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Patriots Team Report: December dominance

New England Patriots Week 15 Team Report

(Sports Network) - The Patriots, who have won three straight games, are coming off a solid 27-17 home victory over Drew Bledsoe's Buffalo Bills. New England jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half and cruised to the season sweep of AFC East rival Buffalo.

The Pats started the season 3-0 before a four-game skid turned their season upside down. However, Bill Belichick's team has won five of six games since the slide to go three games over .500.

"When you're 3-4, you just hope that you could be 4-4, you're not thinking about 6-5, 8-5, or anything else," said Belichick. "I think that's the only way you can ever get to 8-5, or whatever. Once you're 3-4 and you start thinking about 10-6, you're probably going to be 3-5...you've got to take a short-term approach and you can only play one game at a time. You better put all you've got into that one game, or you'll be mourning that loss and trying to talk about being 4-4 instead of 3-5.

"So right now, whether we're 8-5, or if we were 5-8, I think it's the same approach -- we've got Tennessee this week and we've got to put everything we've got into the Tennessee game. This is a big game, it's an important game, and it's a tough game. It's a Monday night game on the road, and Tennessee is one of the best football teams in the league."

Belichick and New England's veterans are well-aware of the time of year. December in the NFL is crunch time, and few teams have been better in the year's final month than the Patriots. New England, which has won five straight December games, owns a 7-2 mark in the month under Belichick. The team compiled a perfect December last year en route to the franchise's first Super Bowl title.

"I don't know if we can rely on what we did during last year's Super Bowl run to help us this year," said Belichick. "That was a long time ago and we have a whole new challenge this year. Tennessee is a good example. It's a team we haven't faced and we don't really have any background with them. They are a really tough team to get ready for. I think the main thing this time of year that to me is important is the veteran experience -- guys that have been playing at this time of year and know what is at stake and know how the games get played later on in the season. I think that is really helpful, but I don't know if a game a year ago or two years ago means much.

"It's really the veteran leadership at this time of year that's important, it's important to every team. No matter what your record is, who you're playing, or anything else, I think it's important to any team. We have, I think, a lot of good veteran leadership on this team, so that's good. In terms of the carry over from last year, I don't know about any of that. I think if we go out and lose the last three games you're going to sit there and say there isn't too much carry over. I think that'll all be reflected upon when it's over, rather than where we are now. Whatever leadership, whatever character, whatever toughness, whatever commitment, whatever it is we have, we better put all of it into the Tennessee game."

The Patriots' stern head coach is all business heading into the Monday night showdown with Tennessee, and certainly won't let his team rest on its laurels after beating Buffalo handily last week. However, it's difficult to ignore the team's recent success.

QB Tom Brady outdueled his mentor, Bledsoe, for the second time this season last week. The Super Bowl XXXVI MVP completed 15-of-27 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills in Week 14. Most importantly, the Pats' offense didn't turn the ball over.

"Everythingís on the line, so we have to play our best from here on out," said Brady, who is the AFCís second-rated passer in the fourth quarter of games (102.4 rating with nine TD passes and one interception). "In just one game you can go from being at the top to the bottom real quick."

One of the biggest keys to the Pats' offense is spreading the ball around to several different receivers. Last week, 10 different Patriots had a reception versus Buffalo. Expect that trend to continue against the Titans, but WR Deion Branch might not be able to play because of a leg injury.

Wideouts Troy Brown, David Patten and Donald Hayes, who caught his second touchdown pass as a Patriot last week, will have to provide Brady with consistent targets downfield against Tennessee's 19th-ranked defense.

"Itís a little more challenging to prepare for a team like Tennessee because we donít know these guys like we know Buffalo or Miami or New York [Jets]," said Brown, who needs one more reception to be the first player in franchise history with three consecutive 80-catch seasons. "So itís definitely more of a challenge for us to get to know these guys better. All we hear about are the guys, the big-name guys that we hear about all the time when you see them on the highlights. They definitely have some players on the team who can play, so we definitely have to find out what they are all about and get to know them better and the only way you can do it is by watching film. You have to double up on that stuff a little more than you usually do."

It could be tough for the Patriots to run the ball consistently on Monday night. New England's ground attack ranks 28th in the NFL. RB Antowain Smith gained 68 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts versus Buffalo, but he's only eclipsed the 100-yard mark once this season. The Titans have the sixth-best run defense in the NFL (97.3 yards per game).

COMING UP: The Patriots will close out the regular season with home games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

12/13 17:45:31 ET


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