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November 26, 2007
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The Patriots had a tough fight on their hands against the Eagles, but they pulled it out to go to 11-0. Today's sports cover is all about the game.
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Posted by Mike McDermott at 7:28 AM | Permalink
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Gaffney and Stallworth get revenge against Eagles
FOXBORO – Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth had extra motivation for beating the Eagles last night, as both had been dismissed by the team.
Gaffney signed with Philadelphia as a free agent before last season, only to be released at the start of the regular season. Five weeks later, he was signed by New England, which was thin at the position.
After playing the role of fourth fiddle for much of the season in the Patriots’ revamped offense, Gaffney had a big game last night, with six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s always good to beat the team that you were with, being able to catch a touchdown and make some key grabs,” Gaffney said.
“He played well,” said Stallworth, whose trade from New Orleans to Philly during training camp last year may have played a role in Gaffney’s release. “He wanted to play well too because he was there with me for a bit last year.”
Stallworth finished with four receptions for 54 yards.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 2:03 AM | Permalink
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Stallworth's Stall of Blues
FOXBORO – Donte Stallworth was one of the last players out of the Patriots’ locker room last night, and as he dressed and walked between his stall and the trainers’ room, songs from Alicia Keys’ newest album was coming from the small speakers inside his locker.
Stallworth took at least 10 minutes getting himself together before he faced the cameras and microphones, but before he did, he joked he’d be collecting $5 each from the gathered reporters for the privilege of listening to his “concert.”
When one media member joked that the quality of the speakers was sub-par, another quipped that the collection would actually go toward a better pair of speakers, not a concert charge.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 2:03 AM to Donte Stallworth
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FOXBORO – Asante Samuel got things off to a rousing start for the Patriots last night, intercepting the Eagles’ A.J. Feeley on the third play of the game and returning the pick 40 yards for a touchdown.
The interception was the 21st of Samuel’s five-year career, tying him for 10th in New England history with Don Webb. Ty Law and Raymond Clayborn are tied for the franchise lead with 36 each.
Samuel now has six interception returns for touchdowns in his career, including an NFL record-tying three in the postseason. His three regular-season return TDs are third-best in team annals.
Tom Brady’s season-long streak of games with three or more touchdown passes came to an end last night, as he threw just one against the Eagles, but the quarterback still found a way to get into the record books this week.
By throwing for 380 yards, Brady passed 25,000 yards for his career, making him just the third quarterback in Patriots’ history to do so, after Drew Bledsoe (29,657) and Steve Grogan (26,886).
With 39 touchdowns this season, Brady is still on pace to throw 57 for the season.
- Led New England to a fourth-quarter comeback win for the 26th time in his career;
- Upped his record to 28-5 in games where the margin of victory is seven points or less and 19-4 when the margin is four points or less;
- Is 21-3 when throwing for more than 300 yards;
- Is 33-2 on artificial turf;
- And is 41-8 on Thanksgiving or later
By scoring 31 points last night, New England now has 442 points for the season, setting a new single-season franchise record.
The previous team record of 441 points was established in the 1980 season, when the Pats went 10-6.
Randy Moss’ 11-yard reception in the second quarter was the 744th catch of his 10-year career, putting him 25th all time in NFL history.
Moss passed Andre Rison (743 receptions) to move into the top 25. Jerry Rice had a record 1,549 catches in his 20 year career.
Wes Welker’s 13 receptions tie the franchise record for catches in a non-overtime game. Both Deion Branch (at San Diego, Sept. 29, 2002) and Terry Glenn (at Cleveland, Oct. 3, 1999) had 13-catch games with New England.
The single-game team record is Troy Brown’s 16 receptions on Sept. 22, 2002 in an overtime win against Kansas City.
Patriots’ receiver Jabar Gaffney and Eagles’ cornerback Lito Sheppard are cousins, and spent most of their early football years as teammates.
Gaffney and Sheppard both attended Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla., winning a state title in their first season together, and both played at the University of Florida.
Gaffney’s father, Derrick, also attended Florida, and played in the NFL with the Jets.
With a touchdown on its first possession of the game, New England has scored points on its opening drive in 10 of 11 games this season.
It was only against the Colts that the Patriots did not score on their first possession.
New England boasts the best home record in the NFL since 2002 (the year Gillette Stadium opened) as well as the best home defense in the league.
