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Defense fixing itself; Sep. 12 notes

Penalties and missed tackles took their toll on New England's defense in the season opener at Miami.

In particular, roughing-the-passer calls piled up at an alarming rate, and a failure to wrap up ball carriers led to costly extra yardage for the Dolphins.

"It's just one thing I have to work on. When I get a shot at the quarterback, I have to lower my pad level," said defensive end Chandler Jones, who was flagged for a pair of roughing calls. "That's something I know. I don't need a reminder about that."

But the Patriots coaches have been reminding their players about such basic aspects of the game all week in practice, after those types of mistakes led to their 33-20 loss to Miami in Week 1. Fixing those problems in time for Sunday's game against Minnesota will be necessary if New England doesn't want to drop to 0-2 for the first time since 2001.

"The target is very small," co-captain/linebacker Jerod Mayo noted about the quarterback hits, "but obviously, those are the rules in place and we have to abide by those rules and cut those penalties down.

"We work on fundamentals every day. Tackling is obviously one of those things. We continued to work on it this week. Hopefully, when we go out there on Sunday, we can do a better job.

"You make your play, you're coming through [the o-line], it's hard enough just to get there and get him down, let alone hit him in certain areas," added defensive tackle Joe Vellano. "It's tough, but that's the rule, so, we've got to play with it."

"It's tough on those guys, but hitting the quarterback is what those guys get paid to do," said cornerback Logan Ryan. "I think they'll be fine. And tackling just comes down to fundamentals and effort. I think we've been doing a better job of it at practice and I think it will show up [Sunday in Minnesota]."

Patterson's a problem

All week, the Patriots have been lauding the skills of Minnesota's do-it-all offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson. He's a threat in his main role as wide receiver, but can also do damage as a runner and kick returner.

The latter was a focus of many Patriots comments Friday.

"He's probably like the kid from Baltimore [Jacoby Jones]," observed head coach Bill Belichick. "He's big, strong, aggressive, hard to tackle. He's got good vision and he hits seams but even there are a lot of times where guys get a shot at him and they just can't tackle him or he runs through tackles. He's got breakaway speed.

"That type of player – can hit the home run, can do the distance, sometimes it's there but sometimes it's really not there and he still makes a lot out of it. That's the mark of a real good returner, a guy that can take something that doesn't look like its great and turn it into a big play."

Special teams co-captain Matthew Slater offered an interesting metaphor.

"I think similar to Devin [Hester of Atlanta] and Jacoby, he's fearless. You know, those guys, the good ones, they're not afraid. Sometimes there may be smoke, and they're running through it. There may be a guy on the other side of that smoke, there might be a seam, but those are not afraid to hit it. And that's what makes them great."

Easley does it

New England's 2014 first-round draft choice, Dominique Easley, suited up and made a few cameo appearances against Miami after missing most of training camp and the preseason. The defensive lineman is hoping to play more of a role against the Vikings, nearly a year after tearing the ACL in his right knee.

"I'm just really trying to do my best part for the team," Easley said. "Wherever they need me, I'll be there."

New England may be without the services of linebacker Jamie Collins, who went down in practice Thursday with a thigh injury. He's officially listed as questionable for the Vikings game.

"Obviously, we've built a chemistry," Mayo remarked, "but at the same time, injuries happen in football, so, we're going to be playing and practicing with the people we have. I think guys are very prepared for this game."

Collins was the only member of the 53-man active roster not on the field. Also of note at practice, backup center Ryan Wendell, added to the injury list this week with a knee injury, was wearing a brace on his right leg.

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