Landing In London: Pats Prepare For Tampa Bay

Wembley Stadium

The New England Patriots are excited to play in London against the 0-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The challenge is not to overlook a winless foe, regardless of the venue they're playing in.

Snow in October is fairly unusual. So, too, is an NFL regular-season game in London.

The New England Patriots participated in one such oddity last weekend when they thrashed Tennessee 59-0 on a snowy afternoon at Gillette Stadium. They'll tackle the other half this weekend when they travel overseas to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

"We're all very excited," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I think this is a game that we've all been looking forward to since we heard that we were flying across the Atlantic to play. It's not too often that we fly east to play a game. And to play in Wembley Stadium, as historic a stadium as in the entire world, I think our team is all very excited for that."

The general interest from outsiders seems to be in the trip itself, not necessarily the game. Part of that has to do with the fact the Buccaneers have, for lack of a better team, been lousy this season -- 0-6, to be exact.

This marks the second consecutive week the Patriots are facing a winless team, so chances are the actual game will wind up being a sideshow in comparison to the novelty of New England making its first visit to London.

Just don't expect the players to get caught up in the hype. As one of the most recognizable franchises in the NFL, courtesy of their three Super Bowl trophies, the Patriots have played in many big games over the years. This isn't one of them, even if the league would have you believe otherwise. This is simply another Week 7 matchup against an opponent the Patriots are expected to destroy.

"The job's the same," Brady said. "When the ball is kicked off, the rules are the same for us, the field's the same size; we're playing an opponent that we studied all week. Obviously, the venue is different and we're in a different part of the world, but I know the excitement that the English fans have for sports, especially their favorite sport, which is their 'football.'

"Hopefully, we can bring some excitement and continue to have some fans from across the world enjoy the game that we love here in America."

With a significant time change overseas, the Patriots will travel to London earlier than they would for most road trips. While they're trying to treat this as just another game, they are cognizant of the fact there will be some differences because they're playing in London.

"I think we get in pretty early Friday morning. We will have a couple days to get acclimated to the time change," Brady said. "The weather is pretty similar in London as it is here in Boston, so we're pretty familiar with that. It's just going to be trying to get our rest before the game on both Friday night and all day Saturday, and really come out and play with a lot of excitement and energy because it's a special game for us.

"This is a game that we'll be remembering for the next 40, 50 years of our life, so we all want to go out and play as well as we can."

At the end of the day, the most important thing for the Patriots to remember is Tampa Bay will be equally excited to play at Wembley Stadium. In other words, no one can be overlooked -- not even another winless team.

"We don't underestimate anybody, and the reason is because every team has its strengths and weaknesses," Brady said. "Every team is good in their own way. Obviously, Tampa Bay has not played the way they were hoping they'd play this year. But every week is entirely different and they have players who have won Super Bowls on that team and every team is dangerous.

"We don't ever take anybody lightly. We go out there and we prepare the same way every week and we've got to go out there and have a great week of practice this week so we can go perform well on Sunday."

 

Success vs The NFC
--The Patriots will look to continue their success against NFC teams Sunday when they play Tampa Bay. Since 2001, they're 29-4 against foes from the opposite conference, 32-5 including postseason play (three Super Bowl wins and one loss).
In that same stretch, they've gone 4-0 in a single season against the NFC four times, including each of the last three seasons.

Unfamiliar Foes
--Playing Tampa Bay is a rare occurrence for the Patriots. In fact, the two teams have met just six times overall, the lowest number of games the Patriots have played against any league rival since the last era of NFL expansion in 1995.

Second on that list is Washington (eight), followed by the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, whom they've played only nine times.

Success In The Fall
--October has been a good month for the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. Since 2003, New England is 24-5 in October. They swept through the month in 2003, 2006 and 2007, which included an 11-game October win streak that ended with a 30-10 loss to San Diego last season.

--Unless it snows in London this weekend, the Patriots will have to play without their most significant advantage weather-wise. After crushing Tennessee last week, the Patriots are now 11-0 in the snow at Foxboro, dating back to 1978 when they edged Buffalo 26-24 in 28-degree weather. That mark also includes three playoff games in snowy conditions, including back-to-back postseason victories over Indianapolis in 2004-05.

Record Pace
--The Patriots set a number of records in last week's win over Tennessee. Their 45-0 lead at halftime was the largest in NFL history, breaking a record set in 1983 by Green Bay, which held a 42-point lead over Tampa Bay at halftime.

The 35 points they scored in the second quarter marked the most prolific output for any single quarter in franchise history, and the shutout was the seventh during the Belichick era.

Where Not To Go
--Belichick is already warning his players about which areas to stay away from in London this week, particularly since the team is new to the city.

"He did say there were certain parts that we would like to stay away from," safety Brandon Meriweather said.

Meriweather is no stranger to such travel. The veteran defensive back says he's got stamps from Antigua, Bahamas, Jamaica and Barbados on his passport.

"I try to hit all the islands," he said, but not the cold-weather countries. "I try to stay away from them, because I'm up here all the time (in frigid Foxboro)."

Shorthanded At WR
--The Patriots released WR Joey Galloway and will be without WR Julian Edelman, who broke his arm, so the running backs and tight ends may be forced to pick up the slack.

"It's on everybody," running back Kevin Faulk said. "At the same time, you can say that those guys are gone, but it is -- it's on everybody, because you never know who's going to be in that position, who's going to be in that role."

Losing Edelman is tough to absorb. The rookie wideout provided a spark and even filled in for Wes Welker as a slot receiver.

"Of course, he's still a weapon and you know when he comes back he'll still be a weapon," Faulk said, "but at the same time, no disrespect to Julian, but there's an opportunity for another guy to come in and step up and make plays for us."


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