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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Belichick takes wary approach

FOXBOROUGH -- A slam dunk, right?

That sure seems what Sunday's game against the Browns ought to be after a week of turmoil in Cleveland. Coach Butch Davis resigned Tuesday after the Browns allowed 58 points in a loss last Sunday to Cincinnati, the team's fifth straight defeat. Yesterday, the team said rookie and third-string quarterback Luke McCown may have to start after backup Kelly Holcomb suffered three hairline fractures of his ribs against the Bengals.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn't buying it, pointing out that a coaching change can give a team a boost.

Belichick tells the story of a game in 1976 between the Detroit Lions, with whom he was special teams coach, and the Patriots.

"We were 1-3. We had lost to Chicago, Minnesota, and Green Bay, tough division games, just really all three [of them were] heartbreaking losses," Belichick recalled. "The Patriots were coming to town. The Patriots were 3-1. They had just beat Miami, Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh had won the previous two Super Bowls, and then they beat Oakland, 48-10, or something (actually 48-17). They came to Detroit in that particular week when coach [Rick] Forzano resigned and Tommy Hudspeth was appointed the interim head coach. Whatever it was, it all came together and the team that week against New England, they were loose, they were confident. There was a very high energy level, one that certainly wasn't as evident in the previous three, four games."

The result: Lions 30, Patriots 10. You can bet the story will be told to the Patriots this week.

"You could have probably gotten the Lions and 40 points if you wanted to put money on that game. But not that day," Belichick said. "In that particular situation, there was a boost of energy, there was a power surge, there was a confidence level that just wasn't there even a few days before. So, you never know how change is going to affect the team."

Browns interim coach Terry Robiskie, who was Davis's offensive coordinator, said he met with the players yesterday, armed with a bucket of ice and a shovel, and offered them a challenge.

"I will tell you like I told them in [the] meeting this morning," Robiskie said. "We are going to give it our all. We are going out Sunday to try to win. There are 12 coaches and that is what we are trying to do. All I say to the next 48 guys, if you want to come, come on. If you don't want to come, just let me know so we can go play. I think the guys are going to play."

He also told the team, "We have five games left. Nobody knows what's going to happen. We're heading into hell with nothing but a bucket of ice to fight with. Nobody expects a thing from us. We can go in together, stand with each other, or we can go our separate ways."

Robiskie said he wasn't sure if Holcomb, who had his first start last week in place of the injured Jeff Garcia (shoulder), would be able to play Sunday. "I had talked to the medical staff and their understanding is, they have had guys play with it. There is medication or whatever you can take. By the time Sunday rolls around they think he might be able to play."

Light on his feet
Matt Light wasn't on yesterday's injury report and practiced with the team. Light, who appeared to seriously injure his ankle in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 24-3 win over the Ravens, said it was worse than it looked. "Once I got up and put some weight on it, I felt everything was good," Light said. "The doc looked at it and felt it was good, I was fine. That was the best treatment I could possibly get." . . . Roman Phifer (calf), Asante Samuel (shoulder), and Mike Vrabel (foot) are listed as questionable, while Tyrone Poole (knee) remains doubtful . . . David Givens was surprised that his alma mater, Notre Dame, had fired coach Tyrone Willingham, but he was certain Utah coach Urban Meyer, who was Givens's receivers coach at South Bend, would be a good replacement. Givens said of Meyer, "He's a great coach. He's a strict coach. He's very energetic. He's come from two programs now [Bowling Green and Utah] where he's turned things around and made them winning programs. He's definitely got a good resume." Givens was also asked about Charlie Weis, a Notre Dame alumnus. "Charlie will be a good choice. I don't know if that would be his decision to take that job," he said.

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