, Newburyport, MA


November 3, 2012

Patriots hoping to continue success

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The second half of the season is when the Patriots really start rolling. With a bye week to prepare for it, they hope to be unbeatable.

Just like the last two years.

New England won its last eight regular-season games in 2010 and 2011 when the need to peak going into the postseason intensifies. As the end nears, there is less time to make up for losses.

That urgency, and coach Bill Belichick’s emphasis on it, may be why they’re 61-11 in the second half of the past nine seasons.

“Early in the year, you start out and it’s kind of hard to say, ‘Oh, this game’s more important than that game,’ “ running backs coach Ivan Fears said. “Later in the year, it’s easy for the guys to see a loss here really hurts anything we’re trying to get done.”

The Patriots started this season at 1-2 but that won’t matter if they reach the playoffs with a team playing its best.

The bye week comes at a good time. The Patriots have played enough games to assess their strengths and weaknesses and have enough left to develop consistency. They lead the AFC East at 5-3 — with their losses by a total of four points — the same record they had last year when they were tied for the division lead.

Last season, the Patriots dropped their last two games before the midpoint.

“We’ve got half the season to go,” quarterback Tom Brady said then after losing to the New York Giants on a last-minute touchdown pass by Eli Manning. “We’ll see what our team’s made of this week.”

Then they beat the New York Jets 37-16, starting a stretch in which five of eight wins were by at least 18 points, and went all the way to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Giants on another last-minute touchdown.

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