Monday, December 17, 2007

15 Down and 2 To Go for Perfect Season.

Pats survive Jets 20-10 at rainy - frosty Foxboro encounter.
Pats now 15-0!
Pats Weather Hype, Keep Perfect

By Karen Guregian: Monday, December 17, 2007

Boston Herald General Sports Reporter and Columnist

FOXBORO - The expectation was for a slaughter, the kind in which you’re begging the referee to stop the fight. In that sense, the game between the Patriots [team stats] and Jets, the alleged instigators of Camera-gate, was a colossal dud. The grudge match did not even remotely live up to all the hype.

At this stage of the Pats’ unbeaten season, however, style points don’t matter. Nor does the degree of revenge.

The most important issue to come out of yesterday’s 20-10 victory over their hated rivals at rainy, wind-swept Gillette Stadium was this: The Pats are just two wins away from completing a perfect regular season. They became just the second team in the NFL’s 88-year history to start the season with 14 wins, joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins [team stats].

Standing in the way of the Pats’ chase of immortality are the no-longer-winless Dolphinsand the New York Giants.

“It feels good to get 14 consecutive like that. It feels good. We’ve had a good year,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi [stats] said following the win. “I’ll feel good about it tonight and move on, because there’s two big regular-season games left that we want to perform well in. Miami is going to come in here. They’re in our division. Let’s play them hard, and see what happens.”

The Patriots also sewed up the top seed in the AFC and home field for the playoffs, not that the issue ever really has been in doubt.

Judging by the size of the grin on Bill Belichick’s face following the win, he seemed pleased enough by his team’s effort. No blowout was needed to settle any old scores or soothe any old wounds. Given the weather conditions, he probably was thrilled for any kind of win against his former protege.

“Coach Belichick emphasized all week being mentally and physically ready to go out there and play 60 minutes of football,” receiver Randy Moss said. “I don’t know what personal vendetta he had against (Jets coach Eric) Mangini, but he didn’t express it all week. Anything he had was definitely kept inside. As far as preparing his team to go out there and play 60 minutes with the weather conditions, that’s one thing that we’ve done this week, knowing what we had to do to get the win.”

In a rare game in which quarterback Tom Brady [stats] (14-for-27 for 140 yards, interception) did not throw a touchdown pass and Moss (five catches for 79 yards) did not score, this was an instance when running back Laurence Maroney [stats] finally was used as something more than a prop (26 carries, 104 yards, touchdown).

“That’s what we’re going to need the rest of the season,” Brady said of Maroney’s output. “Hopefully Laurence gained some confidence. He just hasn’t had quite the opportunity he would like, but I know he was excited today.”

The special teams also contributed, as Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of field goals and Kelley Washington made a huge play, blocking a punt to set up Maroney’s second-quarter touchdown. That countered the touchdown the Jets scored on a blocked punt return by David Bowens earlier in the game.

The defense, meanwhile, really rose to the challenge while Mangini was playing musical chairs with his quarterbacks.

Kellen Clemens started but was injured during the first series. Then Mangini opted for a rotation with Brad Smith, who ran the option, and Chad Pennington [stats].

No matter. With the exception of Leon Washington [stats] taking one play 49 yards off the option, the Pats defense was stellar, allowing just three points and again coming up big in the red zone.

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