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Patriots.com News Blitz 11/11/04

Jackie MacMullen of The Boston Globe checks in at the mid-way point of the season to ponder this year's team. As MacMullen points out, the team has struggled at times and certainly been forced to use unconventional methods yet, somehow, they sit atop their division at 7-1. "The football team trudges on, one cleat in front of another, one opponent after the next. Yesterday is of no consequence, and tomorrow is irrelevant. It is today, here and now, that matters. So goes the mantra of the New England Patriots," writes MacMullen.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe looks towards Sunday's game with the Bills, a team thrilled with the emergence of its 2003 first-round draft pick. "Bills general manager and president Tom Donahoe believed if the organization was patient in waiting for Willis McGahee's rebuilt knee to respond, he would be a huge success," reports Cafardo.

The Globe runs the text from Cafardo's Patriots Chat Wrap.

Cafardo also reports on Ohio State graduate Mike Vrabel, who extends his views on the current Maurice Clarett controversy.

In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger also extols the dangers of facing McGahee. "While McGahee may still be trying to find the explosiveness he had before tearing his ACL in college, he's displaying strength and power that not many observers felt he had," writes Felger.

In his notebook, Felger reports Tom Brady has remained close with former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy, who will be on the other side of the field this weekend. Felger also reports on the progress of Deion Branch, as well as the familiar connection between Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe and his former receiver Troy Brown. With Brown playing defense as well this year, he just might catch another ball thrown by Bledsoe.

Tom Curran of The Providence Journal chronicles the improvements made by the Bills over the course of the season. "Bledsoe, meanwhile, has been more judicious when there's nothing there in the passing game," writes Curran. "He hasn't thrown a pick in any of the Bills' wins and he's been sacked only once in any of them."

In his notebook, Curran updates Branch's situation, looks at the Bills quarterback and running back depth charts, and reports the Patriots signing of offensive lineman Lance Nimmo.

In The Hartford Courant, Alan Greenberg reviews the up and down moves Bills general manager Tom Donahoe has made the last few years to bring Buffalo to its current point.

Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News harkens back to the Week four match-up in Buffalo, and examines the changes that have been made on special teams, a unit that struggled mightily in that game. "A few significant changes have since taken place, helping to solidify the Patriots' coverage units. The primary alteration was calling on 11-year veteran Rodney Harrison to cover kickoffs," writes Reiss.

In his notebook, Reiss looks at Branch as well as the progress of injured Tyrone Poole. Reiss also reports Vrabel's views on Clarett and OSU, and notes the accusation of dirty play by Vince Wilfork that came from Bills players after the last meeting.

On the Patriots Beat, Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald delves into the team's long-running ability to move its pieces around and expand the roles of its players.

ESPN.com dishes out mid-season grades as part of its mid-season report. The Patriots receive an A for their 7-1 start, while Harrison and kicker Adam Vinatieri have been named to the mid-season All-Pro team.

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