Any other team and the thought of going into a late-season game with a shortage true wide receivers would be at the least troubling, at the worst possibly disastrous. But these are the Patriots where only two things matter: Bill Belichick's place on the sidelines and Tom Brady's place under center. After that, everything else usually takes care of itself.
As it stands, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker will be on the field against Miami Sunday. Julian Edelman, who suffered a concussion on Thanksgiving, practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday and his status remains up in the air. Then there's tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke his arm in the Pats' blowout win over the Colts two weeks ago. He won't be back until the end of the season.
But like we said: it's not about who's missing as much as who's available. Brady has won with less (remember 2006? It was Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and Troy Brown) and he seems unconcerned about his current stable of pass-catchers. It's more about the players on the field doing their jobs.
“I think that’s part of being a team and being part of our organization is being unselfish and doing what’s best for the team always,” Brady said via the Boston Herald. “It’s not what’s best for the individual player or the individual position. It’s how we’re going to score the most points, and in order to score the most points, we need to do what our job is.
“If your job is to run through the defense and clear out for another player, then you do that the best you can. We’ve found guys to be able to do those things, so it’s not about rushing yards, or passing yards or receiving touchdowns. It’s about winning games. That’s most important.”
Winning hasn't been an issue. Just ask Brandon Lloyd, the wide receiver who signed with the Patriots this offseason after stints in San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Denver and most recently St. Louis.
"It’s definitely new for me," Lloyd said of playing for a team headed to the playoffs, "but I’m preparing every day and going into the games on the weekend like it’s normal."
And Lloyd, perhaps taking a cue from Brady, has bought into the Patriot Way -- basically, the team comes before the player.
“It’s part of the offense,” Lloyd said. “Everybody is available, and we’re doing our part to get open. We’re doing our best to make plays on the ball. I think the points and as many pass catchers that are touching the ball are just a by-product of us practicing and working on these routes and being consistent.”
Given what New England has done recently -- they've scored 49, 59, 37, and 45 points in their last four games -- it's fair to say that the Patriots Way works. But we already knew that.