The Patriots are 41-9 at Gillette, just ahead of the 40-10 mark Indianapolis has at the RCA Dome over the last five-plus seasons.
They also allow just 15.64 points per game to the opposition over those 50 games, ahead of the 16.26 points Baltimore gives up to visitors to M&T Bank Stadium.
First-time visitors to the Stadium are 4-23, with New England winning 19 of the last 20.
The Patriots are now 26-4 against NFC teams since 2001, a run that includes their three Super Bowl wins.
It also includes a current streak of 10 straight which began on Oct. 9, 2005 against Atlanta. New England’s last loss to an NFC team was in the second game of the 2005 season, 27-17 in Carolina.
Last night was the first time New England has hosted Philadelphia in a regular-season game at Gillette Stadium, and the first time the Eagles have traveled to Foxboro since Nov. 29, 1987, a 34-31 overtime win for Philly.
The teams’ last three regular-season meetings were in the City of Brotherly Love, in the 1990, 1999 and 2003 seasons.
With the Eagles’ near 20-year streak without a Foxboro visit now ended, the Carolina Panthers now have the longest period of not playing in New England, at 12 years. The Panthers will visit Gillette in 2009.
Carolina, Arizona, Atlanta and St. Louis are the four remaining teams who have not visited Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002.
The inactive players for the Patriots were: Matt Gutierrez (third quarterback), receiver Chad Jackson, safeties Mel Mitchell and Eugene Wilson, guards Wesley Britt and Billy Yates, and defensive linemen Le Kevin Smith and Kareem Brown.
For the Eagles: quarterback Donovan McNabb, safety Quintin Mikell, running back Tony Hunt, guards Max Jean-Gilles and Scott Young, and defensive linemen Kimo von Oelhoffen, Victor Abiamiri and Montae Reagor.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 1:49 AM | Permalink
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After a Bunch of Blowouts, Pats Almost Blew It
Nine of the Patriots' first 10 wins this season were blowouts.
Although they won again Sunday night against the upset-minded Eagles, the Pats almost blew the game because of their inability to contain Philly's backup quarterback, A.J. Feeley, who threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns and had his team -- 24-point underdogs in Las Vegas -- on top, 28-24, in the fourth quarter
"You're not going to be able to play your best game every week," New England's veteran strong safety Rodney Harrison said. "The thing that's encouraging is that we were able to pull it out, in spite of us not playing particularly well."
"You have to win like this sometimes," said Patriots wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who caught Tom Brady's only touchdown pass. "You're not going to blow everyone out."
Brady had ignited those blowouts by throwing for at least three TDs in each of the Pats' first 10 games. Although he passed for 380 yards against the Eagles, completing 34 of 54 attempts, he had one TD toss.
"Everybody could have played better," Brady said. "But we won. We clinched the AFC East championship, we've won 11 straight games, and there's a lot to be happy about."
That was the prevailing feeling in the New England locker room after subduing the stubborn Eagles.
"We want to win the game, period," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "No matter how we do it -- whether it's one point, or 20 -- as long as we get that victory at the end of the day, that's all we care about."
"Everything's not going to be a blowout," said Adalius Thomas. "We're happy to get the win."
How happy the Patriots will be when they sit down to review the video of the game with coach Bill Belichick is another matter entirely.
"Philadelphia gave us a number of problems in all three phases of the game," Belichick said. "But we had a couple of big stops defensively at the end, and we made a couple of key plays offensively when we needed to make them."
Posted by Jim Donaldson at 1:29 AM | Permalink
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Game story: Remember the Eagles
BY SHALISE MANZA YOUNG
Journal Sports Writer
FOXBORO – Tedy Bruschi wants his youngest teammates on the New England Patriots to remember last night.
Wants them to file away that feeling of having to scratch and claw, to embrace that fear, no matter how small it might have been, that the Patriots might lose to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wants them to know that the 31-28 win New England edged out over the Eagles is not the aberration – it is the 30- and 40-point wins and the luxury that they afford which are the aberrations.
“I hope a lot of the guys that are new here know this is how it is. This is reality. This is how you win in November and December,” Bruschi said, his brown eyes wide. “We’ve squeaked out games before – I know I’ve been a part of all of ‘em. The blowouts are the aberrations to me.”
