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Patriots Notebook: On to the Next

A different approach to the Dolphins game?

Playing the same team twice in three weeks brings about certain challenges for the coordinators. How much do they go with the same game plan? How much do they change? Do they keep the stable running? Do they air it out?

Bill Belichick will certainly entertain some of the game plans from the previous meeting where Brady passed for four touchdowns. One difference is that the team will be without the services of Rob Gronkowski who will serve his one-game suspension for a cheap shot on Tre’Davious White.

“It’s always a challenge when you’re looking at a game in the rearview mirror that you just played, you have to try to figure out how much to change, how much to do the same, understanding both teams are going to change some things,” McDaniels said. “There’s going to be some things they look at and maybe do differently, and vice versa, so part of that is trying to be careful, to not out-think yourself. And the other thing, you’re going to have to get into the game and feel out what adjustments they have made, and be ready to adjust on the fly during the course of the game Monday night because that always seems to play a factor in the second game of a division series. You’re going to need to adjust to something somebody else did first. We’ll be ready to do that.”

Belichick sees the game as a completely separate entity from the first.

“It’s not a continuation of last week’s game. It’s starting all over again, and that’s what we have to be ready to do,” Belichick said. “It’s not going to be the same game. It will play out differently. There will be different things in the game that will affect this game a lot differently than the last one. Hopefully, one of them not being snapping the ball to them for a touchdown, and we’ll just have to react and play it out. We both know each other well. That’s really not the issue. It’ll be how different plays match up and how they’re executed and how this unique game will take its own life different than any other one.”

As of late the Patriots run game has been producing immensely. Don’t be surprised if the two-headed monster of Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis get over 15 touches each.

Patriots getting closer to clinching top seed

As the season winds down, the Patriots’ playoff picture is beginning to clear up. They can clinch another division title before they even hit the field next Monday against the Dolphins. If former Patriot Jacoby Brissett and the Colts can beat the Bills on Sunday, it would secure New England’s ninth straight AFC East title.

If the Colts don’t win, the Patriots can win the division 24 hours later by beating the Dolphins in Miami. That seems inevitable at this point, though. The bigger question is how the Patriots can grab another first-round playoff bye, and more importantly, the one seed and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

The 10-2 Patriots are tied for the top spot in the AFC heading into Week 14 thanks to the Steelers’ last-second win against the Bengals. The race for the No. 1 seed likely will come down to the highly anticipated Patriots-Steelers matchup in Pittsburgh in Week 15.

The earliest New England could clinch the No. 1 seed is during Week 15. If the Steelers lose next week against the Ravens, the Patriots win in Miami, and the Jaguars lose against Seattle the Patriots would clinch the AFC’s top seed by beating the Steelers in Week 15.

Gronkowski to miss Monday Night Football

The NFL has denied New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski’s appeal of his one-game suspension for his late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White last Sunday. Gronkowski will miss Monday night’s game against the AFC East rival Dolphins in Miami.

The four-time Pro Bowler was given the one-game ban after his hit on White drew wide controversy. With the game in hand in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski dove into a defenseless White on the ground near the sideline, driving his head and back into the ground with his arm.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was given for the hit, but Gronkowski was not ejected from the game.

Gronkowski apologized for the hit after the game, which the Patriots won 23-3, and cited his frustration for a lack of penalties called against opponents defending him during the game as a reason for his actions.

Hogan inching closer to return

Hogan returned to practice on Wednesday. He wouldn’t commit to playing Monday night against the Miami Dolphins but did say he’s preparing himself to play in the game.

“I’m just day by day,” Hogan said.

Hogan has missed four games with the injury. Hogan has 33 receptions for 438 yards with five touchdowns through eight games thus far.

Former coach passes away

Ron Meyer, who coached New England from 1982 to 1984 and was part of one of the franchise’s most memorable all-time plays, has died at the age of 76. The Patriots issued a statement on Wednesday with remarks from owner Robert Kraft.

“I am sad to hear of Ron Meyer’s passing,” Kraft said. “He was a colorful head coach who was very entertaining for fans during his tenure. One of the greatest things Ron did when he was hired in 1982 was to bring us a young coach from his staff at Southern Methodist University named Dante Scarnecchia. Thirty-five years later, that hire has proven to be a lasting legacy. On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we send our thoughts and prayers to the Meyer family and the many friends who are mourning his loss.”

His most memorable moment with the Patriots came on Dec. 12, 1982, when Meyer called a timeout during wintry conditions so a stadium worker could clear a spot on the field for placekicker John Smith to attempt a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. The kick was successful and the Patriots went on to beat the Dolphins, 3-0.

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