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Patriots Notebook

Road signs could indicate where this team is headed

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 24, 2010

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Road games haven’t been the same for the Patriots since 2008. That year, the Patriots strolled into San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium and walked out defeated, 30-10, by the Chargers.

That loss snapped a 12-game road winning streak for the Patriots. And they don’t have to be reminded about what happened as they head into San Diego today.

“They really beat us up pretty good,’’ said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “It’s going to be a good challenge. I think everyone’s looking forward to it.

“I think we want to play the good teams. We want to play them on the road. We played a good game on the road last time against Miami and we have to put another one together this week.’’

Since that loss in 2008, the Patriots are 6-9 on the road; they are 1-1 this year, and they are eager to see if the road success they had against the Dolphins Oct. 4 was a sign of change.

The Chargers may be 2-4, but they have been impressive in their two wins at home, beating Jacksonville and Arizona by a combined 56 points. Last season, they were 6-2 at home.

“It’s hard to put one thing on it, but I think they’re comfortable there,’’ said Patriots receiver Wes Welker. “Their fans really get into the game, especially if you get them going. You have to make sure you’re on top of your game.

“You let their crowd get into it, they can really have an effect on the game.’’

Bolt from the blue
In 2001, Brady was just trying to secure a job when he started the third game of his career against San Diego. On Oct. 14 of that year, Brady threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in his career. He helped the Patriots capture a 29-26 overtime victory, completing 33 of 54 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI against St. Louis that season.

“That was a big game in that season,’’ Brady recalled. “Terry [Glenn] had, like, seven catches for 119 yards. We ran an out and go to David Patten there and got a big pass interference call in overtime. Playing against [Doug] Flutie, that was pretty fun.

“That was a great game for us. I think we had just lost to Miami the week before, so we needed to come out and play well at home. That was pretty fun.’’

Butler summoned?
Cornerback Kyle Arrington is listed as questionable with a groin injury. If he is limited or inactive, that could open the door for Darius Butler to get back on the field. Butler lost his starting job after the loss to the Jets in Week 2 and has not seen a significant amount of snaps since he had additional struggles against Buffalo the following week . . . Safety Sergio Brown was signed to the active roster from the practice squad, and running back Thomas Clayton was released.

Getting a taste
When the Patriots were in an overtime battle with the Ravens last week, linebacker Dane Fletcher was on the field. Fletcher, an undrafted rookie, doesn’t get many chances. He was inactive the first three games of the season and was a sub against Miami and Baltimore.

So getting playing time at a critical moment takes some adjustment.

“It does take a second, but you don’t have a second to wait and get adjusted, so when they throw you in there, you’ve got to be just as warm as the guys that have been in there playing,’’ Fletcher said. “I try to keep myself warm and keep myself going.’’

Fletcher opened some eyes when the Patriots kept him on the 53-man roster to start the season. He signed after playing at Montana State.

“I always had a lot of confidence in the way that I play,’’ he said. “I think at this level, you have to. It just made me more comfortable just being on the field and getting my opportunity in a season game and getting in there on defense when it matters.

“In a way it brings confidence, but it’s just getting on the field and getting the experience more than anything.’’

Position open
Larry Izzo last played for the Patriots in 2008. But his special teams play has not been forgotten by Bill Belichick. Izzo, who was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, played eight seasons for the Patriots and was their special teams captain.

Last season, Sam Aiken was special teams captain, but he was released. Belichick said, no player has emerged to handle that duty with such a young group.

“I don’t really think there is anybody I would put in that category,’’ Belichick said. “But Larry Izzo is off the charts. We’re lucky we had one Larry Izzo, let alone try to have two of them.

“I’ve never been on another team that really had anybody at that category.’’

Izzo signed with the Jets as a free agent in 2009 but ended up on injured reserve and this season remains a free agent.

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