The veteran linebacker knows better than almost every other player in the New England locker room what it takes to tip the scales of victory into the Patriots’ favor and has been a part of tight games throughout his dozen years with the team.
He also knows that championship teams are forged through victories like these.
That is a feeling shared by Asante Samuel, who was the star of the game for New England, running back an interception on the Eagles’ first possession to give the Patriots an early 7-0 lead, and ending a potentially dangerous drive at the end of the game with an end zone pick.
“I know what it feels like, a lot of us know what it feels like to pull it through at the end,” he said. “It was kind of close but we never gave up. We never give up.”
Samuel received the ultimate compliment from coach Bill Belichick after the game: Without Samuel’s two interceptions, Belichick said, “I don’t know if we’d have won. Probably not.”
The franchise cornerback picked off Eagles’ starter A.J. Feeley on the third play of the game, plucking Feeley’s wobbly ball and running it back 40 yards for his fifth interception and first touchdown of the season.
The free-agent-to-be – New England has agreed not to franchise him again in 2008 if the team wins 12 games or if he plays in 60 percent of the defensive snaps – then ended a successful drive for the Eagles, who had picked up 58 yards in seven plays. On second-and-4 from the New England 29 and around four minutes left to play, Feeley looked to the end zone rather than trying to run down some clock or get close enough for an easy game-tying field goal.
Whether it was a bad read by Feeley or a bad route by receiver Kevin Curtis, the ball was thrown way over Curtis’ head and Samuel was there at the back of the end zone for the touchback.
Samuel’s now-infamous tattoo may not actually say “Get Rich,” but the cornerback certainly is going to be just that after his performance last night.
“Asante, to me, is the best corner in the league,” Rodney Harrison said. “Week in and week out, he makes plays.”
Before Samuel’s second interception basically sealed the game, the surprising play of Feeley had been the story of the night.
Though Feeley ended the night with three interceptions (James Sanders picked him off at the end of the game), anyone who came here to Gillette Stadium thinking of all the ways the New England defense would pick apart the Eagles offense with him at the helm wound up being disappointed.
Making his first start since Dec. 26, 2004 with Donovan McNabb suffering from both ankle and thumb injuries, Feeley was efficient and decisive for much of the game, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers and completing nearly two-thirds of his passes.
One of the biggest wins in Feeley’s seven-year career, much of it spent as a backup, came against the Patriots, a 29-28 come-from-behind Monday Night Football win on Dec. 20, 2004 when he was with the Dolphins. Miami scored twice in four minutes in that game, and Tom Brady forced a throw as he was being sacked that was intercepted and led to the game-winning score.
Clearly Feeley was channeling those good vibes again last night.
“I thought he did a heck of a job,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “I know he threw a few picks there, (but) he stayed aggressive, got the ball out fast and made a couple plays down at the end there. He took a shot at the end and gave it everything he had on that last one and (Samuel) snagged it. He stayed aggressive and stayed competitive.”
But when Feeley needed to be at his best, it was the New England defense that was at its best, as has been the case so many times before.
The Patriots, though, were more than willing to give Philadelphia credit for its play. The Eagles’ defense, led by coordinator Jim Johnson did a good job in getting pressure on Brady, and their West Coast offense was run with a crispness that had the Pats on their heels.
“When there’s pressure, you can’t sit back there and hold the ball and we knew that. They hit us with some blitzes we hadn’t seen from them,” receiver Donte Stallworth said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be one of those games we’ve been fortunate to play (this season).”
No aberration here, just a nice, “normal” win for New England.
Posted by Shalise Manza Young at 1:26 AM | Permalink
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Little Wes Welker Comes Up Huge For Patriots
BY JIM DONALDSON
Journal Sports Writer
FOXBORO – Little Wes Welker continues to come up, not just big, but huge, for the New England Patriots.
The Pats would not still be undefeated this morning if not for what Welker did last night in a surprisingly tough, 31-28, victory over the Eagles in which New England trailed heading into the fourth quarter, and Philly had the ball inside the Patriots’ 30-yard line in the final four minutes.
Although he didn’t score a touchdown, Welker made six catches in the second half for first downs – three of them on the Pats’ game-winning drive.
With the Patriots passing on almost every play throughout the game, the Eagles blitzed Tom Brady almost as often.
