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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/8/2006

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe reports that the Patriots pulled out a 17-16 victory yesterday over the Jets. Billed as Patriots coach Belichick against Jets coach (and former Belichick disciple) Eric Mangini, at the end of the day the rematch was no match. "I think we're playing our best football now, no question," said Brady, who worked out of the no-huddle offense much of the day and improved his career playoff mark to 11-1, completing 22 of 34 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. "We've got a bunch of players prepared for moments like this."

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that the Patriots adhered to their game plan, and shut down the Jets. "It was all something out of a quite familiar script: Tom Brady running the show like the game's most seasoned emcee, passing to a cadre of receivers; the defense holding its ground and making the big play; and Bill Belichick and his staff coming up with the game plan and the necessary adjustments during the game. And as this is the playoffs, the script had a very familiar ending: Patriots win," writes Manza Young. Belichick and Brady termed it one of the best all-around efforts of the year for New England.

The Boston Herald's John Tomase reports that the Pats will play the Chargers this Sunday. The Pats took care of business to guarantee a rematch with the team that ended their 21-game home winning streak on Oct. 2, 2005. Those Pats were playing without safety Rodney Harrison and left tackle Matt Light, among others. They lost ill-advised fullback Richard Seymour to a knee injury in a 41-17 loss. "Beating the happy-to-be-here Jets was one thing. Taking down the league's elite team (14-2) on its home field will be quite another, particularly considering the thrashing the Patriots absorbed last season," writes Tomase.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald explains that the Pats are playing their best right now, and may have what it takes to defeat San Diego. "Once again, Bill Belichick has his team peaking in January, and the signs were all over the plastic grass of Gillette Stadium. The defense made plays (two turnovers that netted 10 points), the offense put points on the board (scoring on its last five real possessions) and the special teams were virtually flawless (3-for-3 on field goals; no long returns allowed)," writes Felger.

Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe explains that both teams used no-huddle offensive attacks at points in the game and both wrestled to establish the tempo, making it hard for the other to substitute players. "We got them with 12 men on the field once, and I think they got us with 12 men on the field. They had a lot of shifts and motions. You saw timeouts being called," Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "I think what we had to do was stay calm and let them do all their shifts and motioning, and trust our preparation to make the proper adjustment."

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that the Patriots were prepared for the Jets blitzing defense this time around. They protected Brady, who was sacked only once and rarely hurried, completing 22 of 34 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns."We just tried to protect a little more," Brady said. "The first time we played them, it was a lot of five guys out, a lot of four guys out. This was a little bit different. When you play Pittsburgh, you have to prepare for the blitz. And then, if they decide to play coverage, then we adjust. But for a team [the Jets] that blitzes 70 percent of the time, we really didn't realize that was the way it was going to be the first time around. We ended up throwing a lot of quick routes last game. We ended up just not being able to handle a lot of the pressures they were bringing. I think we were much better prepared."

Boston Herald writer Steve Buckley reports on the postgame handshake between Mangini and Belichick. "If there's one thing we have learned throughout the years about Belichick it's that he has a game plan for the Apocalypse. So it came as no surprise that he aggressively tossed aside an in-the-way photographer before cutting left, cutting right and planting a giant, He-Man of a hug on Mangini," writes Buckley.

Jackie MacMullan of The Boston Globe explains that quarterback Tom Brady was forced to hurry at times in yesterday's game. "I have never been in a game where it was like that," Brady said. "We were rushing to the line of scrimmage and rushing to run plays. I think at one point we ran the same play three times, and in my earphones [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] said, 'Run it again.'" The Pats will rush to prepare for the Chargers game on Sunday, but Brady doesn't mind. He likes life in the fast lane. "If you can't get Tom out of a rhythm, and he's able to be Tom, it makes it a hard day on a lot of people," Mangini said.

Dan Ventura of the Boston Herald reports on Brady, who completed 22-of-34 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the game. "We'll have our work cut out for us," Brady said. "We don't know a whole lot about this team besides LaDainian (Tomlinson) and Shawne Merriman. They have a bunch of great players, so we'll have our hands full."

David Brown of The Standard-Times reports that the Pats showed the stuff of champions in that game. "They're a good team, and I give them a lot of credit," Mangini said after the Patriots ended his season with a 37-16 smothering at Gillette Stadium. "They've won a lot of games here in the playoffs." Brady led masterful, time-consuming drives in the second and fourth quarters that kept the Patriots in control for the remainder of the afternoon. The first, an 85-yard, 15-play march, took 6 minutes and 54 seconds off the clock and gave the Pats a 17-10 halftime lead. "I think when you are born, you are put on this earth and you have a certain skill set that helps you be ready for situations like this," Brady said. "We have a bunch of players who have come up over the years and trained to prepare for moments like this. It is about being focused, about working hard to prepare and not being overwhelmed by the situation.

Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that the Patriots are already preparing to take on the top-seeded Chargers. One sign that the Patriots were quickly changing their focus was on the chair in front of quarterback Tom Brady's locker -- a computer disc on the Chargers defense. "Hands down, the best team in the NFL," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. Also included are notes.

Ron Borges of The Boston Globe analyzes three key plays in the Jets game, explaining that "The game was even, except whenever it was on the line. Then yesterday was Patriots Day, as it often is this time of year."

