FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots have had a very productive, intense couple days of practice during their bye week, and they appear to be excited about their strides so far.
They've worked on a number of different things, including offensive fundamentals, leverage and blitz execution on defense, and they've really focused on starting stronger in games. Head coach Bill Belichick has asked a lot of his team, and they've ramped up their situational aspects of practice to stay sharp mentally, too.
"[It's been] very productive, and I'm happy about it," safety James Ihedigbo said. "A lot of guys are happy about the things that we've done so far this week. It's only going to help us in the long run."
While eight NFL teams have gone full bore into the wild-card round, the top-seeded Patriots are among four teams with the weekend off. It's a luxury, for sure, but the Patriots have noted it's important to keep a routine with their football schedule to make sure they don't slip mentally.
But they also know they've earned the right to take this week off from game preparation.
"Thank God we took advantage of the opportunity during the regular season for us to have the opportunity to focus on our flaws and stuff," wide receiver Deion Branch said. "Some teams going into the playoffs, they have to just continue to work forward and put stuff together as it goes. We have the opportunity to try to make our team a lot better than we are right now."
With that, the players in the locker room know they've done a strong job to balance each mentality. First, they've earned the luxury of having the week off from game prep, but they've also worked hard to make themselves better.
"This week is basically on us," Ihedigbo said. "We've earned this week through our diligence and hard work. It's really based on things we need to work on and things we're not doing as well as we can. We've done a lot of great things this season, but the regular season is over and now it's a whole new season with the bar set that much higher."