What do NFL types do during their bye weekend? Depends whom you ask.
For instance, Patriots head coach Bill Belichicksaid he spent time with his family, watching his kids play sports while New England enjoyed a weekend off from games. Nick Caserio, the team's director of player personnel, mentioned that he caught up on some college football action and some NFL games around the league.
Linebackers coach Matt Patricia, meanwhile, had this to say.
"I think what you try to do is take a good look at what you're doing and what happened over the last couple of weeks and try to improve. Take a little time analyzing and trying to get better, feel like you're moving forward and progressing as a defense."
It's not all that surprising that one of the Patriots' main defensive coaches didn't take much time for himself when he had the chance. Because right now, New England's defense needs help in nearly every area. The Patriots rank at or near the very bottom of the league in almost every defensive category, from third-down percentage (32nd) to yards per play (30th) to points per game (26th). The only areas where they rank high are in interception rate (6th) and point differential per game (3rd).
"I like the way our guys work … really hard," Patricia continued when asked to identify a positive about New England's defense at the moment.
"They come out here with a professional attitude about everything, and they understand … our guys take a lot of pride in trying to do things the right way. You have to be thankful to have a group like that, that takes pride in their work."
He was less specific, however, when asked to pinpoint a particular area of concern he has about the group.
"You try to get better in all areas," he stated. "In general, you just try to improve overall as a defense the best you can."
Overall, on the other side of the football, the Patriots offense is going to begin to look dramatically different, one might assume, without Randy Mosscatching passes for it. Belichick, though, insisted that the approach his staff will take from here on out, with Moss now a member of the Minnesota Vikings after last week's trade, will be no different.
"It's not that unusual to game plan with a player one week and without him the next ... we'll still be using the same playbook," the head coach emphasized.
"Our approach won't change offensively. We're a game plan team," Caserio added, "based on the opponent. We'll go out this week like we normally do, from an offensive perspective and try to prepare ourselves for a good [Baltimore Ravens] defense on Sunday."
"The offense isn't going to change," Caserio concluded. "We're not going to make up new plays. We have a foundation that's in place."
Caserio conceded that there would now be other Patriots players who are going to be given opportunities with Moss out of the picture, and expressed hope that the outcome would be positive. He would neither confirm nor deny reports that New England is interested in acquiring either San Diego's Vincent Jacksonor Seattle's **Deion Branch *to bolster the team's wide receiver corps.
Would that mean rookie Taylor Price, who's been a non-factor thus far, is ready to step up?
"We'll see," said Caserio. "He's making some progress. We like Taylor … there are certain things at the position that he's continuing to learn. There are a lot more components that come into play with him because … he's a rookie. But he's moving in the right direction."
When they take the field this Sunday against the Ravens, the Patriots will look different than they did just nine months ago, when their 2009 season came to an abrupt halt at Gillette Stadium in a lopsided Wild Card playoff loss to Baltimore. Patricia sought to down-play that his players were using that game as motivation coming into this Sunday's contest, but Belichick was willing to acknowledge that it's in the back of their minds.
"Hopefully we can be a little more competitive against them than we were in the playoffs last year. We have a little extra time to prepare, which is good. We'll need it against these guys. They're a real good football team.
"Anytime your season is ended, you remember that game, whether it's the Giants game [in Super Bowl XLII], the Indianapolis game [in the '06 AFC Championship Game], the Baltimore game. Those are the ones you kind of remember. I think we've moved on from those, but now we have a chance to play that team again. It's a new matchup, but hopefully we can learn from some of the things that happened in that game."