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Belichick backs up his backup

He says Cassel will learn from his poor outing

MATT CASSEL QB has a fan in Tom Brady MATT CASSEL QB has a fan in Tom Brady

FOXBOROUGH - After Matt Cassel's performance in relief of Tom Brady against the Dolphins, you might think Bill Belichick's sympathy for his backup quarterback would match Cassel's passer rating - 0.0 - but that's not the case.

Belichick came to the defense of Cassel, who was unceremoniously yanked in the fourth quarter after just one series, which ended with him throwing an interception that defensive end Jason Taylor returned 36 yards for a touchdown to trim the Patriots' lead to 42-21 with 10:30 left. Brady returned on the next series and tacked on another touchdown pass, as the Patriots cruised to a 49-28 victory.

"Look, every player has bad plays and every coach has bad calls," said Belichick yesterday. "We all have it. That's part of the game. We have good ones and we have bad ones, so everybody is in the same boat there."

The two passes Cassel threw, neither of which he completed, were his first two of the season, even though he had played in three other games this season. Brady, who is close with Cassel, stood by his understudy after the game.

"That was unfortunate because Matt works awfully hard," Brady said. "I think they disguised the pressure, and Jason Taylor being the defensive player of the year last year that he is, came over and made a great play."

Belichick said the best thing Cassel can do is learn from his outing.

"We all make mistakes - me more than anybody; I've made plenty of them - you try to learn from them and move on," he said. "That's how you get better - you learn from your mistakes and you move on."

No PUP movement

Belichick was vague when asked when defensive end Richard Seymour and wide receiver Troy Brown, who are still on the physically unable to perform list, would begin practicing. Both were eligible to begin practicing last week and will remain so through the day following the conclusion of Week 9. If the Patriots don't start the clock on them before that they're not eligible to return to this season.

"I hope [they will be ready]," Belichick said. "They're working toward that, the decision time. They have to do what they can do to get to that point, and then it becomes a team decision or a coaching decision, when to start that. So, I think we're getting close to that point. Whether that will happen this week or tomorrow or not, we'll just have to wait and see."

The Patriots removed wide receiver Chad Jackson and cornerback Eddie Jackson from PUP last week.

"Like I said last week, that decision is based in part on the player and in part on the team and the team's situation," he said. "Just because a player is ready to practice doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to start practicing."

Airing it out

Brady shed some light on his relationship with Randy Moss in his weekly interview with WEEI yesterday. Brady said the receiver's ability to outmaneuver defensive backs on deep balls is a unique weapon. Moss caught two Brady long tosses for TDs in the second quarter Sunday, a 35-yarder and a 50-yarder.

"Yeah, he's very unique in that regard," Brady said. "Randy has proven himself to be probably one of the top couple receivers of all-time the way he's played. He has the confidence of me, and there is no reason I shouldn't have confidence in him. He knows that.

"On that first touchdown, we were breaking the huddle and I knew the route was called and I said, 'Randy, be ready.' Sometimes you have a pretty good idea before the ball is snapped where you want to go with it. When I say that to him, he knows it's coming.

"He came to the sideline before that, and he goes, 'Tom, you're going against a lot of double coverage,' so at some point you have to say, 'Screw it, we're going to throw it up there and see if he can make the play.' Sometimes he can make the play, sometimes those defensive backs can make the play against him. He goes, 'At one point you guys are going to believe me, just throw it up and I'll make the catch.' Sure enough, he came over after and said, 'I told you.' I said, 'Hey, I believed you. It didn't take that catch to believe it, either.' "

Brady in bunches

When tight end Kyle Brady caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter it marked his second straight game with a touchdown reception. (He had 1-yarder against the Cowboys.) It was only the second time in Brady's 13-year career that he has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, the last coming in 2002 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kyle Brady said jokingly that it was nice of linebacker Mike Vrabel, who has nine career touchdown catches, including the playoffs, to let him get in on the goal line act. Vrabel was on the field for the tight end's TD, but stayed in to block.

"Vrabel was willing to share," said Kyle Brady. "He didn't get too upset."

Comeback kid

With his nine-catch, two-touchdown, 138-yard performance against his former team, Wes Welker is now the Patriots' leader in receptions after seven games with 47 catches for 524 yards and five touchdowns. The five TD receptions are tied for second on the team. Four of the five have come from in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) . . . Belichick lauded tight end Marcellus Rivers for throwing two blocks that helped spring Willie Andrews on his 77-yard kickoff return in the second quarter . . . The Patriots have outscored opponents, 72-7, in the first quarter this season.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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