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Cards-Pats analysis: Weather wasn't for the birds

FOXBOROUGH – See why most birds fly south for the winter?

They're not built to withstand the sub-freezing temperatures and driving snow that invaded New England this weekend.

Especially those that hail from the desert.

On this, the winter solstice, Arizona's Cardinals looked like fragile birds indeed.

This game was over before it even got started.

Arizona should've seen the signs.

New England has never lost a football game at home in snowy conditions. Under head coach Bill Belichick, they've never lost in the snow at home or on the road.

What's more, earlier in the week, a rare storm was forecast to blow through the Phoenix area. But just prior to the Cardinals' practice, the skies cleared. The fates, it seemed, where determined to intervene.

"I thought we were going to get a little help with that," Cards head coach Ken Whisenhuntlamented later.

He certainly didn't get any help from Mother Nature, who decorated the New England area with a fresh blanket of snow over the past three days – just in time for Christmas.

Prior to kickoff, with snow continuing to fall at a steady enough clip that it completely layered the field at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots grounds crew did something I've never seen in an NFL game. They repainted the sidelines, goal lines, and end lines in blue, rather than the typical white.

Blue, like the color of the Patriots jerseys. And boy did they stand out.

The rest of the yard lines, as white as the Cardinals' road jerseys, disappeared in the snow – a portent of doom for Arizona.

The Cardinals appeared diffident from the get-go, unsure of whether to go full-speed on offense. Arizona QB Kurt Warner's18 pass attempts mostly fluttered out of his hands, as opposed to the usual zip with which he delivers them. Only six found their intended receivers.

That stood in stark contrast to the Patriots, who, in all three phases of the game, looked like there weren't playing on a snowy field at all. They stayed on their feet and plowed ahead as if the slippery snow wasn't even there.

"I don't think we had a lot of guys on the ground, period, which is a credit to our receivers and tight ends and backs," noted offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

[

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]()"I love the snow," added running backLaMont Jordan, who ran for two short-yardage TDs. "When I got to the stadium and saw it snowing, I was excited."

"I was excited about it," echoed WR Wes Welker. "We had a chance to practice in it this past week."

Their opponents clearly did not.

Afterward, some Cardinals admitted they enjoyed the snow for a while, but that the weather got to them eventually.

"Towards the end it did," said rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. "We let the cold settle in. It had nothing to do with it at first. This was my first time ever playing in the cold like this. Ever in my life. When I first got out here I kept looking around, looking at the snow and trying to catch it with my tongue. It was real fun, at first."

Others were more Grinch-like.

"It affected our footing. It took a while to get the right footing on the turf out there … probably about three series to play the right technique to get our footing on the ice and snow," Cards defensive end Antonio Smithconceded.

"But I don't think it was much of a factor. That was my first time playing in that type of weather. It was no fun to me."

"Trying to get traction was the biggest obstacle," insisted linebacker Karlos Dansby. "They didn't do anything special."

Ah, but they did, those Patriots, and they had fun in the snow all game long.

They score 40 or more points for the fourth time this year, tying a franchise record set last season.

They put up 514 yards of offense.

They registered their sixth-ever 40-point margin of victory.

QB Matt Casselthrew for 345 yards and three touchdowns.

WR Randy Mossscored on a 76-yard pass, the longest catch by a Patriot in five years.

[

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]()Cornerback Ellis Hobbssecured his third interception of the season, while fellow defensive back **Brandon Meriweather *notched his second strip-sack in the past three weeks.

Even kicker Stephen Gostkowskigot into the act, breaking the previous team record for field goals in a season (32 by Tony Franklin in 1986) with his 33rd and 34th three-pointers of the year.

The list of those who were good is nearly as long as Santa's.

On offense, defense, and special teams, the Patriots looked like little kids who just found out that school was cancelled. Welker acknowledged as much.

"A little bit, you know … [as a kid] that was probably the last time I've seen weather like that. It did take me back a little bit."

Patriots fans went on a bit of a trip down memory lane as well. Their exuberant celebration a few years ago in a snow game – when they spontaneously began tossing snow into the air – was recreated each time the Patriots scored today. Which is to say, many times.

"It's good to see," Welker noted. "It gets everybody excited, into the game, and ready to go. It's good to see our fans getting into it."

Apparently, the feeling is contagious. Or maybe it's just the Christmas spirit taking over.

In any event, after catching and running for his third touchdown of the season, Welker celebrated by doing what just comes naturally when you're out playing in a snow storm. He fell on his back and made a snow angel.

"I think I just got a little bit too excited there, getting into the end zone," he admitted with a grin. "My emotions kind of took over."

And who could blame him, on a day like this.

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