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Dion Lewis running with opportunity; 9/30 Patriots notes

Last February Shane Vereen played a huge role in helping the Patriots beat the Seahawks and the vaunted Legion of Doom defense in Super Bowl XLIX.

When Vereen moved on to the Giants in free agency a month later it left a huge hole in the New England passing offense, an opening at a position that has a long legacy of success with Tom Brady dating back to Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk.

But what was seen as a three-man race in training with James White, Travaris Cadet and Dion Lewis vying to fill Vereen's productive shoes has turned into a one-man show.

Despite being out of football a year ago, having not played a snap since 2012 and having never started a professional game, Lewis has taken the opportunity and, well, run with it.

Through New England's 3-0 start, with his first three NFL starts under his belt, Lewis ranks 4th in the AFC and 8th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, and is only that "low" because he basically sat out the second half of last Sunday's blowout of the Jaguars.

The 5-8, 195-pound passing back leads the Patriots with 30 rushes for 146 yards (4.9 avg.) with a pair of touchdowns. He's third on the team with 15 catches for 179 yards (11.9 avg.).

From a futures contract signing last winter of little note to a focal point in the New England offense in less than a year, it's a pretty impressive tale.

"We knew there was something there," Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears said earlier this week. "We had a feeling there was something there and we let it play out. He took advantage of preseason games and practice sessions and he's done a good job. Like all the guys, he's niched out a little role for himself."

The diminutive playmaker is quite content to let his play, and his coach, talk for him. Lewis is far from ready to call himself a finished product in the Patriots offense and knows in New England you're only as good as your next game, not your last.

"Just trying to take it day by day and just keep working," Lewis said as the team embarked on a few days off during the bye. "I still have a lot of things to do to get better and I'm just taking that approach."

With Lewis fitting in with the spread sets early in the year it's allowed LeGarrette Blount to slide into his role as the big back when such services are needed. Lewis helped the Patriots build a lead over Jacksonville, then Blount came on to churn out 78 yards and a trio of second-half touchdowns to close out the blowout.

The two work well together on the field, and according to Lewis, off of it as well.

"He's a great guy, great player," Lewis said of Blount. "He helped me a lot learning the offense, as well as all the other running backs. Definitely a tight group in the running back room and we're just trying to do great things."

Lewis is fitting in and making plays. He's clearly focused on continuing with both.

And while some might be inclined to give the combo of the speedy, shifty, undersized back and his huge, powerful a nickname – Thunder and Lighting has been used ad nauseam over the years – Lewis won't get caught up in such

"Nah, no nicknames," he said with a smile powered by the obvious fun he's having in his new role in his new home.

Good bye

Bill Belichick made it clear in his Wednesday morning press conference that there was work to be done on the indoor practice field in Foxborough.

"Today's a day really to focus more on the Patriots than anything else," Belichick said, "just to work on things that we need to work on based on the first three games, practice situations, just things that have come up along the way that we need to clean up, go back, talk about a little bit, do a better job of coaching, do a better job of executing on the field, understanding the situations and in a way taking care of some problems behind us, but also trying to move forward into things that we think can benefit us in the future. That's kind of where we're at today."

Later in the day, he sent his team off in various directions for four days of free time to take advantage of the bye.

"It actually goes really quickly, so before you know it, we'll be back here Monday getting back to work," Tom Brady declared, noting when the Patriots will return to work at Gillette Stadium to begin preparations for a Week 5 trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.

Three and oh so much more

The Patriots are clearly happy to be 3-0 at the early bye. But Brady, like Belichick a few days before him, made it clear that three wins amounts to absolutely nothing in the marathon of an NFL season.

"Obviously it's good to be 3-0 – better than being 0-3 or 1-2 or 2-1," Brady stated. "I think before we really get to know what we're all about, what the other teams are all about, it's good to win the games however you can win them. That's what you've got to be able to do this time of year. But we've got a long road ahead, and I think everyone's got to be tuned into what we're trying to do in order to accomplish what our goals are."

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