Five to wrap things up from Gillette ...
1) Brady back in the saddle: Is Tom Brady getting well? Indications are, yes. That was as good a performance as the quarterback has had, probably, since the Tennessee game. In control the whole time, feeling the rush around him, Brady looks like he's healing up nicely at the right time. Of course, the competition has to be taken into account.
2) Making up for Vince: Give the coaches credit for making an adjustment in the first quarter, when it became clear that Ron Brace was having problems with Brad Meester. They pulled Brace, and moved Mike Wright inside at that point, but just as significant were the snaps that Myron Pryor gave them at the nose position. The Patriots held Maurice Jones-Drew to 3.5-yards per carry.
3) Meriweather back on the map: Brandon Meriweather's first big play came tracking down Mike Thomas on an end-around on a third-and-1, and dropping him for no gain. The next one came with an interception on an overthrow down the seam by David Garrard. He's showing up again, and that's a positive sign for a team that's getting pretty good safety play now with both Meriweather and James Sanders.
4) Running 'em down: Give the Patriots' offensive line credit for getting push off the line, and making room for whomever was taking handoffs. After Laurence Maroney got a seat on the bench with another costly fumble, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk came in to combine for 136 yards on 18 carries. The improvement of the running game is an underrated story over the last month or so.
5) Time for a break?: The story of this week -- which you'll read about in tomorrow's Globe -- will likely center on the approach the coaches take to the Texans game. I think you sit guys who are nicked up. With all the different scenarios for the two wild-card teams, the Patriots really have little control over who they play in the first round, nor can they forecast that. What they can do is get healthy by resting guys like Ty Warren (who said he pushed it today to help get the leeway to sit next week) and Vince Wilfork in Week 17.
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