Forced frequently to get rid of the ball quickly, Brady repeatedly threw to the quick and elusive Welker, who consistently found open areas in the Philadelphia secondary.
It wasn’t just that the 5-9, 185-pound Welker had career highs in both receptions (13) and yards (149) that was most impressive, it was the situations in which he caught them.
Of his seven catches in the second half, six of them were for first downs, and four of those came with the Patriots throwing on third down, needing a completion to retain possession.
“I found him a bunch,” Brady said. “He did a great job of getting open.”
Welker’s performance was reminiscent of another undersized Patriots receiver who has made clutch catches throughout his career – popular veteran Troy Brown, who has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list throughout this, his 15th season in New England.
“They’re very similar-type players – great quickness, great awareness, smart, great hands,” Brady said last night. “They’re both great leaders.
“They have a lot of similar qualities. They’re both 5-7, or 5-8, or whatever they are. They’re very nifty in the slot, very comfortable. It’s a great matchup for us.”
Actually,.Welker against the Philadelphia secondary was more of a mismatch.
His 13 catches tied the club record for receptions in a non-overtime game. Deion Branch had 13 at San Diego in 2002 and Terry Glenn caught 13 at Cleveland in 1999. Brown holds the team mark for catches in a game with 16, set in an overtime win over Kansas City in 2002.
What Welker lacks in height, he more than makes up for in quickness and savvy. He knows how to get open, rarely drops a ball that’s thrown his way, and has a knack for eluding tacklers after making the catch and picking up extra yards.
He’s also modest. Rather than talking about his own considerable accomplishments last night, Welker preferred to talk about the way Brady threw the ball in the face of repeated blitzes by the relentless Philly pass rushers.
“They gave us a lot of different looks,” Welker said. “You have to hand it to the Eagles, the way they played. But Tom never loses his poise. He’s always on top of things.”
The Eagles were determined to put as much pressure on Brady as possible.
“We blitzed quite a bit,” said Philly’s defensive coordinator, Jim Johnson. “At times, we covered well and, other times, we didn’t cover as well as we would have liked. But at least we were getting pressure.
“They went a lot with four wide receivers. We felt that, anytime they did that, we would pressure them. Basically, that was our game plan. We felt that, every chance we had, we had to bring pressure. Even if we didn’t get to (Brady), we had to throw off his timing and move him around in the pocket.”
The Eagles did that, but Brady still was able to find Welker, threading his way through the Eagles’ secondary.
“He’s tough on all that underneath stuff,” Philly head coach Andy Reid said of Welker. “He’s got great quickness.”
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Posted by Jim Donaldson at 1:20 AM to Wes Welker
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Jabar Gaffney has a breakout game
By ROBERT LEE
JOURNAL SPORTS WRITER
FOXBORO – After last season’s explosive performances in the playoffs where he led New England in receptions and receiving yards (21 catches, 244 yards, two touchdowns), becoming the only player in NFL history to record back-to-back playoff games with eight or more catches for 100 or more yards in the same postseason, Jabar Gaffney figured this would be his breakout season.
Unfortunately for him, the Patriots signed five-time Pro Bowler Randy Moss, and talented receivers Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth in the offseason, and Gaffney has gotten lost in the shuffle as the Patriots fourth receiver.
Last night it became clear that Tom Brady has not lost confidence in him.
Gaffney caught a season-high six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown to help the Patriots defeat the Eagles, 31-28.
“It always feels good to beat the team that you were with and being able to catch a touchdown and make some key grabs felt real good,” said Gaffney, who was signed by the Eagles in March of 2006 before being released by them in September of 2006.
Gaffney grabbed five of his catches in the first half for 71 yards and a touchdown. He hauled-in a 32-yard grab on the Patriots first possession of the game which helped set up a one-yard Heath Evans touchdown run.
“We needed a few yards and I just went down the middle and [Brady] put it up there and I was able to go up and grab it,” Gaffney said. “It was a nice ball, real nice.”
Gaffney’s 32-yard catch was his longest of the season and his second-longest since joining the Patriots in 2006, trailing only a 33-yard catch against the New York Jets on Dec. 12, 2006.
Gaffney’s final catch of the first half was a 19-yard reception in the back of the end zone that helped give New England a 24-21 lead with eight seconds in the half.
