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Five questions with Patriots correspondent Ian Rapoport

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Posted Nov. 11, 2010 @ 1:04 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Each week throughout the season we'll ask our Patriots correspondent and Boston Herald writer Ian Rapoport five questions about the Pats. This week, Ian discussed the reaction to Sunday's brutal loss to the Browns and how Cleveland made Wes Welker a non-factor.

1. Players talked a lot about poor practices last week. How did last week's practices factor into the loss to the Browns

Rapoport: The first bad sign was Friday practice is supposed to be a glorified walk through — not in pads, mostly mental. It lasted two hours and 10 minutes, that's a bad sign. Their answer then was 'we need to get it right.' After the game, offensive players grumbled about players making up routes — if you're out there and you're not sure, you didn't prepare well enough. It was quite the wake-up call.

2. What did the Browns do to the Patriots' front seven to have such a successful ground game?

Rapoport: It speaks to (Bill) Belichick's influence on (Eric) Mangini. The Browns had two guys on (Vince) Wilfork every time and they always got a body on Jerod Mayo instead of letting him be the free hitter. The Browns said if you're going to beat us, you're going to do it with (Brandon) Spikes and everyone else. The Patriots couldn't do that, and I wouldn't be surprised if you're going to see opponents mimic that.

3. What are teams doing to Wes Welker?

Rapoport: What the Browns did is they double-teamed him essentially every play. A four-yard gain stayed at four yards. Last year those turned into nine- or 15-yard gains. He is without that initial quickness from his knee that is not quite what it was, which limits his yards after the catch. They were jamming him at the line and he avoids that initial push if his knee is better. With (Randy) Moss not here, you have a free defender to put on him.

4. How crucial is this game, or can the Pats afford to lose to a solid Steelers team on the road?

Rapoport: It's a game they'd like to win, obviously. It would be a statement that speaks louder than the actual win or loss. But it's a game, there are 16 of them. The Patriots have built themselves a margin of error now where they can lose a couple and still can make the playoffs, or host a playoff game. It would be a huge one if they do win, on the road against Pittsburgh.

5. What's your prediction for Sunday night's game?

Rapoport: (Ben) Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace are two weapons the Patriots will struggle with. Ben keeps plays alive and will force the Patriots to cover. It will be close, but Pittsburgh will be too much at home. Steelers 31, Patriots 28

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