Patriots notebook: New England respects Polamalu
He puts the “strong” in strong safety.
“He’s an impact player, a big playmaker in both the running game and the passing game. He’s got tremendous speed. He’s tough,” New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu. “(He’s) a big hitter.”
“He really sets the tone for them,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Thursday. “In the times that I’ve played against him, he always makes a huge impact on the game. He’s very aggressive and he’s always focused on the ball and he can really make a lot of plays. He’s a really explosive athlete.
“We have to account for him on every play,” Brady said. “Every week, we’re facing guys that are the best in the league and he’s … I don’t think there are too many players better than Troy.”
After participating in practice with the Steelers on Wednesday, Polamalu sat out Thursday, nursing the knee injury that has kept him out of the last two games. His status for Sunday’s game with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium remains uncertain.
“Last week, they didn’t play their dime defense, I think probably because he wasn’t in there,” Belichick said. “So they just used nickel. They're really a dime team. He plays down around the line of scrimmage in their dime coverage package, so I'm sure that that would be a grouping with him in there that they probably would use more of. It's one of their core defensive packages."
The five-year veteran, a three-time Pro Bowler, can indeed be a difference maker.
Polamalu has appeared in nine of the Steelers’ 12 games this season, all starts, totaling 53 tackles, 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
“He’s an outstanding football player,” Belichick said. “He makes a lot of tackles. He’s hard to block. He’s very fast in the passing game. He can play man (-to-man). He can play zone … He adds a lot to their defense. He’s a very good player.”
Moss is Mr. November
Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Cleveland Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs were named the AFC Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Month for November.
The NFL’s leader in touchdown receptions with 17, Moss caught 24 passes for 316 yards and five TDs in the Patriots’ three games during the month.
Surprisingly, this is the first player of the month award in Moss’ 10-year career.
Brady won the award in September and October.
Patriots practice report
The Patriots reported that safety Rashad Baker (ankle), Brady (right shoulder), guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and defensive end Ty Warren (thigh) were limited in practice Thursday.
Giants look at LaCasse
The New York Daily News reported that Stoughton’s Ryan LaCasse was one of a number of free agents the Giants worked out earlier this week.
The defensive end earned a Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts last season, but fell victim to the final preseason cuts this year.
If the Giants were to sign LaCasse, he’d be seeing his hometown team soon. The Patriots, of course, will conclude the regular season with a game at Giants Stadium on Saturday night, Dec. 29.
Tale of the tape
Tape from the Jets game could aid the Patriots when they play host to the Steelers.
No, not that tape.
Game film of the 19-16 overtime win former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s Jets registered against the Steelers on Nov. 18 may be must-viewing in Foxboro this week.
The lowly Jets sacked Ben Roethlisberger seven times and limited Willie Parker to 52 yards on 21 carries, while getting some solid foot work from Thomas Jones (117 yards) and Mike Nugent (four field goals) to stun the Steelers.
“Well, I think the thing that you have to understand about this league, which you guys know, is that it is a copycat league,” Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said during a conference call with the Pittsburgh media. “The film is available to everybody and you look at the film and I’m certain that’s one of the games we’ll look at. Just as we’ll look at the Bengals game (last Sunday night’s 24-10 Steelers’ win) and the Dolphins game (Pittsburgh’s 3-0 win the previous Monday night) and right on down the line.”
Vrabel warned against putting too much stock in the Steelers’ past two games, both of which were playined in the rain.
“You have to be careful with some of those games,” he said. “That’s not quite reflective of their offense because it’s an explosive offense and sometimes playing in those kinds of conditions you don’t really truly get to see what they are capable of. But we’ll certainly look at all the film we can.”