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The Patriots are hoping for a regain their road edge when they visit the rival New York Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s so competitive,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “There’s such a fine line between winning and losing throughout the league. You see it every Sunday. That little advantage of being at home, the crowd, the familiarity, the stadium, the turf.” He said in most road games, it comes down to “a couple of plays,” and last year, for the first time in years, the Patriots weren’t making them.
While the team’s success at Gillette Stadium has almost been taken for granted – the Patriots were 8-0 at home in 2007 and 2009, and quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t lost a regular season game there since Nov. 12, 2006, against the Jets – New England has been nearly as tough to beat on the road under Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Since going 11-5 in their breakthrough 2001 season, the Patriots are 48-24 in the regular season on the road under Belichick, including 8-0 in 2007 en route to a perfect 16-0 regular season.
Even in 2008, when Matt Cassel filled in for the injured Brady, they were 6-2 on the road. Then came last season’s struggles. Although New England was perfect at home, it was 2-6 on the road – including a 35-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. There were several tough losses, including 20-17 in overtime at Denver and the stunning last-minute 35-34 defeat at Indianapolis. “We had some issues, obviously, last year playing on the road,” veteran tackle Matt Light said. “We weren’t mentally tough enough and we made too many critical mistakes when we needed to have a big play.”
Light also pointed to the roster changes the team has undergone in the past couple of years as part of the reason, noting that most of the players who compiled the great road record are no longer with the team. Still, he sees last year’s record as more of an aberration. “I’m sure we’ll be all right this year,” he said. Belichick had plenty of experience in the old Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands, coaching there with the New York Giants and the Jets in addition to his visits with the Patriots. “It’s a tough place to play,” said Belichick. “It’s always tough on the road.”
Belichick said the notoriously windy conditions weren’t a factor when the Patriots lost to the Giants 20-17 in a preseason game in the stadium on Sept. 2, and that the winds usually spike later in the season.