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Patriots looking for a road show

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  September 17, 2010 12:14 PM

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The Jets like to move their mandibles, which is to say they like to talk. But it's the Patriots that can make the loudest statement on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium: That like the photos of previous glory inside Gillette Stadium, last year's road woes are a thing of the past.

Perhaps nothing marked the decline of the Patriots dynasty more than their inability to find a way to win away from home.

New England was road trippin' as all six of its defeats came on the road and it posted a 2-6 mark away from what quarterback Tom Brady termed this week "the friendly home crowd" in Foxborough. It matched the Patriots' worst road record under coach Bill Belichick. They also went 2-6 on the road in 2000, the dour don's first season as coach.

The 2-6 road record was even less impressive when you examine the two "road" wins. One of them was a 35-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London in what was a neutral-site game. Double-asterisk applies because there was nothing resembling a vocal home crowd and Tampa Bay barely qualified as an NFL team. The other road win was a 17-10 victory over the AFC East cellar-dwelling Buffalo Bills.

It's easy to chalk up the road difficulties to a team with some younger players. However, Brady wasn't immune from the road woes. He threw 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions at home, while he tossed 11 TDs and 10 interceptions on the road. His completion percentage was a full 10 points lower away from Patriot Place -- 70.4 percent at home and 60.4 percent on the road.

All of the most disappointing on-field moments of the 2009 season happened away from Gillette. There was getting shut out after halftime in an overtime loss at Denver. There was the fourth-quarter collapse in Indianapolis. There were the busted coverages in the Bayou in a blowout loss to the Super Bowl champion Saints. There was Chad Henne channeling Dan Marino in a one-point loss to Miami. There was the team losing Wes Welker and a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the regular-season finale in Houston.

You get the point.

If the Patriots are truly back and the rebuilding is ahead of schedule, then they'll win away from home this season. That's what good teams do in this league. The ones that don't are like the Jets, not as good as they think they are, or like last year's Patriots, not as good as they once were. Want proof?

Since the start of the 2000 season, the Patriots have the third-best road record in the NFL (51-29), trailing only the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Last year's Super Bowl participants, the Colts and Saints both went 7-1 away from home. Both of their losses came in their regular-season finales, when winning meant walking away healthy. Since 2000, the only team to win a Super Bowl without a winning road record was the 2006 Indianapolis Colts, who went 4-4 on football field trips.

So, this is a tremendous opportunity for the Patriots to build up travelers assurance, set the tone away from home for the 2010 season and to kick the Jets while they're down.

The J-E-T-S are a M-E-S-S right now. It's a fun time to be in the New York tabloid business.

The only glimmer of an offensive display the Jets have rendered this season was their treatment of a female TV Azteca reporter. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is catching heat from Tedy Bruschi and Joe Namath. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had to deny a post-game altercation between himself and blowhard coach Rex Ryan. Redoubtable cover corner Darrelle Revis has come down with a hamstring injury that could render Revis Island escapable. Fed up with the lack of discipline on the vaunted Jets defense, which piled up penalties in Monday night's loss to the Ravens, Ryan resorted to having his charges do push-ups in practice for infractions, like a high school team.

If the Jets start off slow against the Patriots, then that hostile environment Brady talked about at the New Meadowlands could become hostile for the Jets, as the crowd turns on them.

Winning on the road is important for the Patriots because it's going to be near impossible to duplicate last year's 8-0 home record, not with this year's schedule. In addition to division games against the Jets and Dolphins, the Patriots host the Ravens, the Colts, the Vikings, and the Packers. Their only "easy" home game left comes next week against the Buffalo Bills.

There are winnable games away from home on the schedule outside of the division -- Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago -- and tough road games down the line with San Diego and Pittsburgh.

It would be an important step forward for this team to score a significant road win, something it never did last season.

Brady went to Michigan, where the fight song is "Hail to the Victors." Hopefully, this season for Brady and his mates, the traveling music for the Patriots will be Hail to the Visitors.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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