Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that while coach Bill Belichick was indeed proud of his team following yesterday's 40-23 victory over the Titans -- and noted that the Patriots' goals remain ahead in the playoffs, starting Sunday against the New York Jets -- he also was seething. Big time.
Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe writes that the Patriots finished the season 12-4, and that's something to celebrate. For everyone but the coach, anyway. "I'm proud of what the team did," Coach Belichick said, "but we're just looking to move on here. Get ready for our next opponent." But coach, 12-4 is always a pretty good record, no? "I don't think it makes too much difference now," he said. "That's not where our focus is right now. It's not the time to sit back and have a big reflection."
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that safety Rodney Harrison walked out of LP Field under his own power yesterday, but he didn't reveal the severity of the right leg injury he sustained in the second quarter. Harrison was on the receiving end of a cut block from Titans receiver Bobby Wade early in the second quarter. He left the field under his own power, and watched some action from the bench area before leaving for the locker room, presumably for X-rays.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald also reports on Harrison, "I'm all right," he said. After signing an autograph and just before ducking into a lounge, Harrison fumed about the Bobby Wade block that left everyone in the stadium wondering if he had just suffered his second season-ending injury in as many years. "It was a dirty play," Harrison said. "He wasn't just trying to block me. He dove at my knees intentionally. He was trying to hurt me. The whole play was dirty." The incident encapsulated the Patriots 40-23 victory over the Titans.
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that the severity of Harrison's injury is unknown. As Harrison lay on the ground in obvious pain and frustration after the hit, teammate Tedy Bruschi almost started a riot. Bruschi charged the Tennessee bench yelling and pointing, and needed to be subdued by his teammates.
New England had been warned about a penchant that too many of the young Titans have for pushing, shoving, trash talking, late hitting, and generally being irritating to their opponents in every way, writes The Boston Globe's Ron Borges. "But it is one thing to hear about such things and quite another to get drilled in the back or hit while innocently standing 10 yards away from a nearly dead play. Have such things happen to you on a rainy, sloppy, fairly meaningless final Sunday afternoon of the regular season and, well, you might get a little testy about it, which for a time the Patriots were."
The game lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes, according to Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant, "which is what happens when there are 63 points, 19 penalties and numerous near fights in a regular season finale in which a 43-year-old quarterback throws a touchdown pass to a 35-year-old receiver. These things take time." Greenberg wonders if the win will be costly given that Harrison did not return to the game after the chop block.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that Tom Brady not only started yesterday, he nearly finished as well. One week after taking a vicious helmet to the back, Brady played into the fourth quarter of a 40-23 victory.
Chad Jackson got a few chances early in the season, Jabar Gaffney got a few more. But, outside of an impressive performance by Reche Caldwell at Green Bay, the only consistent part of the Patriots deep passing game was its inconsistency, writes Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe. That was until yesterday, when Caldwell hooked up with Tom Brady for a third-quarter, 62-yard play that was a touchdown drive unto itself and a second-quarter 49-yarder that led to a touchdown in the Patriots' 40-23 win over the Titans.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald previews the Jets game and a few of the subplots that will go along with it this week. "Get ready for Mangini Bowl III," writes Felger.
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal also previews the Jets game. Although many pundits predicted the Jets to finish last in the AFC East, rookie head coach Eric Mangini guided New York to a 10-6 record. Just a year ago, the baby-faced Mangini was the Patriots defensive coordinator.
The Providence Journal's Joe McDonald explains that the Patriots were in playoff mode almost immediately following yesterday's win. Belichick was was short. He was direct. He was focused. He was all business. In the locker room, things weren't much different. "It's obviously good to have momentum going into the playoffs," said defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "This is the second part of the season. This is when the season really starts. It's an important time of the year, and our next game is our most important game. I know we say that all the time, but it's true."
Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Patriots are headed into the New Year and the NFL's second season with a bit of momentum on their side. "We put a lot into it and 12 wins is a pretty good year," quarterback Tom Brady said. "It doesn't mean much going into next week, but the 12 wins are hard fought and this team has really responded to adversity."
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald saw poor decision making in yesterday's game, on the part of the Patriots coaching staff and players alike.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots couldn't contain Tennessee returner Pacman Jones in yesterday's game. So the coaches basically stopped trying, instructing Stephen Gostkowski and Todd Sauerbrun to send a series of second-half kicks and punts either into the ground or out of bounds. "Those aren't my decisions, but if it were up to me I would have kicked it to him and gone and covered it," said special teams captain Larry Izzo. "When you are struggling in a game like that, you take it personally when you start kicking away from a specific guy. You want to go back out and prove you can do it. And I believe we could have."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that Vinny Testaverde threw a touchdown pass yesterday, marking the first time in NFL history that a quarterback has thrown a touchdown in 20 consecutive seasons. "That's not why I came here," Testaverde said. "I didn't come here to throw another touchdown. I came here to get a ring."
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal describes Testaverde as a tribute to endurance. "We're not trying to imply that Vinny Testaverde is long in the tooth (at least in football years), but consider this: his current teammates, Chad Jackson and Laurence Maroney, were still in diapers the night Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy in 1986," writes Manza Young.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that, a year ago in a meaningless regular season finale against the Dolphins, Belichick brought in 42-year-old backup quarterback Doug Flutie to successfully drop-kick an extra point, the first NFL drop kick in 64 years. This year, it was Testaverde's turn. "He treats his favorites differently," writes Greenberg.
The Sun Chronicle's Teresa Walker explains that Belichick told Testaverde to get loose. The 43-year-old quarterback wasn't sure, so he asked the New England coach again. "He said, `Get loose.' I assumed that was to go in and throw the football. I threw a couple passes before I went in," Testaverde said.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots did a good job containing rookie quarterback Vince Young, but he slipped by them on a 28-yard touchdown. "It could have been better, but it was good enough to win," Belichick said in describing the Pats play against Young. "That's what counts."
Don't forget to check out USA Today's Inside Slant on the Patriots for a look back at what was riding on this game.