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Patriots.com News Blitz - 11/15/05

John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that a source close to center Dan Koppen said last night the preliminary diagnosis of his injury was a separated shoulder but that the team awaited results of an MRI to reveal the extent of the damage. Koppen was spotted yesterday at Gillette Stadium with his arm in a sling.

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe is reporting that the Patriots have reached an agreement to sign center/guard Gene Mruczkowski which furthers speculation that center Dan Koppen's injury is more serious than originally thought. If Koppen is out, Mruczkowski would backup Russ Hochstein at center and also serve as a backup guard to Logan Mankins.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. Tomase writes that Bruschi returned from a stroke three weeks ago against Buffalo and won the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week award. On Sunday in Miami, he was his old, playmaking self, diving to deflect a sure touchdown pass and twice cartwheeling into the backfield to pressure Dolphins quarterback Gus Frerotte in the Patriots' 23-16 victory. After the game, Bruschi commented on his play. "Whenever you do something in this game, you like to gauge it by something else," Bruschi said. "You compare yourself maybe to this guy or that guy who did it before, and I can't do that because no one has ever been able to come back from a stroke to play pro football before."

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that the bend but don't break defense is back. Though the defense gave up 437 total yards to the Miami offense, New England was able to make the big play when it counted. The Patriots are 31st in the league in red zone defense, but they held the Dolphins at bay on two trips inside the 20. On one drive, Bruschi knocked away a probable touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte, leading to a missed field goal attempt. On the Dolphins' final possession of the game, New England forced three incompletions and made a tackle for a 5-yard loss to take over on downs at the 10. Before Sunday, opponents had been 28 for 28 (19 touchdowns) in the red zone against the Patriots. Belichick indicated that the improved red zone defense came as a result to stopping the running game. "If you can stop the running game, then you can force them into that situation, and then if you can play well enough in the passing game, then you have a chance to keep them off the board. But if they hand it off for 7 yards, then it doesn't make any difference whether you play the pass or not. They're just walking into the end zone," said Belichick.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offer his Patriots report card. Felger awards above average grades(B) to most aspects of the Patriots game, except for the Patriots secondary which he awards a C which he bases mainly on the play of rookie cornerback Ellis Hobbs and safety Michael Stone.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots wide receiver/defensive back Troy Brown. Guregian writes that during his press conference yesterday Bill Belichick gave praise to Troy Brown and described him as the ultimate team player and ranked him among the best players he has ever coached. "I'd certainly put Troy up there. I don't know that I would put anybody above him, let's put it that way," Belichick said. "There may be other players who are his equal, but I don't think there is anyone who has done any more than he has. Even going back to when I was here in '96, as a primarily practice type of player, he didn't get a lot of playing time. His work ethic in practice, his development as a player . . . his ability to be versatile and do different things – from receiver, to punt returner, to kickoff returner, to special teams, to more recently defense. . . . He's a guy that's totally dedicated to the team, both on and off the field." Brown saw time on both side of the ball in Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins where a saw time on the defense as a slot corner and on offense at wide receiver.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that with Corey Dillon injured, the Patriots got a productive effort out of the running back duo of Heath Evans and Mike Cloud. Evans rushed for a career-high 84 yards on 17 carries, bulled his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion and raced 14 yards or more three times in the team's 23-16 win at Miami. Although Cloud continued to struggle (seven carries, 8 yards), coach Bill Belichick endorsed the duo yesterday. "If we don't have confidence in them, then somebody else will be out there," Belichick said. "Whoever is in there, I'm telling you that we have confidence in those players. That's why they're in there."

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots have had 37 different starters this season already -- six at strong safety. Five secondary players have been put on injured reserve. Their players have missed 92 combined games (and counting). Corey Dillon is going to be hurt all year; so is Richard Seymour. Nobody knows what level of performance to expect when and if Kevin Faulk and Matt Light return, and now Dan Koppen is hurt. The injury situation on the Patriots has never been more dire than it is now.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of the Patriots win over the Miami Dolphins and breaks down all of the matchups.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest mailbag where he answers your questions.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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