In the next four weeks, they've got a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh, the "Rivalry of the [Insert Era Here]" against the Colts, a Thanksgiving matchup with the Lions and a Monday night showdown with the Jets.
But, for the stories behind the stories, here are 20 thoughts in this week's Two-Minute Drill.
1. How's this for a strange parallel? Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was injured during pregame warm-ups Sunday in Cleveland and had to be replaced in extra-point duties by wide receiver Wes Welker. Shayne Graham, who will replace Gostkowski, injured himself during pregame warm-ups during his last visit to Gillette Stadium in a 2009 preseason game, and he was replaced in extra-point duties by wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
2. Wide receiver Deion Branch appeared to have a slight limp while walking through the locker room Monday, but he sounded adamant that he was all right. However, Branch hinted that he missed almost the entirety of last Wednesday's practice due to the hamstring injury he suffered during a practice leading up to the Vikings game. "I felt pretty good," said Branch, who said he was close to 100 percent last week. "Going into the [Cleveland] game, I felt real good, played a lot of plays. I expected to play those. I don’t know if the coaches expected it, but I did. I think I did OK. I came out of the game healthy."
3. It sounds like Tom Brady rode his teammates after Sunday's performance. "Lesson learned," Branch said. "We didn’t even have to watch the film. You can hear it from our head coach. You hear it from the other coaches. You hear it from our quarterback. There was a lot of bad football on the football field on Sunday."
4. There are a number of motivational signs around the interior of Gillette Stadium — the one you always hear about is, "Do your job" — but Sunday, the Patriots might have violated the one they see every day when they walk out to the parking lot: "Don’t believe the hype."
5. The Steelers might have the best pair of pass-rushing outside linebackers in the league with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and they actually have sets when they line up on the same side of the field, which has to be a fairly horrifying feeling for an offensive tackle. What's also interesting about them, though, is during Pittsburgh's nickel sets (five defensive backs), Harrison and Woodley often line up as down linemen, which on the surface makes the 2-4-5 package look like a 4-2-5 package. Those are two of the very many looks the Patriots will see Sunday night.
6. Veteran tight end Alge Crumpler was asked Monday what type of advice he'd have for Rob Gronkowski after the rookie's poor game. Crumpler responded, "I've already talked to Rob. I'm not worried about Rob."
7. The Patriots' time of possession has been a major issue in every game, and they're averaging 26:51 of ball possession this season. They've only out-possessed one team in eight games — Week 3 against the Bills — and the issue has gotten worse in each of the last three weeks. They had the ball for 25:35 against the Chargers, 24:52 against the Vikings and 21:52 against the Browns.
8. Kyle Arrington was asked if he was impressed by Wes Welker's extra point, and Arrington responded, "Didn’t he have a tackle, too? On the kickoff? Yeah, the more you can do. Wes is definitely the man."
9. I get the feeling the Patriots would have been interested in adding cornerback Terrence Wheatley to the practice squad, and his practice-squad eligibility might have had something to do with his release Saturday. Wheatley cleared waivers Monday, though, and signed with the Jaguars' 53-man roster.
10. The Patriots remember Richard Goodman well. He was the Chargers' rookie receiver who caught his first career pass, laid the ball on the ground and celebrated, all the while he was never touched down, and safety James Sanders scooped up the fumble. Well, Goodman's tenure in San Diego ended Saturday when he was cut to make room on the roster for safety Steve Gregory, who finished serving his four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Oh, and that still stands as Goodman's only career reception.
11. The Patriots' fourth-and-1 conversion during the second quarter of Sunday's game was a season in the making. Tom Brady faked a handoff to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who was set to run off the left tackle, and Brady hit a wide-open Sammy Morris in the left flat for a 22-yard gain. Obviously, the Browns watched the Pats-Chargers game tape, and as a result, they basically sold out to stop Green-Ellis.
12. Crumpler earned his captaincy by being a tremendously nice person off the field and a real beast on the field, so the following quote stays consistent with that. Crumpler was asked if he was more angry, frustrated or shocked after the Browns game, and he replied, "I leave all my anger for game day. I'm only focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers right now." There you have it.
13. Arrington was asked what the team learned with Monday's film session. "A lot, unfortunately. We can't come out on the field, and just because we're the Patriots, expect everything to go our way. It happened, and we just have to learn from it and come out better next week."
14. Practice-squad safety Ross Ventrone has a customized winter hat in Patriots colors and his nickname, "Benson," boldly scripted on the front.
15. It's always funny seeing players pay off their bets in the locker room, particularly when it has to do with their college teams. Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, who now works in the team's front office, loves giving it to the Big Ten guys about his Iowa Hawkeyes, and he successfully took down backup quarterback Brian Hoyer last week. Iowa trounced Hoyer's Michigan State Spartans, and Hoyer, who looked like a beaten man, had to wear an Iowa shirt through the locker room. Brady was probably happy about it, especially after Brady had to wear Spartans gear during a media session just weeks earlier.
16. With Sunday's game in Cleveland on natural grass, Patriots players were told to pack an extra set of stronger, screwed-in cleats. If there were any issues with the grass, the players would have a more reliable backup than their normal game-day cleats.
17. Browns running back Peyton Hillis was a monster Sunday, and he deserves a ton of credit. But the real stars of the running game were Cleveland's offensive linemen, who opened up the holes that allowed Hillis to gain steam through the gaps. Hillis isn’t a fast guy, but he's a bulldozer. When he gets into the second and third level of the defense, it's nearly impossible for one defender to bring him to the ground.
18. Hillis broke through 815 pounds of Patriots to score his first touchdown. Linebackers Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich and defensive lineman Myron Pryor all jumped on Hillis at the line, but Hillis broke through to score from two yards out.
19. The Patriots released long snapper Jake Ingram on Tuesday, so there goes the feature I was working on about the bond between Ingram, punter Zoltan Mesko and kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Can't let it go completely to waste, though. Here's what Ingram recently said about the bond between the three specialists: "It's kind of weird because we all get along really well, but we're all from such different places. Zoltan is from another country. I'm from Hawaii. Steve is from Mississippi. But somehow we all just kind of jell well together. Zoltan is more of the lightens-the-mood type of guy, kind of likes to joke around. Steve is the same way, but he's the guy we can look up to. He's been here the longest, has the most experience. He can help us out with things when we're going through different things. Then, I just fit in somewhere in between with all that."
20. And if the trio were in a room together, what would they be talking about? "That’s kind of the crazy thing because we might all be talking about three different things," Ingram said. "I'd probably be talking about Hawaii, or hunting or fishing or something like that. Steve would probably be talking about his golf swing or bowling, and Zoltan would probably be talking in one of his five different languages that he speaks."
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