, Manning and the Broncos pose a considerable
challenge for New England this weekend. But that’s nothing that some more
outstanding play from the likes of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty
— yes, that Devin McCourty — can’t counter.

With all that in mind, let’s take a read through some
questions and see if we can’t quell some of the concerns of Patriots’ Nation.

Hey Luke, I’ve been
working all day and just noticed Aaron [Hernandez] was limited at practice
today. Has his recovery time been decreased and if so what’s the ETA on his
return?            Thanks.
– Gary T

Good stuff, Gary, a few people actually asked about this.

Hernandez practiced, albeit on a limited basis, on
Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks, which is obviously a good
sign.

When seeing him around the locker room in recent days, he
hasn’t shown any sign of a limp but practicing this soon was unexpected.

The low ankle sprain he suffered against the Cardinals was
thought severe enough to keep him out six to eight weeks, but it looks like the
miracle scenario is ultimately coming true and he could return sooner than
anticipated. That being said, I wouldn’t expect to see him in the lineup
against the Broncos on Sunday.

This sort of injury is something you don’t want to mess
around with, and it will be better for the Patriots long term to wait an extra
week and get Hernandez back to 100 percent, or at least as close to that as
possible.

Should we have more
confidence in the Pats’ defense after seeing them in the second half against
the Bills or was that just a Bills collapse?
–Chris Shelton, Sao
Paulo, Brazil

I think the second half of the Bills game was as much of a
confidence builder as the Patriots could have asked for this early in the
season, especially after the way the Baltimore game went down. There were so
many positives to take away from just an all-around stellar half of play.

Brandon Spikes and Wilfork delivering big hits at the
line of scrimmage took the Bills away from their run game and ultimately forced
them into errors. Six turnovers isn’t something you see very often, but as much
as Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled, I give a lot of the credit to New England’s pass
rush and coverages.

McCourty’s ability to haul in a pair of
key interceptions was crucial in spurring Brady and the offense as well.
And it sort of solidified the notion that he’s improved more than people give
him credit.

McCourty said earlier this week that the defense definitely
gained confidence, but that more than anything it comes from a good week of
practice.

“It gives you some confidence, but we all know it
starts with getting it done on the practice field.”

I think that type of focus on preparation is more important
than the takeaway from any one win. Plus, if they continue to play with that same
tenacity in practice then they’re more likely to play like that on Sundays,
too.

Hey Luke: I am a long
time Pats fan from Boston area but now live in Florida. How long do you think D’onta Hightower will be out?
–Ken Briggs, S.
Pasadena, Fla.

Ken, I wouldn’t be too concerned, honestly. The hip injury Hightower
suffered in Buffalo wasn’t too serious. He’s been limited in practice this
week, yes. But aside from sitting out the rest of the Bills game, he hasn’t
missed any time.

I expect Hightower to test out the hip on Sunday before the
game against Denver, but I’d say he’s a pretty good bet to start on the
outside.

What’s going on with
[Jake] Bequette? Was excited when I read his draft profile and watched some
video, but havent heard anything since.

–Kyle via Twitter @CloseBehind

Jake, you’re right, Bequette’s really fallen under the radar
since training camp opened. But it’s deservedly so.

Bequette was a serious disappointment all preseason. The brutal truth is that there were probably other players who deserved to make the roster ahead
of him. But given Bill Belichick spent a third-round pick on the defensive end,
he likely didn’t want to cut the cord just yet.

After three straight weeks of being inactive on game day,
Bequette finally made the 46-man active roster against the Bills but it was
more to a lack of depth with Brandon Deadrick unable to go. Even with the
opportunity, he still barely saw the field getting just five snaps on defense.

Unless there’s a devastating injury or he can work his way
into a special teams unit, I wouldn’t expect Beuqette to see much time on the
field this season.

Do you think the Patriots would make a serious trade run for the Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during this upcoming offseason?
–Peter

Can you imagine Brady throwing to Fitzgerald in the red
zone? That would be a sight worth almost any price of admission. And there’s no
doubt that a guy like Fitzgerald would immediately make the Patriots offense
the best in the NFL, not to mention extend Brady’s lifespan as an elite
quarterback. Fitzgerald is also one of Belichick’s favorite
players, as he referenced ahead of the Cardinals’ visit to Gillette Stadium
earlier this season.

But as the saying goes, if something sounds too good to
be true, then it probably is. Well, sadly, Peter, this is one of those times.

First off, Fitzgerald has an enormous contract, worth up to
$120 million if he sees it through to the end in 2018. But even then, the
amount New England would have to give up in order to bring him in would be enormous. We’re talking at least two first-rounders among other pieces.
In the end, it would probably be just be too rich for Belichick’s liking.

While the thought of such a courtship seems enticing, the
love affair will have to remain more of a distant romance.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him
via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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