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Patriots look to improve against AFC West

The Sports Xchange
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--The Patriots are 65-73-6 all-time against AFC West opponents, including a 12-10 record in the regular season with Bill Belichick at the helm.

Last year, the Patriots faced just one AFC West team, beating the Chargers in San Diego, 23-20. The Patriots will play at Oakland on Oct. 2, host Kansas City on Nov. 21 and travel to Denver on Dec. 18.

--QB Tom Brady has played against San Diego five times in the regular season and twice in the postseason. He's never lost to the Chargers in the playoffs and is also 3-2 against them in the regular season, while his counterpart Sunday, Philip Rivers, is 1-2 lifetime against New England.

--This will be the second time in four years the Patriots play their first home game of the season against San Diego. Overall, they've won 14 of their last 16 home openers, including nine consecutive wins since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002. This is the longest current streak of consecutive victories in home openers in the NFL.

--QB Tom Brady was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week by the NFL for throwing for 517 yards and four touchdowns in Monday's win at Miami. This marks the 18th time he has won the award. Only Peyton Manning, who has earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week 20 times, has won the award more times than Brady.

--WR Chad Ochocinco, ripped by Tedy Bruschi for his "awe factor" and told to study the playbook more, was defended by QB Tom Brady.

After catching just one pass for 14 of Brady's 517 passing yards in the win over Miami last week, Ochocinco tweeted he was blown away by the Patriots' video-game styled offense in person, adding "WOW."

Bruschi went on a rant on Boston radio station WEEI, saying Ochocinco should "drop the awe factor ... stop tweeting and get in the playbook more."

Brady defended his new teammate and pointed out Ochocinco's work ethic had been strong since the former Bengal arrived in New England.

"From the day that he's got here he's worked really hard to be a part of this offense and be involved, so I don't know when he said that or what he said, but I know that we're counting on him to be a huge contributor, and he expects that, too," Brady said.

"He expects to be out there making plays. When I'm out there in the huddle with him he's very excited about being out there and making catches and doing the right thing and being in the right spot. He's definitely done that over the course of training camp, so anyone that's been at training camp knows that he's been a part of what we're trying to do since the day we got him."

--OL Dan Connolly filled in nicely for C Dan Koppen, who has a broken ankle and will likely miss the next six to 10 weeks. Connolly has been down this road before and is prepared to play a backup role wherever the team needs him.

"I feel that's why I am here," Connolly said. "I showed versatility early on and that's why I was kept around, I can play multiple positions. We've put in a lot of time in film study and in practice, but I know there is going to have during the game to have a little bit of comfort. I feel like like I have a good comfort at that position because I've always backed up it and played it throughout my career but I had never done it in a game."

--Believe it or not, head coach Bill Belichick had some gripes -- albeit minor ones -- with the Patriots' performance on offense Monday.

"There were a lot of areas," he said. "We had the ball at the 1-yard-line and couldn't get a field goal before the half, weren't able to close out the game with a couple first downs, stalled there at the end of the second quarter.

"The good thing was offensively, whenever Miami scored or started changing momentum, we turned it around. That was great. But we had things we need to do better. We got away with some things. There were substitution issues at times, and that's great we could take advantage of it, but we have to keep ironing out details."

BY THE NUMBERS
300 -- The number of games the Patriots will have played under the ownership of Robert Kraft following Sunday's home opener.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"Start drinking early. Get nice and rowdy. 4:15 game -- lot of time to get lubed up." -- Patriots QB Tom Brady, jokingly urging fans to get fired up for Sunday's home opener.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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