FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Matt Light was so busy preparing for his second game in five days that his usual quick wit slowed down.
Still sore from Sunday’s game, the Patriots left tackle expects coach Bill Belichick to give his players a few days off after their Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions.
“I think Bill will probably throw us a bone. We’ll have a late turkey day,” Light said Monday, a grin visible beneath his bushy red beard. “I should have said he’s going to throw us a wishbone. … Usually, I’m on top of that. It’s a long day. It’s a hard day.”
Make that three hard days.
New England had little time to savor its big 31-28 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Up for grabs in the final minute, the game went the Patriots way when James Sanders leaped for an interception at his 6-yard line with 36 seconds left, the third pick of the game against Peyton Manning.
“It would be nice to be able to sit around and put your feet up on the table and enjoy last night’s game for a little bit,” said Belichick, who didn’t spend much time watching film of the victory, “but we’re on to Detroit.”
They switched their focus on Monday with a walkthrough. The first full practice is scheduled for Tuesday, a day earlier than normal. The flight to Detroit is Wednesday. And kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. EST Thursday.
No wonder Light planned to hit the sack at 9:30 Monday night.
“There’s a lot coming at you,” he said. “You’ve got to squeeze a lot in when you normally have the extra couple of days. We started on it today.”
The Lions also have to speed up their preparations after Sunday’s 35-19 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
But they’re used to playing every Thanksgiving at home. The Patriots last played in that game in 2002 when they beat the Lions 20-12. Two years earlier, Detroit topped New England on Thanksgiving 34-9.
Belichick figures that playing in the annual game helps the Lions, the team he worked for in 1976 and 1977 as an assistant coach.
“It’s great to be in this routine,” he said. “Having been in Detroit for two years, it was a game that you knew every year was your game. You knew you were going to be playing at home.
“It was something you were comfortable with and you actually looked forward to and (you) didn’t have to travel, all those kinds of things. I think it’s a great game for Detroit, the Lions, the city and for football.”
The Patriots, though, seem to have a huge edge on paper. Their record, 8-2, is a mirror image of the Lions’ 2-8.
New England shares the AFC East lead with the New York Jets. Detroit is all alone in the NFC North cellar.
But the Lions haven’t been pushovers. Five of their losses have been by five points or less. And they’re pretty good at home with a 2-2 record that includes an overtime loss to the Jets.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Light said. “I wish we could get a nice easy week in this league. But it’s not happening. I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.”
New England’s defense also is suspect. Only the Houston Texans have allowed more yards.
The Patriots are cutting back on their physical preparations to give their bodies time to recover. But they haven’t played the Lions since 2006 so they have to familiarize themselves with a team that has many new players and a coach, Jim Schwartz, who is in just his second season.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 96 yards against the Colts. Now he has to find holes in a defense he’s seen only on film.
“There’s a few things that each team does differently, but for the most part teams do one or the other thing,” he said. “So you’ve just got to take your preparation from previous weeks and get prepared for this team.”
And don’t waste any time doing it.
“We’ve just got to kind of turn the corner real fast and turn our preparation toward the Detroit Lions and get ready for them, which we already have started to do,” Green-Ellis said. “We’ve just got to go home and kind of accelerate everything.”