For the second time this season, the Patriots (7-5) are heading west later this week for an extended stay on the Pacific Coast. With Sunday's visit to the Seahawks (2-10) followed a week later by a trip to Oakland (3-9) to take on the Raiders, Bill Belichick and Co. are once again going to spend 10 days on the left side of the country.
The theory is the team will be more physically up to the challenge of the two-game stretch by remaining on the West Coast rather than traveling back and forth across the continent multiple times.
New England took a similar approach to back-to-back games in San Francisco and San Diego in mid-October. While the team split those contests, beating the 49ers 30-21 before getting blown off the field 30-10 by a Chargers big-play passing game, Belichick and his players were happy the way the work week went out west even if the second of the two games didn't play out as hoped.
The team will use the same hotel in the Bay Area for the week, transforming it for meetings, meals and training facilities, and will again practice at San Jose State University. As smoothly as things went the first time around, the team knows it must make even better use of the two-game stretch as a second split would likely put an end to any postseason hopes in New England.
Following Sunday's lopsided, five-turnover, 33-10 loss to the Steelers, the Patriots have fallen back into a second-place tie with the Dolphins in the East and fell even further behind in many of the AFC tiebreaker scenarios that could unfold with only a month of football left to play.
Considering what the Patriots are playing for and the dismal seasons that have unfolded in Seattle and Oakland, New England's ever-present one-game-at-a-time mentality heads to the West Coast needing a two-game sweep.
"That's what's in front of us now. Four games left but I say that and hope we all just look at it as one game. Prepare to win the next one," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said after the humbling loss to Pittsburgh. "We've always done a good job of putting big losses and big wins behind us. I think we'll use that experience and just come in to work to try to get better from this.
"I think realizing to put ourselves in the (playoff) picture, period, we have to win a game. We can't worry about winning two games or three games or four games. We have to start by winning a game."
By The Numbers: .756 -- New England's winning percentage dating back to the 2001 season, the best of any team in any of America's five major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS -- through Nov. 23) over that time. The NBA's San Antonio Spurs (.713) are second on the list followed by the Mavericks, Colts and Pistons to round out the top five.
--DE Ty Warren missed Sunday's game against Pittsburgh with a groin injury. Warren has now missed two of the last three games with the injury.
--LB Adalius Thomas was inactive against the Steelers, missing his third straight game with a broken left forearm. Despite reportedly having had surgery to repair the injury, Thomas has yet to be placed on injured reserve with four games to go in the regular season.
--RB LaMont Jordan (calf) missed his eighth straight game, despite seeing limited reps in practice last week for the first time in weeks. Jordan led the rest of New England's inactives, a list that included emergency QB Matt Gutierrez, WR Kelley Washington (thigh), T Wesley Britt, G Billy Yates and TE Tyson DeVree.
--LB Mike Vrabel picked off QB Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Steelers. It was Vrabel's first interception of the season and first since 2006, setting up New England's 14-yard scoring drive to take the early lead.
--LB Pierre Woods, Adalius Thomas' replacement in the starting lineup on the outside, left the third quarter of the loss to the Steelers with a mouth injury and did not return.
--WR Wes Welker left in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Steelers with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Welker walked off the field with trainers following a big, late hit for which Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark earned an unnecessary roughness penalty.
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