Patriots Notebook

They may be catching the right opponent

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / December 6, 2009

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No phase of the Patriots’ game could be absolved after their humbling loss to the Saints, but two areas stand out as most in need of a recovery today. First, Randy Moss has not been his typically explosive self for two weeks. Second, the secondary was embarrassed Monday night.

In that regard, the schedule does the Patriots a favor. The Dolphins should give both Moss and the New England secondary an ideal opportunity to bounce back.

Start with the secondary. Saints quarterback Drew Brees torched the Patriots for 371 yards and five touchdowns, throwing deep balls at will. The Patriots yielded seven pass plays of at least 25 yards. But, after studying film, they believe their mistakes are correctable and not symptomatic of a larger issue.

“We’ve got to go out there and perform the way we know how,’’ cornerback Leigh Bodden said. “We didn’t do it last week. Just communication, consistency. That’s pretty much it.

“We get those things done, just little things, technique here and there, we’ll be fine.

“It’s going to happen in this league.’’

The Dolphins’ underwhelming receiving corps ought to help. Four wide receivers have caught passes for Miami this season. Davone Bess is the team leader with 431 receiving yards, which ranks 54th in the NFL. The receivers have four catches of more than 25 yards and three touchdowns.

As for Moss, he leads the NFL with 992 receiving yards and is tied for fourth with eight receiving touchdowns. The last two weeks, against the Jets and Saints combined, Moss has eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Against the Dolphins in Week 9, though, Moss had one of his best games of the season. The Dolphins chose to cover him with minimal safety help, leaving rookie cornerback Vontae Davis on him. Moss responded with six catches for 147 yards, including the 71-yard touchdown that stands as the longest play for the Patriots this season.

“There were some plays [Davis] wishes he could take back and do a little better, and there were some times I think we could have helped him out better by pressuring up front or rotating a little bit better, but he is a young kid and he’s growing,’’ said Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

“He made a big play early up there with the interception, but at the end of the day, Randy Moss is Randy Moss. He is going to make plays. It’s just a matter of how much you can do to try to contain him or how to do damage control.’’

Staying behind
Five players did not travel to Miami: wide receiver Julian Edelman, safety Bret Lockett, running back Fred Taylor, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and cornerback Shawn Springs.

Taylor’s absence was expected, even though he returned to practice Friday, but Vollmer and Edelman had better shots to play. Springs has been inactive the last three games, though he made the trips to Indianapolis and New Orleans, and he had been categorized as probable on the injury report with a knee injury.

Do it again?
The last time the Patriots played Miami, Bill Belichick surprised the Dolphins by moving Vince Wilfork from nose tackle to defensive end. It remains to be seen whether Belichick will repeat the move, and it may depend on the status of Miami center Jake Grove, who is doubtful with an ankle injury.

This being the teams’ second meeting of the season, Belichick will have to gauge how prepared the Dolphins will be, and how much their readiness will matter.

“Do you go back and do the same thing and say, ‘Well, they couldn’t handle it, let’s do it again’?’’ Belichick said. “Or do you say, ‘Well, they’re going to be working on that. Let’s go to something else’?

“And sometimes you can out-dumb yourself by going to something that hasn’t worked and giving up on something that has.

“And sometimes you can out-dumb yourself by doing the same thing every time, knowing they’re spending the whole week on it and not moving on to something else.’’

They’ve seen it all
Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson said the strategic adjustments from the first game to the second matter less than simple execution. With the amount of tape available in Week 13, few secrets remain.

“At this point of the season, a lot of the things you see from teams are repeats,’’ Watson said. “Nobody is going to revamp their whole offense or revamp their team. You’ll see a lot of the same things, the same personnel, the same matchups. There will definitely be some of the same things. They may be disguised different ways.

A glum alum
The news hit Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington hard Thursday when he learned that Hofstra, his alma mater, had decided to cut football. Arrington played at Hofstra from 2004-07.

“Saddening, being a former player and all,’’ Arrington said. “The worst part about it is all the kids still with eligibility left. It puts them in a bad situation.

“They said it was due to a lack of funds and interest. But come on, man. We’re talking about football.’’

The decision also affected linebacker Jerod Mayo. His younger brother, Deron, had played linebacker for Hofstra. Mayo said Deron has received several offers to transfer.

In 1995, Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet became the first player from Hofstra to make the NFL since 1964. “He really put us on the map,’’ Arrington said.

Saints wide receiver Marques Colston, Cowboys defensive end Stephen Bowen, Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon, and Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris also attended Hofstra.

“We were starting to get out there a little bit,’’ Arrington said. “And now you want to shut the whole thing down? That’s crazy, in my book.’’

Old style
The Patriots will wear their throwback uniforms today for the fourth time this season. They are 2-1 wearing throwbacks, but 0-1 in the road whites they’ll wear today; they lost at Denver. “I do like it,’’ Watson said. “I think it’s good to wear something different. You wear the same things, and it’s always fun to put on a different costume.’’

Adam Kilgore can be reached at

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