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Pats search for consistency

The Patriots are coming off one of their most satisfying regular season performances in quite some time. Since winning the Super Bowl, their results against top-notch competition haven’t been all that impressive.

The Patriots are coming off one of their most satisfying regular season performances in quite some time. Since winning the Super Bowl, their results against top-notch competition haven't been all that impressive. But Sunday's 38-30 win over Tennessee certainly was.

Now the team's challenge switches from proving it can compete with its depleted roster to doing so consistently. That was the challenge laid out by Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference when he spoke at length about the need to duplicate the many things that went right against the Titans once again on Sunday when the New York Giants invade Foxborough.

"I think we've shown that we can do some things well at one point or another but it's doing them well on a competitive basis and being consistent," Belichick said. "It starts with taking advantage of every opportunity you get. It starts on the practice field.

"Instead of having two good days of practice on the field, let's have three. Let's walk off the field where we're having good, consistent practices where we're not dropping balls, we're not missing assignments and we're not in the wrong gaps defensively. Let's have more concentration and focus and communicate better as a unit and eliminate each of those little mistakes so that each time we go out there we play a little better."

That will be no easy task against the Giants, who boast some of the best skilled position players and a defensive front every bit as physically imposing as Tennessee's. With All-Pro Michael Strahan and Kenny Holmes on the outside and Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin at the tackles, the Giants will pose problems.

But it's also a great place to establish a trend of competing against quality opponents, and despite New York's mediocre 2-2 record, the Giants qualify.

"What we did against Tennessee really doesn't matter now," left tackle Matt Light said. "The Giants are coming here and if we don't approach this game the same way we won't be able to compete. We have to make sure we focus on our assignments and do what we have to do to be successful."

The Patriots success against the tough Titans was predicated on strong line play, particularly on offense. They used the Titans aggressiveness against them and opted to run the ball right at the onrushing defensive line. The results were outstanding as the Patriots rushed for the most yards in a game since Week Two of last season.

Despite that success, and the similarities between the Titans and Giants fronts, Belichick indicated the game plan wouldn't necessarily be the same. Matchups and styles are key factors when formulating a plan of attack, and the Giants are different in philosophy.

"We try to do what we need to do to win," Belichick said. "Obviously we want to be balanced to some degree but depending on how the game goes and a little bit defensively on what we're seeing, that could alter our strategy a little bit. We certainly have plenty of runs and plenty of passes ready to go in the game; how those go and fit once we start running them and the Giants start playing them will be a little bit of a game adjustment situation."

One reason the Giants front presents some different challenges is Strahan. The three-time All-Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is one of the most disruptive players in the game. He set the all-time single season sack record in 2001 with 22.5.

But Belichick pointed to his intelligence as his strongest asset. Strahan's ability to read and recognize situations sets him apart from other equally talented defensive linemen, and he'll give young Tom Ashworth plenty to worry about on Sunday.

"He's made plays instinctively that are some of the best plays that I've seen in my career," Belichick said. "He had one against Washington where the Giants had a blitz on and he was rushing up field and the back didn't take the proper footwork to pick up the blitz and set up too wide. Strahan just made an unbelievable play where he reached past [tackle Jon] Jansen and grabbed [running back Rock] Cartwright to cut [the blitzer Ralph] Brown loose right up the middle to make the sack.

"It was a very unselfish and instinctive play that was almost what you think a coach would do. He's a very smart football player. He's one of those guys where you think he's up the field and you can run inside and trap him and then he comes down and blows the trap up. Then you think he's going close so we'll be able to get outside of him and then he's upfield and has you cut off. However he knows – whether it's the formation, recognition of the play or whatever – he's a good football player."

Patriots notes

The Patriots injury report remained lengthy, adding two to the list while subtracting one. The newcomers are Antowain Smith and Deion Branch while Damien Woody was removed. That leaves 14 players on the list, nine of which are questionable. The latter group includes Smith (shoulder), Branch (ankle), Kevin Faulk (leg), David Givens (chest), Daniel Graham (shoulder), Ty Law (ankle), Fred McCrary (knee), Willie McGinest (neck) and David Patten (knee). In addition, Adrian Klemm (ankle) and Mike Vrabel (arm) are listed as doubtful while Tom Brady (arm) is probable. Ted Johnson (foot) and Ted Washington remain out. …

Belichick indicated tackle Kenyatta Jones, who is on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing double knee surgery in the offseason, should be ready to practice when he becomes eligible on Monday. Players on PUP are forced to sit out the first six weeks and then are eligible to practice between Weeks Six and Nine. Once they begin practicing, the team then has a 21-day window in order to decide whether or not to activate him.

Despite the strong play of the offensive line in recent weeks, Jones believes he's ready to help. "I feel good, much better than last year. Everything is falling into place and next week we'll be able to find out. Hopefully, I'll be pain-free and I'll be able to focus on what I need to focus on. My knees are not totally fixed all the way; they're going to take a little time for me to keep on rehabbing to make them better so there's a process. It will be better than last year."

Belichick added that Stephen Neal, who is also on PUP with a shoulder injury, is behind Jones at the moment. …

Johnson was in the locker room during the media period, making his way around with crutches as he joked with teammates. His broken left foot had no cast on it but he clearly was still unable to put much weight on it and is still several weeks away from a return. … Vrabel also was on hand and appeared to have a smaller cast on his broken arm. Initially he expressed a desire to return sooner rather than later, and he's still listed as doubtful, but he'll likely need another week or so before any makeshift protective device can be used to allow him to play.

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