Winning Doesn’t Cure Everything, But a Win Over Buffalo on Sunday Might

Winning Doesn't Cure Everything, But a Win Over Buffalo on Sunday Might FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — There’s been a common refrain recently around Gillette Stadium: Winning cures everything.

But let’s be serious. No amount of makeup could turn Medusa into a looker. The point is, the New England Patriots are still a team with flaws. Sunday’s 20-10 victory over Carolina soothed the pain of the Patriots’ first two-game losing streak in three years, and it should help them relax a little bit more as they move forward.

Last week’s events caused the tension to heighten a bit, and it likely played a factor in the Patriots’ dreary start against the Panthers. To the Patriots’ credit, they displayed some mental toughness and improved as the game wore on. In an ideal world, they’d like to hope that the win created momentum for Sunday’s game in Buffalo, which represents a divisional win the Patriots desperately need due to possible tiebreaking scenarios with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

Considering all the Patriots went through last week, the optimist would say they deserve a pass for their mistakes against the Panthers. If the Pats can get through a week without any serious internal distractions, they might be able to restore order against the Bills.

"Obviously, everything didn’t go right," said Patriots center Dan Koppen after Sunday's game. "But we showed some mental toughness out there and were able to get through a lot of things to get the job done. We’re going to enjoy this one, that’s for sure.

"We’re going to go out there and do our job and do it the best we can. It felt good to get the win."

Who's hot
1. Sound the alarms when wide receiver Wes Welker doesn’t have a good game. Welker had 10 catches for 105 yards against Carolina and became the fourth player in NFL history to string together three consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions. It’s unlikely Welker will make a push for the league MVP — New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre and Tennessee running back Chris Johnson have already gained too much steam — but Welker might earn a vote for the first time in his career.

2. Running backs Laurence Maroney (22 carries, 94 yards), Kevin Faulk (10 carries, 58 yards, one touchdown) and Sammy Morris (six carries, 35 yards, one fumble) combined for a season-high 187 rushing yards Sunday. Including quarterback Tom Brady’s two kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Patriots had 40 rush attempts against 32 pass attempts, marking the first time all season they’ve run more than passed.

3. Rookie tackle Sebastian Vollmer has been so good that he’s forced the hand of head coach Bill Belichick, who used an unconventional rotation at tackle on Sunday to get Vollmer on the field. For the first time since Vollmer started in Week 6, the Patriots had Vollmer, left tackle Matt Light and right tackle Nick Kaczur all healthy at the same time. Light and Kaczur started on Sunday, but Vollmer filled in on both sides for a series at a time. Staying fresh might have helped the Patriots run the ball so successfully against the Panthers.

4. Gary Guyton was one of the four players sent home from Gillette Stadium last Wednesday, but the second-year linebacker returned to the facility Wednesday night to watch film, according to a WEEI interview with Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren. Hey, there’s a reason why Guyton, a 2008 undrafted free agent, is the team’s second-leading tackler.

5. Safety James Sanders started in place of Brandon McGowan. From the sound bites coming out of Belichick, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and some players in the locker room, the Patriots’ defensive communication was better on Sunday, and Sanders had a lot to do with that.

"James Sanders is probably the smartest defensive back on our team," said safety Brandon Meriweather. "I’m not saying I’m not smart, but to be honest, he is the smartest D-back on our team. He knows every position. He knows every call. He brings more to the table when it comes to making checks and making calls, and it was great to have him in there."

Who's not
1. To be fair, wide receiver Randy Moss did not take the entire game off on Sunday. He ran some downfield routes at full speed and made at least one solid block that was caught by television replays. Of course, Moss — who should send John Lackey a thank-you note for diverting the city’s attention on Monday — had twice as many tackles (two) as receptions (one), and he also had two drops, one fumble, one key false start and one low-effort route that led to a Brady interception. Sunday’s game in Buffalo will be significant for Moss’ image, one way or the other, as all eyes will be on him.

2. Linebacker Adalius Thomas was sent home from Gillette last Wednesday and was inactive on Sunday. He is clearly at odds with Belichick, and there’s probably a 70 percent chance Thomas never plays again for the Patriots.

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