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Red zone a red flag for Patriots; Wed notes

Inconsistency on offense and defense inside the 20-yard line is an area upon which New England is working to improve. Plus, news and notes from the New England locker room and Wednesday's practice.

On the surface, these statistics are a potentially troubling paradox.

After nine games, New England ranks third in the NFL in points scored per game. Yet, the Patriots offense is just 25th overall in red zone efficiency.

On the other side of the ball, the numbers are equally perplexing.

The Patriots defense is third in the league in points allowed per game (less than 17 a contest). But they're an abysmal 28th when it comes to surrendering red zone scores.

Breaking it down even further, when the Patriots offense has gotten inside their opponents' 20-yard line, New England has scored nearly nine times out of ten (87.5 percent, to be precise). However, that number includes both touchdowns and field goals.
When the three-pointers are eliminated from the equation, the Patriots red zone scoring efficiency plummets to just 45 percent. Thirteen of New England's scoring drives so far this season have come from the 20-yard line or beyond; 40 have come from the red zone.

"Well, we have to be better in the red zone," QB Tom Bradyconceded. "We work at it quite a bit, probably more than any other thing that we do. It's not good when you kick field goals out there, you leave too many points on the board. The last game, we went 3-of-6, so that's not very good."

"That's something that we've spent extra time working on in the last few weeks, including over the Bye Week, and we'll keep working on it," head coach Bill Belichickacknowledged this week.

"We're not doing as well in that area of the field as we'd like to do, as we feel like we can do and we need to do a better job of it. There's no other way to put it and those are important points – the difference between three and seven – those are important points both ways and we have to coach it better, we have to play it better. We've got to play our best football in that area of the field because there's a lot at stake and there are a lot of things we need to do better."

So, what's causing the Patriots' potent offense to peter out in the red zone?

"It's all different. It's not like it's the same thing over and over," Brady observed. "It's just there are consistent errors that are leading us not to be as efficient as we'd like to be.

"It's pretty easily identifiable, whether you missed the pass, or … When you throw the ball, was the guy open? Did we hit the pass? Was there a protection breakdown? Was it the play?"

Conversely, the Pats are allowing their opponents to get six points much more often than not. In 20 trips inside New England's 20, their nine opponents thus far have scored 17 times, 13 of which were touchdown drives (65 percent). New England ranks 28th in both red zone percentage and goal-to-go percentage. Patriots opponents score more than eight times out of ten (83.33 percent) when they have the ball inside New England's 10-yard line.

The good news is, the Patriots defense isn't allowing too many long scores – just seven have come from 20 yards or further.

Wednesday locker room/practice notes

After seeing several players go down with injuries against the Colts, a total of nine Patriots were not on the field for Wednesday's practice: RB Fred Taylor, LBs Rob Ninkovichand Gary Guyton, G Stephen Neal, WRs Randy Mossand Sam Aiken, LB Tully Banta-Cain, and DLs Ty Warrenand Jarvis Green.

RB Sammy Morrisand LT Matt Lightwere both on the field for the second straight practice – a good sign, perhaps, as both are attempting to come back from knee injuries.

The team wore shells and sweat pants for today's outdoor practice on the training camp fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Rookie CB and former UConn star Darius Butlerwas at his locker earlier today sporting a number six UConn football t-shirt. That jersey number was worn by Butler's former teammate, Jasper Howard, who was stabbed to death on campus just hours after a Huskies game last month.

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