PRESEASON VICTORY MARGIN
The Patriots' 30-3 victory over the Cardinals provided their largest margin of victory in a preseason game in 10 years (almost exactly to the day). The last time New England won by 27 points or more in the preseason was on Aug. 18, 1996, when it defeated Philadelphia 37-10 in a preseason tilt at Foxboro Stadium. Tonight, exactly 10 years and one day later, the Patriots also won by 27, defeating the Cardinals 30-3.
Second-year signal caller Matt Cassel leads all NFL passers through tonight's games, pacing the league this preseason in yards (421), touchdowns (3) and completions (27). Tonight, Cassel completed 14 of 20 passes (70 percent) for 192 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer rating of 133.8. Cassel found Heath Evans for a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then connected with Rich Musinski for a 5-yard score in the fourth quarter.
SWEET SIXTEENThe Patriots had 16 different players catch a pass tonight, as only three eligible receivers did not catch a ball. The pass-catching breakdown was as follows – Six different wide receivers caught passes, along with four tight ends, four running backs, one fullback and one defensive back (rookie Willie Andrews, who lined up as a wide receiver on occasion). The only eligible receivers who played but did not catch a pass were rookie wideouts Erik Davis and Keron Henry, along with tight end Chris Luzar, who was signed as a free agent yesterday.
PATRIOTS QUARTERBACKS EXCELTom Brady and Matt Cassel combined to complete 29 of 40 passes (72.5 percent) for 341 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 114.7 passer rating. The 341 gross passing yards are the exact same number that the Patriots totaled in their divisional playoff game at Denver on Jan. 14. During the 2006 season, the Patriots exceeded 341 gross passing yards on two occasions (at Pittsburgh, 372; at Atlanta, 350).
CD RECORDS TOUCHDOWNS
Corey Dillon gave the Patriots a 13-0 lead with a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The score was Dillon's first of the preseason. Entering the 2006 season, Dillon has scored 26 touchdowns in 27 career regular-season games for the Patriots. His 26 scores over a 2-year span are the second most in Patriots history, trailing only Curtis Martin's 32 total touchdowns from 1995-96.
Patriots linebacker Eric Alexander forced a key special teams fumble to help the Patriots build a 23-3 lead in the third quarter. After Stephen Gostkowski gave the Patriots a 16-3 lead with a 37-yard field goal, Alexander made a big play on the ensuing kickoff when he used his helmet to dislodge the ball from Cardinals kick returner Michael Spurlock. New England's Randall Gay pounced on the loose ball at the Arizona 19-yard line and returned the ball 10 yards to the Arizona 9-yard line. New England took advantage of the turnover when Matt Cassel found fullback Heath Evans in the end zone for a 9-yard scoring strike and a 23-3 Patriots lead.
Asante Samuel intercepted a Kurt Warner pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, marking his second interception of the preseason. Last week against Atlanta, Samuel picked off a Matt Schaub pass in the end zone. Tonight, Samuel made a running grab along the sideline while in tight coverage against Fitzgerald. Samuel recorded an interception in his last three games of the 2005 season (including playoffs), and including his two interceptions this preseason, he has picked off a pass in each of his last five games.
First-year wide receiver Bam Childress caught three passes of 20 yards or longer tonight. He grabbed a 29-yarder in the first quarter and later snared catches of 26 and 20 yards. Last year, Childress played in one game – the regular season finale against Miami – and led the team with three catches for 32 yards while also collecting five tackles on defense.
GETTING HIS KICKS
Rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski converted each of his three field goal attempts, connecting from 37, 33 and 37 yards. Including his 34-yard conversion last week in Atlanta, Gostkowski has begun his preseason career with a prefect 3-for-3 effort. In his last two collegiate seasons at the University of Memphis, Gostkoswski converted 42 of his 49 attempts (85.7 percent).
Fullback Heath Evans saw the end zone for the second time this preseason when he hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel in the third quarter to give the Patriots a commanding 23-3 lead. Last week against Atlanta, Evans scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Evans has not scored a touchdown in his regular-season career.
First-year wide receiver Rich Musinski hauled in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel in the fourth quarter, giving the Patriots a 30-3 lead. Musinski, who was originally signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2004 out of William and Mary, played in NFL Europe during the Spring of 2006 and has also played in the Arena Football League.
The Patriots scored on three of their four offensive possessions in the first half while accumulating 227 total net yards. Quarterback Tom Brady orchestrated scoring drives of 52 yards, 62 yards and 86 yards, with the final scoring drive ending with a 4-yard touchdown run by Corey Dillon.
Tully Banta-Cain dropped Arizona's Kurt Warner for a 9-yard loss on second-and-five on Arizona's first drive. The play set up a third-and-14 and then an Arizona punt on the following play. In his regular-season career, Banta-Cain has recorded 3.0 sacks
* Eric Warfield intercepted a John Navarre pass in the fourth quarter, but he fumbled and the ball was recovered by Arizona.
* Kevin Faulk grabbed a 25-yard pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter. Faulk enters the 2006 season needing just 19 receptions to become New England's all-time leader in receptions by a running back. His 233 career catches trails only Tony Collins' team record of 261 grabs.
* First-year wide receiver Bam Childress grabbed an over-the-shoulder, 29-yard reception from Tom Brady in the first quarter.
* On Corey Dillon's 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, the Patriots utilized a rare four-tight end set, with Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson, David Thomas and Garrett Mills all on the field at the same time.