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Patriots and Lions set to clash in Foxborough

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS(8-3) vs.DETROIT LIONS* (2-9)
*Sunday, December 3, 2006 - Gillette Stadium (68,756)
1:00 p.m. EST

The Patriots welcome the Detroit Lions to Foxborough this week for the final game in a three-game stretch against NFC North teams for New England. Detroit, making its first regular-season appearance in Foxborough since 1993, will make its first visit to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots have a 19-4 record against first-time opponents. This week's game marks the conclusion of a stretch during which the Patriots will have played four home games in a five-week span. After this week, the Patriots will play three road games in the season's final four weeks, beginning with a trip to Miami to play the resurgent Dolphins on Dec. 10.

DOMINANT IN DECEMBER
When the calendar turns to the 12th month, the weather may turn cold, but in recent years the Patriots have remained red hot. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have recorded a 19-5 (.792) record in games played in the month of December. New England has also historically responded well to cold weather, compiling a 21-3 (.917) record since 1993 when the game-time temperature 34 degrees or colder. Last season, the Patriots won all four of their December games by a combined score of 110-31. New England has won 12 of its last 13 games in the month of December - a streak that dates back to 2002.

PATRIOTS VS. NFC
The Patriots have been dominant against NFC teams in recent seasons, compiling a 22-4 (.846) record against the conference since 2001. New England's record over that span includes three Super Bowl victories over NFC teams. The Patriots' 33-30 victory over the Bears on Nov. 10, 2002 began a streak during which the Patriots have won 18 of their last 20 games against NFC competition, going 18-2 (.900) over that span. This season, New England is 3-0 against the NFC, having defeated Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago by a combined score of 83-20.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by Fox. The game can be seen in Boston on WFXT-TV Channel 25. Matt Vasgersian will handle play-by-play duties and JC Pearson will provide analysis.

RADIO: WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 30th season as the voice of the Patriots and will call the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti for the 23rd season.

SERIES HISTORY
The Patriots will face the Lions for the ninth time in a series that dates back to 1971. The teams will tangle for the first time since 2002, when the Patriots claimed a 20-12 victory on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. The Lions will travel to Foxborough for a regular-season contest for the first time since 1993, breaking a 13- year drought of games in New England that stands as the second longest among NFL teams. The last two meetings between the teams have each taken place on Thanksgiving. In 2000, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his NFL debut against the Lions in a 34-9 Detroit win at the Pontiac Silverdome. In the last meeting between the teams in 2002, the Patriots claimed a 20-12 victory at Detroit's Ford Field in the last game in which New England has worn its throwback uniforms. The Lions will make their first appearance at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots hold a 19-4 record against first-time visitors.

PATRIOTS VS. NFC NORTH
This season, the Patriots play each of the four teams from the NFC North (Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago) as part of the NFL's scheduling rotation. New England is 3-0 against the NFC North so far this year and will seek to sweep the division with a victory over the Lions this week. The Patriots defeated the division-leading Chicago Bears, 17-13, last Sunday, shut out Green Bay 35-0 on Nov. 19 and claimed a 31-7 road victory at Minnesota on Oct. 30. This week's game marks the third of three straight contests against NFC North foes. New England last faced off against the NFC North in the 2002 season and compiled a 3-1 record in those games that year. The Patriots hold an all-time regular-season record of 21-15 (.583) against the four NFC North teams. Both of the teams to which New England has lost the Super Bowl reside in the NFC North - Green Bay (XXXI) and Chicago (XX).

IT'S BEEN A WHILE
The Detroit Lions will be making their first appearance in Foxborough since 1993 and are the second in a string of three straight home games for the Patriots against infrequent visitors to Foxborough. Last week, Chicago made its first appearance in new England since 1997. In two weeks, in their next home game, the Patriots will greet the Houston Texans, who will make their first trip to Foxborough since entering the NFL in 2002.

PASSING PERFORMANCES
Tom Brady is scheduled to make his second career start against the Detroit Lions, with his only previous start coming on Thanksgiving Day, 2002. Brady's NFL debut came in a game against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, 2000. In that game, he completed one of three passes for six yards while playing the final series of the game. Brady's first career completion was a 6-yard pass to tight end Rod Rutledge against the Lions. Detroit starting quarterback Jon Kitna has started one previous game against the Patriots - the 2001 regular-season opener for the Cincinnati Bengals. Kitna also appeared for the Bengals against the Patriots in relief of starting quarterback Carson Palmer at Gillette Stadium in November, 2004.

