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Pats try to avoid another collapse (pats press)

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  • Pats try to avoid another collapse (pats press)

    The Patriot Ledger

    You might recall the last time the New England Patriots tangled with the St. Louis Rams.

    OK, who are we kidding? The images of Super Bowl XXXVI are seared into your memory - Ty Law returning an interception 47 yards for a touchdown; David Patten elevating in the end zone for a TD catch just before halftime; and Adam Vinatieri splitting the uprights at the final gun.

    Since the winners get to write history, what often gets overlooked from that 20-17 victory is the fourth quarter, when the Patriots nearly staged the greatest choke job in Super Bowl history by blowing a 17-3 lead.

    St. Louis' ‘‘Greatest Show on Turf'' offense, dormant for the first 45 minutes, erupted late. Partly that was because it was tough to keep Kurt Warner and company down for too long. Partly it was because the Patriots' offense went AWOL in the second half, leaving the tiring New England defense no time to catch its breath.

    Nearly three years have come and gone between that game and Sunday's belated ‘‘rematch'' at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis (4:15 p.m., Ch. 4). There is one carryover, though - should the Patriots' defenders' tongues be dragging on the carpet again, disaster will likely follow.

    As you no doubt have heard, the Patriots' secondary is in shambles with starting cornerbacks Ty Law (broken foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) sidelined. That puts a high priority on limiting the exposure of their backups (some combination of Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson) to the Rams' high-octane offense.

    The Patriots' offense could be a huge help there, but only if it doesn't duplicate last week's effort in Pittsburgh when Tom Brady's guys held the ball for just 17 minutes, committed four turnovers, and - in a decisive four-possession stretch in the first half - ran only eight plays, none of which generated a first down.

    The Patriots' B team defensive backs can't give up any big plays if they're lounging on the sidelines, so hogging the ball instead of handing it right back to the Rams becomes imperative.

    ‘‘We are going to do everything we can to try to give our defense some help in terms of trying to stay on the field,'' vowed Brady, who accounted for three turnovers (two INTs and a fumble) in the 34-20 loss to the Steelers that snapped the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak. ‘‘... You don't want to go three-and-out and turn the ball over against (the Rams). You want to be able to control the clock.''

    That sounds like a plea for Corey Dillon to get healthy. The Patriots' leading rusher, who sat out the Pittsburgh loss with a thigh injury, could be the New England secondary's best friend on Sunday, especially with No. 1 receiver David Givens (knee/questionable) joining the usual WR suspects (Deion Branch and Troy Brown) on the injury report.

    In the good news department, the Rams' defense isn't scaring anybody. St. Louis ranks 27th against the run, 23rd against the pass and 25th in points allowed. Most disturbing has been the Rams' stunning decline in forcing turnovers - from a league-high 46 a year ago to just six through seven games this season. Only Dallas (five) has fewer takeaways.

    Four of St. Louis' takeaways came against Tampa Bay in Week 6, including a 93-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Adam Archuleta. Last week, though, the well ran dry again, even though the Rams were playing a Dolphins team that was leading the league in giveaways.

    ‘‘That comes in spurts, I think,'' Rams coach Mike Martz said. ‘‘We have to pressure the quarterback, create errant throws. We hadn't been pressuring them, up until a few weeks ago, as well as we should have with our front four.''

    Despite his reputation as an offensive whiz, Martz has emphasized defense in his five drafts, addressing that side of the ball with his three first-round selections in 2001 as well as his first two picks in both 2002 and 2003.

    Unfortunately for St. Louis, that approach has not paid off yet.

    ‘‘I know that you do win on defense,'' Martz said. ‘‘I like to tease (about how offense is king) but it has been my ambition to be the best defense in the league. I really would like to get there.''

    Brady often excels in that spread-'em-out-and-fling-it offense. If Dillon sits out again, that figures to be the strategy against St. Louis, even though it comes with inherent risks - turnovers and/or quick possessions that would mean more snaps for the Pats' shorthanded secondary.

