NEW ORLEANS – The Patriots prepared for their first day of practice on Wednesday since winning the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh and reports indicated that both Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe would receive plenty of work in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl.
Head Coach Bill Belichick said on Monday that he would announce his decision following today's workout at Tulane University. He plans to watch films of today's practice and further evaluate the situation with the hopes of making a decision. An official announcement could be made at some point this evening.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that if Brady were close to 100 percent that he would get the start against the Rams, but Bledsoe likely would see an increase to his snaps in case he's needed.
Before the team left for practice, it spent an hour fielding questions from the media. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis talked about the Rams defense and its coordinator, Lovie Smith. Weis feels that because St. Louis uses pretty basic cover-two coverages and rarely blitzes, the game comes down to execution more than preparation for the Patriots offense.
"Lovie's not a guy who's trying to trick you," Weis said. "He's trying to get his guys lined up and to play hard and run to the ball. It comes down to a situation of not knowing what they're doing but executing against what they're doing.
"One of the things you're concerned with when you're playing in any game is physically and mentally [how you play]. With what they do it takes away the mental mistakes you make. Then it comes down to being able to physically go out there and try to beat the guy you're going against. That's one thing I take as an advantage. It isn't a question about what they're doing; it's going to be a question of whether you beat what they're doing or not."
One of the key matchups to watch on Sunday will be Rams cornerback Aeneas Williams against wide receiver Troy Brown. Weis knows that Brown is his meal ticket and finding ways to get the ball in his hands is his top priority each week. With Williams, who will be going to his seventh career Pro Bowl next week in Hawaii, that task becomes a bit more difficult.
Part of the reason is Williams' versatility. Most cornerbacks are more suited to play either inside against the slot or on the outside. Williams excels at both and has been the Rams most valuable player of defense, especially in the postseason.
"As everyone knows our best receiver is Troy Brown and one of our greatest strengths is getting him lined up in the slot and trying to get mismatches against those guys who can't cover him," Weis said. "When you get a guy as good as Aeneas who can play slot coverage as good as he can it doesn't force them to have to commit two to Troy at all times. They'll figure that Troy is going to win some battles and Aeneas is going to win some battles but usually we take any one-on-one matchup with Troy Brown as an automatic win for Troy Brown."
Brown led the Patriots with a franchise-record 101 catches and is going to his first Pro Bowl. Against Oakland in the Divisional playoffs, Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson locked up on him and held him in check. Consequently, the offense sputtered and the Patriots only prevailed because lesser knowns like David Patten and Jermaine Wiggins enjoyed career games.
Last week in Pittsburgh, the Steelers tried to cover Brown one-on-one and were burned so badly in the first half they had to adjust the gameplan at halftime and started doubling him. Despite the increased attention, Brown led the way with eight catches for 121 yards.
"He makes our whole machine go," Weis said. "We have to get the ball in his hands or our offense becomes very stagnant. It will be up to us to find ways to do that."