Patriots look to regain winning edge on the road

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For almost a decade, the New England Patriots were a dominant road team. Last season was a different story, as they lost six of eight.

Now, the Patriots are hoping for a regain their road edge when they visit the 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."

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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.

"The new stadium's so high, it doesn't look like there's going to be a lot of wind," he said.

Swirling winds in stadiums with open ends, such as Gillette Stadium or Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, can make kicking a nightmare.

"The old Meadowlands was one of the toughest stadiums to play in because of the swirling winds, but it was nothing that we didn't have in New England," Patriots kicker Steve Gostkowski.

Notes: The Patriots' injury report for Friday listed both CB Terrence Wheatley and OL Nick Kaczur as out for Sunday's game after missing practice Friday. WR Julian Edelman is questionable after limited participation, and Brady, RB Fred Taylor and WR Wes Welker were all listed as probable. ... Much has been made of the comparison between the styles of the taciturn Belichick and the gregarious, sometimes profane Jets coach Rex Ryan. A reporter told Belichick Friday morning if his style were more like Ryan's, it would be much more entertaining for the media. "You're not the first guy who has mentioned that," Belichick replied. He said his more laid-back style was "nothing personal" and later admitted, to laughter, "I like most of you." ... Belichick said he first knew the Jets-Patriots rivalry was intense when, while coaching with the Jets, the team bus was hit with eggs on Route 1 in Foxborough near the stadium. "That was the tipoff right there," he said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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