Though they've had two doses of lemon sorbet-flavored victory to open the season, no doubt a palate cleansing start, many Patriots players may still have the bad taste of last season's playoff loss in their mouths.
That 27-13 loss knocked the Patriots out of the running for a third-straight Super Bowl title and came at the hands of the Denver Broncos, who travel to Gillette Stadium for a rematch on Sunday night.
Asked Wednesday if he and the defense are out for revenge, Mike Vrabel replied, "No. It's the third game. It's a big game. We're starting to play better, and obviously they're playing better. There's things that we need to work on, and they're trying to do the same thing. To try to settle a score in the third week of the season is, uh…"
Vrabel was cut off by the next question, but what about the unsettled score the Pats have with the Broncos? The Patriots lost 11 consecutive games to the Broncos from 1984-1998, and are 3-15 against Denver in regular season and postseason play since then. The Broncos boast a 4-1 record against the Patriots since 2001, and are the only team with a winning record against the Pats among teams that have played New England at least four times in regular season or postseason play since then. After getting their first-ever franchise win against the Pats in the very first AFL game played, the Broncos have won over 60 percent of their regular-season meetings with the Pats. That's quite a rivalry.
"It's almost like they're a member of our division," said Tedy Bruschi. They aren't division rivals, but they've met every season for the last 10 years, save 2004. "We play each other every year and it's a battle, it's a hard-fought battle every year," said Bruschi.
Coach Belichick and the team watched the game film from the postseason loss this week, but Belichick didn't indicate that was for motivational purposes. He said they simply hadn't watched it yet as a team, since the season was over at the end of that game.
Asked if it was painful to watch, Bruschi said, "I wouldn't say painful. I mean I'm over it. I've moved on from there."
"That's last year," said Rosevelt Colvin when asked about the postseason loss. Obviously, he and the other players have the right mindset entering the game. Dwelling on past losses is no way to prepare for the 2006 Broncos, who are equipped with new weapons in addition to retaining many of their old ones.
Asked Wednesday if revenge is a motivational tool for him, Richard Seymour replied, "No. Not at all. I think we're just looking to go 3-0 this week. That's our focus. We're just coming out and trying to implement our game plan, trying to play tough and physical and match the intensity." It was a slight change of tune from what he said earlier in the week, but the Patriots need to push that loss to the back of their minds in order to mentally prepare for the upcoming game. Perhaps the thoughts and feelings of frustration will re-emerge when the first hits are laid Sunday night.
Whether the Patriots are thinking about the postseason loss and long-standing rivalry or not, neither team has ever shut the other team out, so Sunday night's game will likely be a good one.
Rookie running back in the running for an award
Laurence Maroney is a finalist for Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors for games played on Sept. 17-18, the NFL announced yesterday. Maroney ran for 65 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries against the Jets. Along with Maroney, Joseph Addai of the Colts, Marques Colston of the Saints,Manny Lawson of the 49ers, and De Angelo Williams of the Panthers are all in the running for the award. Patriots fans can vote for Maroney on NFL.com or by Spring wireless service until Thursday at 5:00 pm ET.
Playing it safe
According to The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss, The Patriots worked out three safeties on Monday. The visiting DBs includeLance Shulters, Keion Carpenter and Brent Alexander.
One reason for the workouts could be Mel Mitchell's absence. He was put on the IR list Aug.7 with a bicep injury. The injury has kept him sidelined for a while, but Mitchell's personal belongings are still in his locker. Things like deodorant and clothes haven't moved. By the way, the deodorant is Mitchum, so that makes* *Mel Mitchell a Mitchum Man. Say that three times fast.
Reiss also reported that the Patriots had five more players in for workouts at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. Two of them were veteran quarterbacks - Tommy Maddox and Todd Bouman. Defensive players visiting the stadium included defensive back Chidi Iwuoma and linebackers Mark Brown and Darrell McClover.
Notes: The only player not seen on the field during the portion of practice available to the press was tackle Matt Light. David Thomas and James Sanders wore red non-contact jerseys, as did the quarterbacks as per usual. Corey Dillon was there as well, looking like normal.
Also, the Patriots injury report was released today. Artrell Hawkins, Chad Jackson and Nick Kaczur are all listed as 'questionable,' with 'thigh, hamstring and shoulder' injuries, respectively. Tom Brady, Doug Gabriel and Matt Light are listed as 'probable.' Brady's injury is listed as 'right shoulder,' Gabriel's is listed as 'hamstring' and Light's is listed as 'knee.' Brady was the only one on the list who didn't miss at least a portion of practice. Dillon was slow to get up after his last play in the Jets game, but is not on the list.
Broncos with injuries include Rod Smith, listed as 'probable' with a 'head' injury and Mike Bell, listed as 'probable' with a 'finger' injury.