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Countdown to Kickoff vs. Patriots

Posted Nov 1, 2013


 PHOTO GALLERY - Patriots Week: Practice Photos 



PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013
Gillette Stadium; 4:25 p.m.; CBS

PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB TOM BRADY
His passer rating is a less-than-spectacular 74.9 through eight games, but don’t be fooled. Tom Brady had enough magic on Oct. 13 against New Orleans to move the Patriots 70 yards in eight plays in 1:08, a drive capped by the game-winning, 17-yard TD pass to WR Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining. The march included Brady passing Vinny Testaverde for eighth in NFL history in passing yards (Brady is currently at 46,603) and Brady tying Fran Tarkenton for fourth in NFL history in touchdown passes (Brady is currently tied for fourth all-time with Drew Brees at 343, one ahead of Tarkenton). Brady’s career record as a starter in the regular season is 142-41-0 (.776).

TE ROB GRONKOWSKI
He made his season debut on Oct. 20 against the Jets and had an immediate impact by catching a team-leading eight passes for 114 yards. Rob Gronkowski has 10 catches for 141 yards on the season but has yet to catch a touchdown pass (he had one wiped out by a penalty on Oct. 27 against Miami). That figures to change eventually; Gronkowski became the first tight end in NFL history to catch at least 10 TD passes in three consecutive seasons when he did it in 2010 (10), 2011 (18) and 2012 (11). At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds he is the prototypical matchup nightmare for NFL secondaries.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS
OVERVIEW
New England (6-2) rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 17-3 in a 27-17 win over Miami last Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have won their last 26 AFC games at home and their last 34 AFC games at home with Brady at quarterback. Coach Bill Belichick (211-111-0) has joined Don Shula (347-173-6) and George Halas (324-151-31) as the only NFL head coaches with 100 more wins than losses. Belichick passed Chuck Noll (209) and moved into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time wins list with the Patriots’ 30-27 triumph over New Orleans. S Adrian Wilson, LB Jerod Mayo, DT Vince Wilfork and OT Sebastian Vollmer are among the big-name Patriots who are on injured reserve.

THE PATRIOTS’ OFFENSE
New England is No. 18 in total offense (12th rushing, 23rd passing). RBs Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden have combined for 192 carries, 833 yards (4.3 per carry) and seven rushing touchdowns. All three are averaging over 4.0 yards per attempt (Ridley 4.3, Blount 4.1, Bolden 4.8). Tompkins has been on the receiving end of almost half of Brady’s touchdown passes (four of nine). The Patriots have fumbled 11 times but lost only three of them. New England has converted 32.2 percent of its third downs (29th in the NFL). The Patriots hadn’t scored a third-quarter touchdown all season prior to getting two against Miami.

THE PATRIOTS’ DEFENSE
New England is No. 19 in total defense (31st rushing, fifth passing). Although susceptible against the run (130.8 yards per game allowed), the Patriots are tied for fifth in scoring defense (18.0 points per game). DT Chris Jones leads NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks. DE Rob Ninkovich has two fumble recoveries this season and leads the NFL with 11 over the last four seasons. Ninkovich will line up with a hand on the ground or in a two-point stance, as will LB Jamie Collins, which allows the Patriots to shift seamlessly from 4-3 to 3-4 looks up front. CB Aqib Talib had four interceptions in New England’s first four games but left the New Orleans game in the second half with a hip injury. Talib didn’t play against Miami.

THE PATRIOTS’ SPECIAL TEAMS
K Stephen Gostkowski leads the NFL in field goals (20) and field goal attempts (21) and is tied for second in touchbacks (34). New England blocked a field goal against Miami.

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