    ‘‘You don't want to turn the ball over ... and make bad plays,'' Brady said, ‘‘but at the same time you don't want to be gun shy at all either. If a guy is open, you throw it.''

    And hope that the chains and the clock keep moving.

    Eric McHugh may be reached at [email protected].

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • Undertaker #59
    Being a Show-stopper is one tough task for Pats
    by Undertaker #59
    The St. Louis Rams, though downgraded to a "Really Good Show on Turf," still are expected to be a tall order for the battered and bruised Patriots on Sunday.

    01:00 AM EST on Thursday, November 4, 2004

    Journal Sports Writer

    FOXBORO -- It's said that the Rams' offensive plays are like snowflakes -- no two are ever the same. And when they string enough of those adorable little snowflakes together, a defense can find itself first snowblind and then buried.

    Is it still "The Greatest Show on Turf" (one of the all-time great team nicknames, by the way)? St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger said the 2004 offensive edition of the Rams probably isn't. But he does believe they're at least "A Really Good Show on Turf."

    The Patriots, battered, bruised and bandaged (but also 6-1), have the chore of trying to stop "The Show" on Sunday. Stop it after St. Louis has had a week off to rest its bones and regroup after a stunning 31-14 loss to hopeless Miami. Stop it without the best cornerback in football the last seven seasons -- Ty Law -- and his secondary colleague Tyrone Poole. Stop it as the Rams look to rev it up and close the first half of their season on an uptick.

    Even with the Patriots' injuries (in addition to being without Law and Poole, Corey Dillon and David Givens are 50-50 to play), this is a Class A matchup. It's the first meeting between the teams since Super Bowl 36, which was a pretty exciting game. And Bill Belichick and Mike Martz are simply the best in the business on their respective sides of the ball.

    "Mike has as sophisticated and tough an offensive system to defend as anybody we ever played," Belichick said yesterday. "When I go into the (team) meeting today, (I) can't stand there and say, 'Here's two things we got to take care of.' There's going to be 82. And they mightdo 10 things that you didn't even talk about that you have to deal with."

    So good are the Rams, Belichick divulged that he lets Martz's system take him to school in the offseason.

    "Every year in the offseason, I watch them, study them, try to learn more about the passing game from them so I can implement certain aspects of it into our team. Our assistant coaches -- Josh (McDaniels, quarterbacks coach), Brian (Daboll, receivers coach) and Charlie (Weis, offensive coordinator) -- we spend time in the offseason watching them throw because, in all honesty, nobody throws it better."

    Some of the usual culprits are still with the Rams -- wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, running back Marshall Faulk and tackle Orlando Pace. But Bulger is new to the Patriots, and St. Louis also has added burly and versatile running back Stephen Jackson.

    The Patriots played the Rams twice in 2001. The first...
    -11-04-2004, 05:46 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Struggling Brady lives to fight another day
    by DJRamFan
    By Joe Burris, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady got the Patriots off to their usual start yesterday. The quarterback advanced New England steadily downfield on its first drive of the game, and though the drive ended with an Adam Vinatieri 43-yard field goal with 11:39 left in the first quarter, it marked the 15th straight game in which the Patriots scored first.


    Yet the Patriots repeatedly have insisted that you can't base many conclusions on who scores first, and yesterday proved them correct.

    How decisively did fortune change for Brady & Co.? Consider that with 13 seconds left in the quarter, Brady had a pass intercepted by cornerback Deshea Townsend and returned 39 yards for a touchdown to put Pittsburgh ahead, 21-3, marking the first time the Patriots had allowed 21 points in a quarter since the third quarter against Chicago Nov. 10, 2002.

    The interception also marked the second time in as many drives that the Patriots lined up in an empty-backfield set, and the second time it resulted in a turnover that led to a touchdown.

    On the first play of the previous drive, Brady fumbled while being sacked by linebacker Joey Porter. Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen recovered. Five plays later, Pittsburgh scored on a 4-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Plaxico Burress to put the Steelers ahead, 14-3.

