SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It happened again Sunday in Seattle.
As has been the theme of this 2008 season for the Patriots, they couldn't finish a game without suffering a few casualties. Against the Seahawks, New England saw three starters start the game, but not finish it: linebacker Tedy Bruschi, safety James Sanders, and nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
With defensive lineman Ty Warrena no-go once again, Mike Wrightand Le Kevin Smithwere asked to assume the roles of Wilfork and Warren for most of the afternoon this past Sunday.
"Yesterday was one of those days they got to play more than they usually do," head coach Bill Belichicksaid during a conference call in California Monday. "A couple of years ago, when Vince was out, Mike played two games at nose against Jacksonville and Tennessee. Took pretty much all the snaps in those games. He played well for us then. We've seen Mike in this situation before and come through for us before.
"Mike and Le Kevin did a good job for us … thank goodness we had them. They came through, along with a lot of other guys on that side of the ball. We had a lot of players step in there defensively: Junior [Seau], Rosey [Colvin], Antwain Spann, Lewis Sanders. We had a whole bunch of guys that I don't think we expected to play as much as they played and I don't think they expected to play as much as they played."
Seau and Colvin, who were brought back just days ago, played nearly the entire game at their familiar spots at inside and outside linebacker, respectively. Both hadn't been on any team's active roster this season, although Colvin spent the pre-season with Houston before being cut at the end of training camp.
"There are a couple of fast-twitch muscles that are kind of sore, but other than that, I feel good," Seau remarked a day after his return to game action for the Patriots. He said he felt "at peace" out on the football field for the first time since Super Bowl XLII this past February.
With all the reshuffling and new faces, particularly on defense of late, Belichick said he was relying on some of his veterans to help keep things together.
"Mike [Vrabel], Richard [Seymour], Brandon Meriweather. Those guys are involved in a lot of the communication and some of the adjustments that we had to make, because of the nature of their positions. They were really solid that way. Mike especially as a signal caller, and as a guy who's involved in a lot of the adjustments that we make in coverages and all that. He's very good, probably as good as anyone could possibly be in that situation. There are a number of things that he has to handle … he's really outstanding."
Seau pointed out that while this year's Patriots team is different than the one he was an integral part of last year, some things haven't changed.
"It's a different team. I expect it to be different. But I also think we're going to have the same mentality, the same attitude we had last year. We're definitely going to have to pay attention to the details in terms of the scheme, really believing in each other. We're going to have to pull together."
*Benjamin's Baby *
After catching his two-yard touchdown pass from Matt Casselin the second quarter, TE Benjamin Watsondrew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The officials felt that Watson's TD celebration, in which he untucked his jersey and stuffed the ball underneath it, warranted a flag because he used the ball "as a prop."
But in the Pats victorious post-game locker room, Watson explained why he did what he did.
"Oh, I've got a baby due February 1st, so, that was a little shout-out to my wife at home in New England."
He then expressed disappointment in his drawing the penalty.
"It's never worth getting a penalty. I didn't know they were going to throw a flag, they decided to throw a flag. You know, I wasn't trying to taunt anybody. It was just to her. But what are you going to do?"
Watson revealed that he and his wife, Kirsten, are having a baby girl, but as for the child's name …
"Ain't telling," he said with a friendly grin. "Keeping it a secret for now."
Dean Back Down
Defensive coordinator Dean Peeswas back down on the Patriots sideline Sunday in Seattle. For the past two games, Pees was calling his defense from the coaches' box.
He explained recently that he'd done that elsewhere as a coordinator and that he would do it from time to time depending on the opponent and the type of scheme they run. Pees said that it is often easier for him to see how the plays develop from a higher perspective.
The Week Ahead
As they did this past October between back-to-back games on the West Coast, the Patriots will again be setting up shop in Silicon Valley, less than an hour south of San Francisco.
The team will practice at nearby San Jose State University, and as was the case previously, portions of their workout sessions will be open to the media only. The general public is not allowed to watch practice, as is also the case every other week of the regular season when the team is home in Foxborough.
Players will have their normal Tuesday off, with practices resuming on Wednesday.