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Key injuries don't stop New England

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Rodney Harrison is talking more on the field now that he has new partners in the secondary.

New England's vocal strong safety has taken an even bigger leadership role with starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole sidelined.

Asante Samuel, their primary backup, was lost to an arm injury in the first quarter of last Sunday's 40-22 win at St. Louis, so the cornerbacks for most of that game were Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland and wide receiver Troy Brown. Gay is an undrafted rookie free agent and Moreland was signed last Saturday.

We just have to have a little more communication,'' Harrison said.If I look at Ty Law, I might give him a sign or a wink or a nod of the head. He knows exactly what I'm doing, whereas you have to go out there and play alongside maybe an unproven guy or a guy that's inexperienced, it's a little different.''

The Patriots even used linebacker Don Davis at safety against the Rams, and the secondary played well.

Every guy is mentally prepared and that's the majority of the battle there,'' Poole said.If you know what to do then (the coaches) aren't worried about you physically. The mental aspect of the game is where a lot of people fall short.''

Law broke a bone in his left foot on Oct. 31 in a 34-20 loss at Pittsburgh and is expected to miss at least another month. Poole has missed four of the last five games with a knee injury. Both are out of Sunday night's home game against Buffalo. Samuel is listed as probable.

It's not the first time the Patriots have played through injuries.

Last season's problems came at linebacker. Rosevelt Colvin missed 14 games, Ted Johnson missed eight and Mike Vrabel was sidelined for three. But the Patriots had more experience at those positions and used Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Roman Phifer and Matt Chatham.

That team finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. Now the Patriots are 7-1 with their next game against the Bills, who have won three of their last four games with an improved running game.

But the Patriots try not to let injuries affect them.

It's an attitude of whoever's in there we have faith in them to do the job,'' Bruschi said.We just don't have faith, we expect them to prepare themselves a certain way and be ready on Sunday.''

Gay started only 16 of his 42 games with Louisiana State, but was signed after LSU coach Nick Saban, Belichick's friend, recommended him. Moreland was signed Aug. 5, released Sept. 3 and added to the practice squad on Sept. 22.

Brown, the third leading receiver in Patriots history, worked out in the secondary during training camp and finally got his chance as a nickel back at St. Louis.

Moreland had four tackles, Brown had three and Gay had one, although he gave up a touchdown pass the previous week at Pittsburgh.

Troy Brown, what can you say about a guy like him?'' kicker Adam Vinatieri said.He can play offense, defense, special teams. He goes in for some defense and does a nice job. So there's guys out there that do whatever it takes to help the team.''

The victory over the Rams on the road was the Patriots' most impressive of the season. It came just one week after their 21-game winning streak, including playoffs, ended at Pittsburgh.

Now they take an eight-game winning streak in the AFC East into the Buffalo game.

They expect to do well as long as healthy players don't try to do too much to compensate for the absence of injured players.

That's when you start to have problems,'' Bruschi said.It's when, uh-oh, somebody else new is in there, so I've got to do something different. You've got to have faith in them and expect them to do their job and just worry about doing your job the best you can and know that the guy next to you is going to get it done.''

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