The reception shifted the momentum of the game into New England’s favor and it was his 10th career touchdown catch. It was his first touchdown since scoring against Buffalo on Sept. 23. Gaffney now has nine catches for 131 yards and a touchdown in his last two games.
Gaffney’s father Derrick played in 100 games over eight seasons as a wide receiver for the Jets (1978-84, 1987).
Posted by Rob Lee at 1:16 AM to Jabar Gaffney
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Asante Samuel shines in Pats win
By ROBERT LEE
JOURNAL SPORTS WRITER
FOXBORO – Asante Samuel played like a franchise defensive back last season, intercepting an NFL-best 10 passes during the regular season and then two more passes in the playoffs.
So with a new contract looming, Samuel figured he would cash in like San Francisco cornerback Nate Clemens did. Clemens signed an eight year, $80 million contract this season.
Instead, the Patriots slapped him with the franchise tag. He waited until Aug. 28 to sign his one-year, $7.79 million contract – more than a month after training camp began.
Despite missing training camp, Samuel never missed a beat when the regular season arrived. He entered last night’s game leading the team in interceptions (four) and passes defensed (12), while often covering the opposing teams’ best wide receiver.
Last night against Philadelphia, Samuel intercepted his fifth and sixth passes of the season. The first came on the Eagles third play from scrimmage. He ran the pick back 40 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a quick drop,” Samuel said. “[Philadelphia quarterback AJ Feeley] tried to throw it out to [Brian] Westbrook and I just read it and broke on it. I saw him behind me a little bit so I had to try to speed it up a little bit and scored a touchdown.”
Samuel’s second interception ended a potential Philadelphia game-winning drive when he hauled-in a Feeley pass in the back of the end zone with 3:52 remaining in the game as New England held on to defeat Philadelphia, 31-28.
“I tracked it and I made sure that [Philadelphia receiver Kevin Curtis] was not coming up on me and I’m saying, `don’t drop this ball. This could win the game,” Samuel said. “That’s all I did. I tried to play the ball good, stayed focused and caught it.”
Samuel said that he was surprised that Feeley challenged him again after he nearly picked him off six plays earlier and returned it for a touchdown. Samuel, however, dropped the interception.
“I was kind of upset about that one,” Samuel said. “I dropped it. It was another touchdown but I made up for it.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that without Samuel’s two interceptions the Patriots might not have won the game.
“He came up with a couple of big plays,” Belichick said. “He got us to a good start and of course on the deep ball at the end there he just had good position on the receiver. Asante has great hands, good instincts and he doesn’t let too many get through his hands. That’s really what a good playmaker in the secondary does – they catch the ball well and they’re able to turn those mistakes by the quarterback into turnovers instead of just foul balls and batted down [balls].
“He’s been very good at that since he’s been here and obviously did a good job of it tonight. Those two big plays, I don’t know if we’d have won without them. Probably not.”
“That’s a great compliment coming from my coach,” Samuel said. “I’m just out here trying to make plays for my team and to help my team win.”
Samuel’s interception return for a touchdown was his first touchdown of the season and his third interception return for a touchdown in the regular-season which ranks third on the Patriots’ all-time list, trailing only Ty Law (6) and Tedy Bruchi (4).
It was also his team-leading 21st of his regular-season career, tying him with Don Webb for 10th place on the Patriots’ all-time list. Samuel has also returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 11 postseason games. Samuel’s combined six interceptions returned for touchdowns rank second in franchise history to Ty Law’s seven.
“I’ve said it before, Asante, to me, he’s the best corner in the league,” fellow defensive back Rodney Harrison said. “Week in and week out he proves it. He makes plays and that’s what guys do that are the best. He makes plays all over the field. Two picks, what can you say, he’s a baller.”
Samuel agreed with Harrison’s statement, saying that he is the best cornerback in the league.
“No doubt about it,” Samuel said. “I always believed that in my mind and that’s how I feel. I never brag about it. I’m a humble guy…but I do feel that way.”
In addition to his two interceptions, Samuel made three tackles and had three passes defensed.
Samuel gives a lot of credit for his success to the Patriots coaching staff.
“The coaches do a great job. They get us well-prepared for the game. They tell us what to expect and I pay attention. Once they tell us what to do it’s our job to go out there and make the plays and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Posted by Rob Lee at 12:47 AM to Asante Samuel
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