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Patriots notebook

Still thinking deep

Moss factor isn’t a game-changer

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 28, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Six games into the season, there is plenty of film for the Vikings to watch on the Patriots offense. But only two of those games showcase the Patriots without Randy Moss zipping down the field with a couple of defenders shadowing him.

The Patriots may look different now, but Vikings coach Brad Childress said evaluating their offense means looking at the entire season — before and after Moss.

“Are they doing maybe a couple different things? They are, but typically their scheme is the scheme they employ from week to week,’’ said Childress. “Now it depends on how they decide to move the football. Are they going to run it this week and play with three tight ends, and backs in the backfield, or are they going to spread it and play with five wides?

“You see elements of both of those, and everything in between. Both when Randy was playing, and also when Deion [Branch] is playing. I would think that it’s just a matter of Deion getting comfortable with how the scheme has evolved in the time that he left and came back.’’

The sample size is small, but Tom Brady said he hasn’t noticed any major changes in how defenses are playing the Patriots in the two games without Moss. If the Patriots have struggled, it has been because of execution, he said.

Wes Welker had four receptions for 25 yards against San Diego and was targeted six times. Brady completed 19 of 32 passes for 159 yards against San Diego, which is ranked No. 1 in pass defense.

“We had difficulty getting it to everybody last week,’’ Brady said. “We only threw for, like, 100 yards. I don’t think there was a whole lot of good that went on.’’

One area where the Patriots want to continue to press is with the deep pass. In the last two games, Brady’s longest completion was a 30-yarder to tight end Aaron Hernandez against the Ravens. The rookie also accounted for the longest catch against San Diego, 24 yards.

Even though the Patriots are working on getting the ball downfield, Brady said, he hasn’t noticed teams crowding the receivers inside 20 yards.

“We threw one deep the fifth play of the game and they were back there pretty deep defending it,’’ Brady said. “You’re always trying to spread the field vertically and horizontally. You can’t make it a 20-yard field. You have to make them defend the whole field from sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone.

“They’re much more conscious of it when you’re hitting those plays, I can tell you that. Those long balls, they feel good when they stop those. We’ve got to hit those plays.’’

Chung sits out
Safety Patrick Chung, who left Sunday’s game in San Diego with a knee injury, was one of five Patriots who did not practice yesterday.

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork also was not at practice — which took place inside the Dana-Farber Field House because of light rain — but his absence was not injury-related.

Also missing were receiver Matt Slater (ankle), safety Jarrad Page (calf), and running back Fred Taylor (toe).

Saluting the streak
Brady may never compile a consecutive-game streak that reaches Brett Favre levels, but it is something the Patriots quarterback respects.

“I would have loved to have kept pace with him there and keep playing,’’ said Brady, who started 128 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs) from 2001-08 before being injured against the Chiefs in the 2008 opener.

Peyton [Manning] has a pretty good streak as well. I know he takes a lot of pride in that, too. That says a lot about the way you prepare yourself in the offseason. Hopefully I’m playing when he’s playing, but I won’t have that streak because of the knee injury.’’

A fractured ankle may force Favre to miss this weekend’s game against the Patriots, which would end his NFL-record regular-season streak at 291 games. Favre did not practice yesterday and was walking around in a protective boot. Childress said the quarterback’s status is day-to-day.

As far as the streak goes, Brady called it “phenomenal.’’

“I know how I feel after every game on Monday morning and trying to get up for a week of practice. You take a lot of pride being out there,’’ Brady said. “And I’ve said before that a quarterback can’t go out there and block or tackle or really display any toughness other than showing up every week.

“What he’s done over the course of his career is remarkable. It’s not like he hasn’t gotten hit. You watch him play and he plays a style of football where he does get hit. He is as tough a player that there’s ever been.’’

Sacks are scarce
The Vikings have just six sacks this season, 31st in the league. Defensive end Jared Allen in particular is in a drought after picking up at least 14 1/2 sacks each of the last three seasons. He has just one this year . . . Meanwhile, the Patriots are trying to close the gaps leading to Brady. He has been sacked 12 times, 10 in the last three games. “I think that line and Tom Brady, they work well together,’’ Allen said. “It’s been pretty stable, as far as guys coming in and out. They know Tom’s timing and know when Tom’s going to throw the ball. And they do what they have to do.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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