    "That was the last empty backfield you saw, 0 for 2," said Brady, who tried in vain to lead a team minus its leading rusher, Corey Dillon, who missed the game because of a thigh injury. Brady said, however, that even with Dillon in the lineup, the Patriots would have had their hands full.

    "I think we had a game plan . . . and we just didn't execute the game plan," he said. "No matter if Corey's in there or if Corey's not in there, we still expect to go out there and play. Corey didn't force me to fumble that ball. You have to go with the guys you've got, try to run the ball and take advantage of throwing the ball.

    "We just didn't play the way we're capable," added Brady. "When you don't play the way you're capable against a good team, you lose."

    Brady's performance underscores the point that as he goes, so does New England. Yesterday, he completed 25 of 43 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice and sacked four times for 28 yards.

    The interception that was returned by Townsend marked the first time the Patriots had allowed a defensive touchdown since the 2003 season opener, when Buffalo's Sam Adams returned an interception 37 yards for a score in the Bills' 31-0 triumph. Those miscues, and a balanced Steelers offense, led to the Patriots' first defeat in 22 games.

    "I think the feeling is we have to get back to winning football, playing well and...
    -11-01-2004, 09:51 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Steelers snap Patriots' record winning streak
    by DJRamFan
    By Bob Ryan, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- To the question of whether it would end with a bang or a whimper, here is the unequivocal numerical answer: Pittsburgh 34, New England 20.


    ''It was pretty clear the Steelers were the better team," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ''They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They certainly deserved to win, and they won convincingly."

    Thus ended yesterday an almost unimaginable football feat. The New England Patriots had gone 21 games and 13 calendar months without losing a game, and had become the National Football League champions for the second time by winning the Super Bowl last February. But their bid to make it 22 victories in succession ended under ideal conditions on a late afternoon when the Steelers delighted a franchise record gathering of 64,737 with a truly inspired performance.

    To the end, the Patriots stayed relentlessly on message regarding their endless succession of victories. The word ''streak" had been officially banned from their vocabularies by Belichick. In the team's pregame notes, the media was informed that "The Patriots have recorded a one-game winning streak 21 consecutive times, setting an all-time record for the 85-year history of pro football." "It was never about the streak," said linebacker Mike Vrabel. "It was not in our preparation this week."

    Week after week the Patriots had, as the pundits like to say, "found a way to win." This time, however, they submitted a brilliant formula for defeat, combining a sputtering offense with a defense that allowed a disturbing 417 yards, of which a whopping 221 came on the ground. Four turnovers led to 24 Pittsburgh points.

    "We didn't do anything near the way we are capable of doing it, and they played an outstanding game" said Belichick. "That's the result you get when those two forces collide."

    There is nothing disgraceful about losing to the Steelers. Pittsburgh is a good team. The Steelers entered the game with a 5-1 record and they regarded this game as something akin to an mid-semester exam. They always have enjoyed the backing of a raucous crowd. No one ever looks forward to playing in Pittsburgh. This was true when they played in Three Rivers Stadium, and it remains true now that they play in the outstanding facility known as Heinz Field.

    The problem is that the Patriots feel they didn't give themselves much of an opportunity to win this particular game. "We knew that, eventually, we were going to lose a game," said safety Rodney Harrison. "But we don't want to lose in that fashion."

    The Patriots started the game the way they normally do, which is to say they scored first. Pittsburgh won the toss and elected to receive. The Patriots got them off the field quickly,...
    -11-01-2004, 09:46 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Patriots] Busted at 21
    by DJRamFan
    A continuation of Patriot streak is not in cards
    By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff | November 1, 2004

    PITTSBURGH -- Their baseball brothers, the Red Sox, are proof that all streaks must end, winning the World Series last week after an 86-year drought. So as if to balance the slate, the sports gods yesterday looked down upon New England and said, "Do not be greedy."


    Thus, the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak ended. The Team That Could Not Lose finally met its match in the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-20, before a record-breaking Heinz Field crowd of 64,737.

    There were no excuses from anyone in the Patriots locker room as to why they lost for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003, to the Steve Spurrier-coached Washington Redskins.

