John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots sport a roster full of defensive backs that are on the shorter side, from the 5-foot-9 Ellis Hobbs to the 5-10 Asante Samuel and Artrell Hawkins. Opponents have taken notice, attacking the Pats on the edge with taller receivers and hoping they can outleap or outmuscle their defenders. Sometimes it works. Denver's Rod Smith (Hobbs), Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison (Samuel), and Miami's Chris Chambers (Samuel) boxed out smaller defenders for touchdowns inside the 10. And sometimes it doesn't, with Hobbs foiling a pair of passes thrown his way from the 5 in the final minute last Sunday. Either way, the Patriots know it's coming. "If a guy has a height advantage, he has a height advantage," Pats coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. "If one player has an advantage in everything over the other player, then you pretty much know how it's going to go. At some point you have to utilize the skills you have to compete against the other player."
Ron Borges of the Boston Globe offers a story on defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Borges takes a look at Seymour's journey through personal hardship to the field where he has been a part of three Super Bowl championship teams.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe takes a look a rookie cornerback Ellis Hobbs. After giving the defense an immediate grade of "V" for victory after the 23-16 win over Miami, Hobbs says his individual grade should be an "I" for needs improvement. "Obviously, you get those pats on the back and things like that and you want to take in those compliments, but you have to remember what got you there," Hobbs said. "It's only one game, man. According to everyone else, I played one good game, but I promise, if I turn on that film right now, I can show you many mistakes." Hobbs led the Patriots with eight tackles, four pass breakups, an interception, and two fumble recoveries (one was his own fumble, but they all count) against Miami.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that left tackle Matt Light was upgraded on the Patriots' injury report from out to doubtful this week. Though he still hasn't returned to practice, there at least appears hope that Light will return this season. "It's coming along great," he said yesterday. "It's taking the course I'm sure they wanted it to take. There haven't been any major setbacks, so that's a good thing." Tomase reports that Matt Light had a broken fibula that has sidelined him since Week 3.
Mike Reiss and Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe write that for the first time as a Patriot, linebacker Chad Brown was used almost exclusively as a third-down pass rusher last Sunday against the Dolphins and estimates he played about 10 plays. The Patriots used an unusual lineup, with a four-man line of Willie McGinest and Rosevelt Colvin at end and Richard Seymour and Brown at tackle, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel at inside linebacker, and receiver Troy Brown playing in the nickel package. "It's familiar, it's comfortable," said Brown, who lined up at left tackle. "Obviously, playing inside linebacker, there was a learning curve and it was an unfamiliar position both physically and mentally. Putting my hand down and rushing the quarterback is something I've done since I was a kid. So it's a comfortable thing."
Jim McCabe of the Boston Globe offers a preview of all of this weeks NFL games and offers his picks.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that Michael Stone, who was signed as an emergency safety in early October, has come to the forefront because of an injury epidemic in New England's secondary. But he's been pretty capable so far, particularly in the last two games when he saw extended play next to Eugene Wilson at free safety. His 16 tackles in six games equals his career-high set in Arizona last year. "The NFL is all about being prepared when the time comes," said Stone, 27. "You get an opportunity, it's up to you to do something with it. You don't get a lot of opportunities. I wanted to show coach I could play physically (against Miami). In the second half of the last game, the defense came together. We played as one and trusted each other." Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant also offers a similar Michael Stone article.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that tight end Daniel Graham returned to practice on Wednesday, three days after being a surprise scratch against the Dolphins with a shoulder injury. "That's a good sign when you can practice," Graham said. "I'm trying to get back and get better." Tomase writes that Graham's skills as a blocker would be useful Sunday against a Saints team that considers its defensive line a strength. His stature as a blocker seems to be increasing, and he has also made a name for himself as a punishing runner down the field.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots will likely sit back and wait for the New Orleans Saints to make a mistake. New Orleans has been prone to mistakes this season, and if it makes one against Sunday, New England will be ready to pounce. "They are going to sit back and wait for us to make a mistake," said Antowain Smith, the New Orleans Saints running back. "That is what they have been getting by on right now. They are sitting back and waiting for teams to make a mistake and they are taking advantage of it." With New Orleans, the wait may not be too long. The Saints have shown a tremendous appetite for self-destruction this season and no player has been more plagued by that than quarterback Aaron Brooks.
Ian M. Clark of the Union Leader writes that cornerbacks Asante Samuel and rookie Ellis Hobbs, Eugene Wilson and Michael Stone at safety should be the starters once again amid a group that has been decimated by injuries. Still, it's a group that is somehow starting to come together. "We really do have a good chemistry," Stone said. "A lot of us are new guys and haven't been out there much. But we're communicating so much to where everybody is talking to each other. Everybody knows what everybody else is thinking, so I think that helps a lot."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.