QUICK HITS

  • This week's game is the third in a string of three straight games for the Patriots against NFC teams. The Patriots are one of four NFL teams this season to play three consecutive games against teams from outside of their own conference. The others are Buffalo, Carolina and San Francisco.
  • This week's game will be the 135th consecutive home sellout for the Patriots, extending a streak that dates back to the 1994 regular-season opener - Robert Kraft's first regular-season game as the Patriots' owner. This week's game is also the 272nd consecutive Patriots game televised locally. New England fans have never faced a TV blackout since Kraft purchased the team. CONNECTIONS
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus were three-year teammates at the University of Michigan from 1997-1999.
  • Lions linebacker Boss Bailey played at the University of Georgia with Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour (1999-2000) and tight end Benjamin Watson (2002).
  • Patriots defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith and Lions safety Daniel Bullocks were four-year teammates at the University of Nebraska from 2002-2005.
  • Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and Lions defensive tackle Shaun Cody were three-year teammates at the University of Southern California from 2001-2003. Cassel also played with Lions wide receiver Mike Williams for two seasons (2002-2003) at USC.
  • Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain and Lions punter Nick Harris played together at the University of California from 1999-2000.
  • Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren played with Lions long snapper Don Muhlbach for three seasons (2000- 2002) at Texas A&M.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Russ Hochstein and Lions center Dominic Raiola were four-year teammates on the offensive line for the University of Nebraska from 1997- 2000.
  • Patriots tight end David Thomas and Lions offensive tackle Jonathan Scott were four-year teammates at the University of Texas. Thomas also played at Texas with Lions defensive end Cory Redding (2002) and wide receiver Roy Williams (2002-2003).
  • Lions head coach Rod Marinelli served as defensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Patriots linebacker Don Davis (1999-2000) and offensive lineman Russ Hochstein (2001-2002) were with the Buccaneers.
  • Lions special teams coordinator Chuck Priefer coached with the San Diego Chargers while Patriots linebacker Junior Seau (1992-1996) and safety Rodney Harrison (1994-1996) were with the Chargers.
  • Patriots special teams coach Brad Seely was on the New York Jets coaching staff in 1994 along with Lions offensive line coach Larry Beightol.
  • Lions offensive quality control coach Adam Gase was on the coaching staff at Louisiana State University while Patriots linebacker Eric Alexander (2000-2002), defensive lineman Marquise Hill (2001-2002) and defensive lineman Jarvis Green played for the Tigers.
  • Lions assistant coach Stan Kwan was on the coaching staff of the San Diego Chargers while Patriots linebacker Junior Seau (1991-1996) and safety Rodney Harrison (1994-1996) were with the Chargers.
  • Patriots wide receiver Doug Gabriel and Lions defensive backs coach Clayton Lopez were with the Oakland Raiders from 2004-2005.
  • Lions defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who was born in Quincy, Mass., was a four-year starting nose guard at the University of Massachusetts from 1986-1989 and was on the Minutemen coaching staff from 1990-1991.
  • Lions coordinator of physical development Jason Arapoff, who was born in Weymouth, Mass., was a four-year letterwinning defensive back at Springfield College from 1985- 1988.
  • Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky attended the University of Connecticut from 2001-2004.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

TOP RANKINGS

81.3 %
The Patriots' NFL-leading fourth-down conversion rate this season. They have been successful on 11-of-13 fourth-down tries.

26.1The Patriots' NFL-leading kickoff return average this season. Primary returner Laurence Maroney ranks second in the league with an average of 28.8 yards per return.

28.0
The average yard line at which Patriots' opponents have begun their possessions this season. The mark is the best in the NFL.

43.9
Patriots opponents' passer rating inside the 30-yard line this season. The mark is the lowest in the NFL.

1
The number of rushes of 20 yards or longer allowed by the Patriots this season. The mark is the best in the NFL.

0
The number of quick-strike scoring drives (four plays or less) that the Patriots defense has allowed this season. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to have not allowed any such drives this season.

21
The number of drives during which Patriots opponents have entered the Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line). The mark represents the fewest such drives allowed by any NFL team this season.

13
The total number of points that the Patriots have allowed in the final two minutes of either the first or second half this season. The total is the best in the NFL.

93The total number of points the Patriots have allowed in their last eight games - the fewest in the NFL over that span.

13
The number of touchdowns allowed by the Patriots defense this season. The mark is the second-lowest total in the NFL (Chicago, 12).

STINGY DEFENSE

13.1The average number of points per game the Patriots have allowed in 2006.

2
The Patriots' NFL rank in points allowed per game. Only Chicago ranks higher (12.5).

14.9
The Patriots team record for fewest points allowed per game in a full season, achieved in 2004.

17.48
The average number of points per game the Patriots have allowed since 2001, a mark that ranks second in the NFL over that span, trailing only Tampa Bay.

15.83
The average number of points per game that the Patriots have allowed at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. The mark represents the fewest points per game allowed at home over that span.

13
The number of times Bill Belichick's defenses have finished in the NFL's top 10 in fewest points allowed since he was first named a defensive coordinator in 1985.

NFC SUCCESS

83-20
The combined score by which the Patriots have defeated their two previous NFC opponents this season, beating Minnesota 31- 7, Green Bay 35-0 and Chicago 17-13.

22-4The Patriots' record against the NFC since 2001, including a 3-0 record in Super Bowl play.

18-2
The Patriots current streak against NFC teams, a span of 18 wins in 20 games that began with a 33-30 comeback victory over the Bears on Nov. 10, 2002.

TURF WAR

13
The number of consecutive games the Patriots have won on artificial surfaces.

20-1Tom Brady's career record as a starter on artificial surfaces.

56-23
Brady's career record as a starter in games played on natural grass.

+10.5The difference in Brady's career passer rating on turf as opposed to on grass. He has compiled a 96.8 career rating on turf and a 86.3 career rating on grass.

+4.0%
The difference in Brady's career completion percentage on turf as opposed to on grass. He has completed 64.8 percent of his passes on turf (428-660) and 60.8 percent of his passes on grass (1595-2622).

THE KRAFT ERA

138
The number of regular-season and playoff victories the Patriots have earned since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. That mark is tied for the highest total in the NFL over that span.

4The number of times the Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. No other team has made more than two Super Bowl appearances in that span.

138-83The Patriots' overall record since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 (including postseason), a .624 winning percentage. The figure ranks second in the NFL over that span.

77-33
The Patriots' record at home since 1994, including regularseason and postseason games, a winning percentage of .700.

33-9
The Patriots' record at Gillette Stadium, including regular-season and postseason games (.786 win pct).

THE HEAD COACH

32
The number of years Bill Belichick has been an NFL coach, making him the longest tenured among the 32 head coaches.

7
The number of head coaches in the NFL or college who were assistant coaches under Belichick (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Nick Saban, Charlie Weis, Kirk Ferentz, Pat Hill and Al Groh).

41-2Belichick's record in New England when the Patriots score 25 points or more.

62-5
Belichick's record in New England when the Patriots score 21 points or more.

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