Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that the Patriots spent the bye week primarily tackling defensive issues. Belichick reviewed game tapes with players using a laser pointer to point out particularly poor efforts by players. No one player was out of the realm of the coach's wrath. "He was an equal-opportunity dotter," linebacker Chad Brown said. "No one has played perfectly this season, so he spread the, I won't say love, but he spread his laser pointer around." Of the league's 32 teams, New England's defense is 26th in yards allowed, 28th in yards allowed per play, 25th in rushing yards allowed, 30th in yards allowed per pass play, and 28th in points surrendered.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots placed cornerback Tyrone Poole on the injured reserve list. Poole had been recovering from a nagging ankle injury and just was not able to get back to full speed. Solomon writes that this move could very well mark the end of Poole's career with the Patriots as his 2006 cap number escalates to more than $2.5 million. Poole is the second defensive back since Oct. 16 to be placed on injured reserve. Solomon also notes that with the current roster at 52 players, the Patriots would not have to make another roster reduction should they choose to move linebacker Tedy Bruschi from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster. John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers a similar report.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that defensive lineman Richard Seymour's return is key to solidifying the Patriots defense. Seymour is expected to return this weekend for the first time in a month. If he's able to play, the defense could spend more time in the 4-3 alignment that proved so effective in the second half of the opener against Oakland, as well as in a Week 3 victory over the Steelers.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots linebacker Chad Brown. Felger writes that Brown has no sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries and no pass deflections. Those are stunning zeros for a player who only a few years ago was considered one of the best linebackers in football. Many though his skills would be highlighted in a championship defense and whose hunger for a ring (Brown has none) would reverberate throughout the locker room. Felger adds that because of Ted Johnson's retirement and Tedy Bruschi suffering a stroke, Brown was forced to play out of position at middle linebacker. With Bruschi returning to action, expect to see Brown used more as as an edge player and a pass-rusher. Tom Weir of USA Today also offers a similar article on Tedy Bruschi.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports offers a report on Tedy Bruschi. Tomase writes that Bruschi's second full-contact practice seemed to go well and is on track to make his return Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills. "He's looked OK," coach Bill Belichick said. "He's done what we've asked him to do. I don't think he's had any problem with it." The team has until 4 p.m. tomorrow to activate him in time for Sunday's game. "We'll make that decision when we're sure we're not going to have to double back on it," Belichick said. "We'll make it when we're sure it's going to be the right decision for that point in time."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that offensively, this year's New England team is more versatile, complete and explosive than it's ever been, led by poised quarterback Tom Brady. "When you look at the tape, you see three or four individuals who all look alike," said Bills cornerback Troy Vincent. "You've really got to look at the tape and find out if it's 81 (Bethel Johnson) or 86 (Tim Dwight) or 83 (Branch). They just know how to get it done. You can see the relationships where they're all on the same page at the same time. They take turns making plays. They're very efficient. We talk about all of the great pairs [of receivers] in different places, but there's not a better trio or quad set of wide receivers than what we see in New England."
Ian Clark of the Union Leader writes that in most seasons, a 3-3 record would have a team in a world of hurt in the AFC East. This isn't most seasons. The New England Patriots find themselves in the unlikely position of being in first place despite a 3-3 mark. For all of the injury woes and other struggles in Foxborough, no one else in the division has fared any better.
Who will be manning the strong safety position this Sunday? Mark Farinella of Sun Chronicle writes that with the loss of Rodney Harrison and Guss Scott through season-ending injuries, and rookie James Sanders not practicing all week because of a nagging ankle injury, one of two safeties who joined the roster in recent weeks, sixth-year veteran Arturo Freeman and fifth-year vet Michael Stone are likley to get the start. Freeman has the edge as he played significant time as a starter for the Miami Dolphins at safety.
Glen Farley of The Enterprise breaks down history of the Pats-Bills rivalry. Farley writes that this weekend's game will mark the 91st regular-season/postseason game between the two teams with Boston/New England holding an advantage of 49-40-1 in a series that has seen them outscore the Bills, 1,808-1,688.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.