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Patriots Notebook: Defense Faces Toughest Test Yet

The Patriots defense heads into Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh with something to prove after their worst performance in nine weeks.

“You’ve got to respond,” Malcolm Butler said. “When your back’s against the wall, you’ve got to respond — not just in football but in life, period. We’ve got to. We’ve got no choice.”

Monday’s 27-20 loss to Miami marked the first time the Patriots allowed more than 17 points since a Week 4 loss to Carolina. Their eight-game stretch of holding opposing offenses to under 20 points was impressive, but they didn’t face an offense in the top 10 in scoring. The Steelers are ranked eighth in points per game and fourth in total offense.

“They’ve got a great offense,” Stephon Gilmore said. “No matter who we’re playing, we’re trying to play together as a team as a defense. They’ve got a lot of great players and we have some great players. This is going to be a fun matchup.”

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell leads the NFL in rushing and receiver Antonio Brown leads in receiving. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is second in passing yards. Along with Brown, who also leads the NFL in receptions.

“I would say right now, our biggest test is just going against ourselves. Being better than we were last week,” Duron Harmon said. “Seeing if we can put the bad behind and move forward. I think like every week, it’s more about us than anyone else. We’ve got to go out there and know where their weapons are because it is the most explosive offense. We know we’ve got our hands full. It’s going to be a battle. It will be a test for us to see if we’re mentally prepared and tough enough to bounce back from a week like last week.”

Brady looking ahead to next matchup

After one of worst games of his career, Brady is already moving past last week’s poor performance. As Brady and the rest of the Patriots prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the quarterback is hopeful the team can learn from the loss.

“I believe you can learn more from losses than wins because you more critically evaluate where you’re at and what the expectations are, and what you need in order to get the job done,” Brady said. “I think everyone took this one pretty hard. The locker room wasn’t in very good spirits and the plane flight home as very quiet. But it’s also the ability for us to learn from it and move forward is what we need to do because I think we’ve always felt that one loss shouldn’t become two, two shouldn’t become three. that’s when it really turns into a bad season.”

The last time New England lost in December was on Dec. 27, 2015.

New England make flurries of moves

New England kicked off the week with flurries of roster moves this week.

The New England Patriots have beefed up Tom Brady’s receiving corps for this week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, adding veteran Kenny Britt.

They’ll also get tight end Rob Gronkowski back after his one-game suspension.

Tackle Marcus Cannon was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. The second-team All-Pro played in seven of the first eight games but missed the last five with an ankle injury.

Linebacker Jonathan Freeny and receiver Bernard Reedy were released while defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who was released on Dec 2 has been resigned.

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