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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/29/2011

Dan Duggan of the* Boston Herald* writes about the only member of the Patriots offensive line to start every game this year, Brian Waters. Waters joined the Patriots just one week before the season opener and has flourished in New England's offense, making this year's Pro Bowl. Waters will be the lone member of the Week 1 starting offensive line of Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Waters and Sebastian Vollmer to start in Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills.

Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe writes about the bad memories Patriots players have from their last match-up with the Buffalo Bills. In Week 3 the Patriots surrendered a 21-point lead to the Bills for their first loss of the year. "I think everyone still has a pretty bitter taste in our mouths from the last time we lost to the Buffalo Bills,'' Tom Brady* *said. "It was an incredibly difficult loss for our team. I think everyone is going to be excited to go out there and see if we can do a better job this week.''

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes about one of the major reasons rookie Stevan Ridley has seen an increased role in recent weeks, his ability to hold on to the ball. "We had a sign in our running back room down at LSU that said, 'It is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football,' " Ridley said. "It's serious and that's how I live. Any time our offense has the ball, it's our ball, I have to bring it back to our offense." Ridley has not fumbled and has only one negative rush in his last 27 attempts. "Hopefully they are building a little bit of confidence. I'm going to keep working hard every single day and I think as long as I do that, their confidence will continue to build in me."

Tom Curran of CSNNE.com writes about the Patriots rare "elite" tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Through 15 weeks of play Gronkowski and Hernandez have combined for 154 receptions for 1,991 yards and 21 touchdowns (and a Gronkowski "rushing" touchdown), numbers that have never been replicated in NFL history by a tight end tandem. The tandem has not gone unnoticed either. "I don't think I've seen two guys that can go make plays the way they go make plays and all the different ways that they can do it," said Bills coach Chan Gailey. "Split out. From the backfield. They can do it from tight. They make plays and they block well enough to have a good running game as well. The combination of them and how they use them is very unique and that's one of the reasons they give teams problems. The match-ups are very difficult."

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes about a recent "X's and O's" session with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, looking at the Dolphins game. Belichick broke down three plays where linebacker pressure changed Miami's game plan. Belichick credits linebacker Dane Fletcher on multiple pressures in both the run and the pass game. Belichick also points out solid defensive play by Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo that helped the Patriots win.

Christopher Price of WEEI.com writes about the most recent father-son duo to both make the Pro Bowl, the Slater family. Patriots' wide receiver and special teams captain Matthew Slater was named to this year's Pro Bowl, joining his father Jackie Slater who made the Pro Bowl seven times as an offensive lineman. The Slater family joins a short list of father-son Pro Bowlers that include the Manning's (Archie, Peyton, Eli), the Matthews' (Clay Sr., Clay Jr.) and the Winslow's (Kellen Sr., Kellen Jr.). "It is a very special honor," Jackie Slater said. "My family views this as a very special honor. We know that the players who vote on something like this, for what they've seen on film. That's the ultimate compliment to be paid, to have an opponent to say 'He's very good at what he does,' Matt knows the importance of something like that, and that's why it means so much to him." When asked how his father reacted, Matthew Slater said, "Oh, man, you would have thought he made the Pro Bowl the way he was acting."

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about new Patriots fullback Lousaka Polite. The 30 year-old Polite is the first fullback on the Patriots roster since 2008 when Heath Evans was in the role. "You could end up anywhere, and that's why you have to have an open mind and just be prepared for whatever situation may be," Polite said. "I'm just happy to be here."

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