    That's because the Steelers played very much in their tradition, dominating the trenches, creating mistakes, and smashing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the mouth every chance they got.

    "I wish we could play again tomorrow," said New England defensive end Willie McGinest. "We're not going to make any excuses, like blame the refs, or injuries, or anything like that. It's disappointing we got our butts kicked and got outplayed. We have to come in tomorrow and look in the mirror and make sure each and every one of us can see what we did to add to this. It's not the end of the world. We have time to come back from this."

    The Steelers forced turnovers -- four of them -- which led to Pittsburgh scores. Two were caused by linebacker Jerry Porter, who played an emotional game, saying he was fired up by words McGinest uttered to him before the opening kickoff.

    If that was the case he made the Patriots pay big time, and young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (18 for 24 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.4 rating) looked as calm and collected as a guy named Bradshaw in picking apart the wounded Patriots secondary.

    They didn't make excuses, but the Patriots were missing starting running back Corey Dillon, had to use a makeshift offensive line with starting right tackle Tom Ashworth out with a back ailment, and then lost left tackle Matt Light, who got the wind knocked out of him.

    The Patriots also lost cornerback Ty Law to a foot injury in the third series of the game, and when rookie free agent Randall Gay replaced him, the Steelers went right at him and made the Patriots pay.

    But in the past, the Patriots had never missed a beat because of injuries.

    "We've lost players to injuries before," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "We play as a team. Whoever is in the game has to do their part. That's the way we do it around here."

    With Dillon out, New England ran the ball six times for 5 yards, forcing Brady to throw it 43 times. The defense allowed the Steelers to romp over them...
    -11-01-2004, 09:48 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams-Pats: 5 Things To Watch
    by RamDez
    Rams-Pats: 5 Things To Watch
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Life without Law

    The New England secondary that muscled the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI will not be found Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. CB Otis Smith, a former Mizzou player, just turned 39 and is out of football. Free safety Tebucky Jones was traded to New Orleans in April 2003. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy, a St. Louis native, was released in September '03 and now plays for Buffalo. That leaves four-time Pro Bowler Ty Law. He's still with the Pats, but is out after suffering a fractured left foot last week. Law is one of the league's best cornerbacks and will be tough to replace.

    "He's a great player ... and he's definitely one of the shutdown corners," Rams QB Marc Bulger said. "But they have a lot of great players, and the structure of their defense is pretty sound."

    The Patriots already are missing veteran Tyrone Poole (knee), so the Rams could face a pair of unproven cornerbacks in second-year man Asante Samuel and undrafted rookie Randall Gay. Samuel was effective last year as the Patriots' nickel back, but is on the small side and sometimes struggles against bigger receivers. Gay was only a part-time starter in college, but played for Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban at LSU in a Patriots-style defense.

    Gay was shaken up against Pittsburgh, so there's a chance the Patriots could move free safety Eugene Wilson to cornerback and bring Dexter Reid off the bench to safety. But no matter what the alignment, the Rams should be able to exploit the New England secondary if Bulger gets enough time to throw.

    What's up front

    New England has three former first-round picks in its 3-4 defensive alignment in ends Ty Warren and Richard Seymour and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Seymour is one of the league's top young defensive linemen. The two-time Pro Bowler has excellent size (6-6, 310), a huge wingspan, a non-stop motor and good quickness and burst. In short, he's the total package.

    Normally, Seymour lines up on the side of Rams LT Orlando Pace. But he has been known to line up over center on passing downs. The Patriots also move him to the other end, which could be the case Sunday if New England tries to create a matchup advantage with Rams RT Grant Williams. The X-factor for opposing blockers is New England's outside linebackers, mainly Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and Rosevelt Colvin. The Patriots move them around, which can create confusion and mismatches.

    "They'll use a four-man front, they'll use a three-man front," Rams C Andy McCollum said. "They'll use linebackers as ends - down guys. You've got to be able to determine who's blocking where, and if you consider somebody a rusher, or if you consider him a linebacker."

    As imposing as the Patriots can be, the power-rushing
    -11-07-2004, 10:55 AM