FOXBOROUGH — This time last year, Brandon Lloyd was still a member of the Broncos, a few weeks away from being traded to the Rams, his fifth NFL team. Now he’s with his sixth, the Patriots.
Lloyd wasn’t in much of a mood to talk about facing one of his former teams (“No,” he said, when asked if playing against the Broncos is a big deal). But a former teammate? That’s a different story.
As a receiver, Lloyd frequently went up against Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey in practice. Bailey has more Pro Bowl appearances (11) than any cornerback in league history, and according to Lloyd, there’s no better barometer for a pass catcher.
“Champ is very talented when it comes to his film study, how he plays out there,” Lloyd said Wednesday, before practice. “I’m sure the coaching staff’s going to do a good job of mixing up the routes and the combinations we’re doing out there.”
Lloyd spent parts of three seasons with the Broncos, and led the league in receiving in 2010. He caught his first touchdown pass with the Patriots in last Sunday’s 52-28 win over the Bills.
Now he’ll go up against Bailey, after all those practice battles.
“They were good battles. I learned a lot from him from a technique standpoint, catching, finishing the play, because Champ is one of the only cornerbacks I’ve gone against that the play is never over,” Lloyd said. “You can even catch the ball, and if you’re not bringing it in and if you’re not protecting it, he’ll find a way to get it out.”
Man of the moment
Tom Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after guiding the Patriots to victory in Buffalo. It was the 21st time the Patriots quarterback has earned the accolade, tying Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for the most since the weekly honor was established in 1984.
Brady completed 22 of 36 passes for 340 yards against the Bills, and threw three touchdown passes while rushing for another score on a 4-yard run. After the Patriots fell behind, 21-7, in the third quarter, Brady directed six second-half scoring drives, resulting in 45 points, including 31 in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve shown, at times, flashes of pretty good football,” Brady said. “If we play well, we can move the ball, we can get the ball in the end zone. If we don’t play well, if we don’t do our job the way that people expect us and our coaches expect us to, we’re not going to score points.”
Not a problem against the Bills. It was Brady’s third straight 300-yard game and the 48th of his career. Brady needs one more 300-yard game to tie Hall of Famer Warren Moon for seventh place all time. Brady threw a touchdown pass in his 36th straight game to tie Brett Favre for the third-longest streak all time, behind Johnny Unitas (47) and Drew Brees (47).
Sunday’s game will mark a reunion of sorts for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his older brother, Chris, a fullback with the Broncos. Rob, however, was not about to be baited into a war of rhetoric Wednesday when he was apprised that Chris had promised to lay him out on special teams. Rob smiled and replied, “He can do all the talking.’’
Gronkowski’s 28-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter against Buffalo was, perhaps, the first time the rangy tight end had been so open on the vertical pass route. But was the touchdown, which came off play-action, attributable to the run-pass balance the Patriots had established?
“You always want to be able to run the ball,’’ Gronkowski said. “That’s what sets up the play-action and that’s what sets up the passing game. You always want to be able to pass, because it helps out the running game. You always want to have a balanced attack, because it keeps the defense guessing.’’
Mankins out again
A calf injury for Logan Mankins was listed on Wednesday’s injury report, which had five Patriots miss practice: tight ends Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Gronkowski (hip), and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), safety Steve Gregory (hip), and receiver Julian Edelman (hand). Mankins was one of 10 Patriots who were limited. The others: Brady (right shoulder), running backs Shane Vereen (foot) and Brandon Bolden (knee), defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick (ankle) and Justin Francis (ankle), offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (back) and Nick McDonald (shoulder), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), and cornerback Sterling Moore (knee). No Broncos missed practice . . . Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams was fined $15,000 by the NFL on Wednesday for his low hit on Brady . . . The Patriots re-signed linebacker Bobby Carpenter Wednesday and added tight end Alex Silvestro to the practice squad. To make room for Silvestro (with Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Hoomanawanui out, it left only Daniel Fells as a healthy tight end at practice), the Patriots released offensive lineman Thomas Austin from the practice squad. Carpenter, 29, a veteran of six seasons, was signed by the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent April 5, and cut Sept. 1.