Patriot defenders ready for 'chess match' – Sentinel & Enterprise











New England Patriots defenders Trey Flowers, left, and Lawrence Guy chase down Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen during a Dec. 23 game. AP PHOTO


New England Patriots defenders Trey Flowers, left, and Lawrence Guy chase down Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen during a Dec. 23 game. AP PHOTO

FOXBORO — Nobody has to tell professional football players to increase the intensity during the playoffs. Their minds, even when at rest, take care of that for them.

During the regular season, the bye weekend is all about getting away from football and recharging the battery. So how did Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers spend the bye weekend in advance of the Divisional Round?

“I had a dream about setting the edge, or didn’t set the edge, and I kind of woke up,” Flowers said. “It was a nightmare. It turned into a nightmare.”

Clearly, he was ready to play over the weekend, which indicates he’ll be more than ready to go Sunday for the 1:05 p.m. kickoff against the Chargers at frigid Gillette Stadium.

“You definitely look forward to it,” Flowers said. “You go through a whole season and prepare yourself for this position, get some time off, and you really want to get back out there.”

All five of the Patriots’ losses came against foes left out of the 12-team, 11-game playoff tournament that crowns a Super Bowl champion. No telling where their subconscious minds roamed in advance of some of those road flops, but that no longer is a concern.

“It’s definitely a greater focus, a greater intensity as far as precision and all the little things, the technique, the fundamentals and things like that,” Flowers said of the postseason. “I guess you can say the atmosphere kind of shifted as far as now it’s just a one-game season and a lot of guys turn it up just a little bit more.

You have to go into the week with a great mindset.”

For Patriots defenders, Philip Rivers threatens to color their nightmares during a week of preparation.

A few Patriots spent part of their first day back at work answering the same quarterback questions routinely posed to their opponents, such as: “How do you stop a quarterback who has seen it all?”

Rivers, 37, is in his 15th season and 13th as a starter. Brady, 41, has started 18 of his 19 seasons.

“Just try to make it hard on him,” safety Duron Harmon said.

How?

“Try to disguise as much as you can,” Harmon said. “Obviously, you don’t want your disguise to take you out of where you’re supposed to be. Trying to find that fine balance, just to make it harder on him. Give him different looks. Try to make him play that game with us, and hopefully we win that mind game against him.”

The Patriots disguise their defenses as well as anyone on the planet, but again, Old Man Rivers has seen it all.

“The experience allows him to know he can take over the offense,” Flowers said. “He can change things. It’s one of those things you have to be aware of, him taking over and changing the plays. Obviously, as a defensive front, you have to contain him, but also get some pressure on him.”

And keep him guessing.

“It’s a smart quarterback we’re facing, so any time we can confuse him just a little bit or having him see one thing, but give him something different, will definitely be a key to being successful,” Flowers said. “It’s kind of like a chess match. He’s definitely pretty good. We have to be pretty good as well.”

Against more than just the passing game.

“They’re a challenging football team, from top to bottom, especially on the offensive side,” Harmon said. “They have receivers, running backs, tight ends, everything they need to win a football game. They do a good job.”

Part of having the right mindset means not growing overconfident because of the location of the game.

“It can be important, but for us we understand that a lot of teams have lost at home,” Flowers said. “You saw it with the games this past weekend, a lot of teams (three of four) lost at home.”

The Patriots forever live in the right frame of mind already.


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