January 2, 2013

Proud Patriots focus on themselves during bye week

The Associated Press

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New England Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears, right, instructs running backs Stevan Ridley (22) and Danny Woodhead (39) during NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. . The Patriots don't know who they'll face in their playoff opener. But, they do know plenty about that team. They are familiar with all three potential opponents, the Texans, Ravens and Colts, having played them already this season. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker is surrounded by members of the media in the locker room after an NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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"We can't predict the score but we know we can dominate games," McCourty, who had a first-quarter interception, said after the game.

The Patriots did lose to the San Francisco 49ers the next week 41-34, then struggled to beat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16. But they rebounded with their first shutout since Oct. 18, 2009, a 28-0 romp over the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale last Sunday.

New England also had a bye after its eighth game, a 45-7 win over the St. Louis Rams in London. Afterward, the Patriots won five straight games, starting with a 37-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

But this break is much different.

"After the St. Louis game, we knew we were playing Buffalo so there was a certain element of preparation that we could start on with them, even the next couple games after that," Belichick said. "Now it's just a one-game season. We don't know who our opponent is. We're doing things that we think will help our football team."

Like giving them three days off after Thursday's practice.

Sort of.

"You can't take a week off," guard Donald Thomas said. "You have to just keep working, keep preparing, just try to get better each day and put the work in. So, next week, when we know who we're playing, we can really focus on them."

Some players will be glued to their televisions for the wild-card games.

"I'll watch every game this weekend closely," safety Steve Gregory said.

Others won't ... or so they say.

"I'll be hunting," said running back Stevan Ridley, a native of Mississippi. "I'm going down South."

All of them will be back by Monday, though, when the identity of their opponent is no longer a mystery.


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