New England Patriots
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Patriots get high to prep for Mexico City
The New England Patriots (7-2) are trying to turn a challenge into an opportunity this week in Colorado.
Following Sunday night's 41-16 blowout of the Broncos, New England set up camp in Colorado Springs and is practicing this week at the United States Air Force Academy in advance of Sunday's trip to Mexico City to take on the Raiders.
On one hand, consecutive road games at altitude - Mexico City is actually a quarter mile higher than the Mile High City - could be a challenge for a Patriots team that's tied a team record with 12 straight wins on away from Foxborough.
And while they have struggled to date, the Raiders (4-5) were a popular pick as an AFC Super Bowl contender following last year's breakout season. They still have plenty of playmakers on offense, led by young passer Derek Carr.
But a week in Colorado also offers up the chance for a bonding experience for the defending champions, a chance for a mid-season coming together on the way toward what all involved hope is another postseason run with a new cast of characters.
It's far from a vacation but it's also far from a traditional work week, too.
"We talked about some of the other options, but again, this was the best one. I felt like this was the best one for us. We're happy to be here," head coach Bill Belichick said of working in Colorado and at the Air Force Academy. "They've been very accommodating for us. They've done a great job of trying to give us all of the things we need, whether that's facilities or the weight room, equipment and so forth. They've been great - the entire coaching staff, the facility staff and so forth. Our main concern is just to really have a good week of preparation for the Raiders and everything else is good. We just need to focus on what we need to do, what we can control and be ready to go."
New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who has an aeronautical engineering degree from RPI, maintains that his focus is on preparing for Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and the rest of the Raiders weapons, even if his curiosity could be piqued by his surroundings this week.
"You know where my focus is going to be. I really hope what we get from being out here is a great week of work and preparing to play the Oakland Raiders. So that'll be my No. 1 concern," Patricia said, before acknowledging that it's not a normal work week. "I might have an eye to the sky if I see a jet flying by that might be pretty cool for me right there. I love planes. It's one of my passions obviously with my degree and my background. Any time I can see a military plane flying around I tend to enjoy that. Hopefully, we'll get to see that. It's obviously a great place. We're very lucky to be here and appreciative of the Air Force Academy to have us and allow us to use their facility and everything and hopefully that'll help us get ready to beat a very good Oakland Raiders team. These guys are extremely tough and pose a lot of problems here offensively that we have to deal with."
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who spent a season-plus in the Rockies as the Broncos head coach, did admit there could be side benefits of the time away together.
"I think these weeks, it's just a great opportunity to be around each other a little bit more than we would normally be around one another," McDaniels said of potential team bonding. "You know, you're eating your meals together, you see each other in the hotel, you travel to and from practice together. Any of the guys that take the opportunity to do some of the things on their off day, again, it's just another opportunity to spend time with one another as teammates or as coaches and teammates, and these have always been great experiences for us.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to just get ourselves focused on the tasks that we need to get focused on this week, which is a really good defensive football team, and get ourselves prepared to play our second game in a row on the road. So, a lot of good has come out of these trips in the past and we're looking forward to this week, also."
SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 16-14-1. New England and Oakland/L.A./soon-to-be Las Vegas have a history that dates back to the days of the AFL, when they met twice a year. More recently, New England has won five of the last six meanings in the Bill Belichick era, kicked off by the controversial Tuck Rule game in the 2001 postseason with Adam Vinatieri's famous field goal in the snow that kick-started the dynasty in Foxborough. The Patriots are 2-1 on the road against Oakland over the last decade-plus, the last two road meetings convincing New England wins 49-26 with Matt Cassel at quarterback in 2008 and 31-19 in 2011.