Jim McCabe of The Boston Globe features defensive lineman Vince Wilfork's third-quarter fumble recovery and subsequent 31-yard return. "He's a difference-maker," said Jets guard Pete Kendall. "He's as good as there is at that position right now."

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald reports on Wilfork's run. "It went right through Seymour's legs and I knew he wasn't paying attention," cracked Wilfork, whose locker is adjacent to that of Seymour. "I saw the ball on the ground, so I picked it up. I got a little fame, a little shine on me. I showed my speed a little bit, just a little bit. That was the appetizer."

Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal reports on Wilfork, as well. "Vince made the smart play," said Belichick. "We always talk about, 'Get on the ball and ask questions later.' It was disappointing to see him get run down from behind there. Obviously, that was a big turnover. Unfortunately we were only able to get three points out of it, but still, that was a big field position swing. It did give us a few more points there. It was a big play."

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports on Wilfork's run. "Once I got it in my hands, I looked over to the sidelines and they were saying, Go, go, go,' and I was like,OK,'" said Wilfork, a 325-pound nose tackle. "Yeah, I had to turn on the speed, a little speed. I didn't show you guys all of that. If I had run when I was supposed to run, I probably would have gotten into the end zone, but one of those little guys [wideout Jerricho Cotchery] caught me."

Monique Walker of The Boston Globe reports on rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski. "There were no theatrics to Gostkowski's three field goals and four extra points in yesterday's 37-16 victory over the Jets. The kicks were as perfect as the sunshine and 50-degree weather at Gillette Stadium," writes Walker.

Albert Breer of the Boston Herald reports on Gostkowski, who hit the first three playoff field goal attempts of his career - from 20, 40, and 28 yards - during yesterday's game. "They were good kicks, but there's still another playoff game to be played, and the kicks will only get bigger and bigger," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "I'm happy for him today. He did a good job."

Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe features cornerback Asante Samuel, who had another interception in yesterday's game. He tied Denver cornerback Champ Bailey for the league-lead in picks during the regular season (10). "You know Asante's great," Belichick said. "He's got a feel for doing things like that. He made a nice play on the ball, and a good run, and it was a big play."

Dan Ventura of the Boston Herald reports on Pats wideout Jabar Gaffney, who emerged as the latest unlikely postseason hero for the Patriots yesterday. The little-known receiver caught eight passes for 104 yards in his first ever playoff game. "He had a great week of practice, probably the best since he's been here," said Tom Brady. "He loves playing football, he's very coachable and is picking things up."

Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe reports on Gaffney, who, 12 games into his Patriots tenure, has 11 catches and 169 yards against the Jets in two games. He has 77 yards against the rest of the league. "He's worked extremely hard," Brady said. "He fits in very well here because he's smart, he's tough, he loves playing football. He's very coachable. This isn't an easy offense for a receiver. So over the course of eight, nine [actually 13] weeks he's really picked things up. He's playing really well for us. Made some really nice catches. We were definitely trying to get him the ball."

Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal explains that Gaffney was Brady's go-to guy in this game. "Jabar has done a good job for us all year," said Belichick. "He came in here earlier in the season, about a quarter of the way through. He's learned all of the positions. He's played X. He's played Z. He's played in the slot and he's a smart kid, a good route runner. He's done a great job of picking up the system." His biggest play of the day was a 31-yard reception. "Jabar did a great job for us," said fellow receiver Reche Caldwell, who played at Florida with Gaffney. "He made some big plays to get us into position. He's a good receiver and I know what he can do. It's good to see him put it on the field and show everybody else."

Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Pats defense delivered when the game was on the line. "We looked at film of that (last) game so much I got tired of looking at it," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "(The Jets) did some things in that game, things that never should have happened. We were out of position. We're known for having some pretty good technique, and in that game we didn't have any technique; we didn't do the things we do well. I think a lot of people in that room were kind of (ticked) off. He was showing it, it was a bad performance by all of us and we went out there today with a chip on our shoulders."

Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News reports on the Patriots running backs. They blew the doors off the Jets, to the tune of 158 yards on 38 carries. In the process, New England possessed the ball for 33:20 and controlled the game's tempo en route to a 37-16 playoff victory. "I think it's important to grind them into the ground and get their defense tired," said tight end Benjamin Watson. "It was big to take time off the clock. It felt like the third quarter went by so fast, because we had the ball."

Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News reports that the Patriots physical play has been a hallmark this season. "Our whole thing is we want to be aggressive, we want to be physical, we want to play smart, we want to play good technique," said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "And I think this time of the year, you have to do those things to be successful."

Art Martone of The Providence Journal offers game analysis, including: when the Pats had the ball, when the Jets had the ball, special teams, coaching and intangibles.

Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe features Jets quarterback Chad Pennington. The Jets had been undefeated in the playoffs (2-0) when Pennington threw two touchdowns. Pennington tossed two yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Unfortunately for the Jets, 37-16 losers, one of them was to Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel. "The only thing I think about, the only thing I dream about, is winning and winning a championship, period," said Pennington. Also included are Jets notes.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald also reports on Pennington, who couldn't put the ball in the end zone the three times the Jets were in the red zone. Instead, the Jets settled for three Mike Nugent field goals. "There's a reason why the Patriots set a franchise record for (opponents') scoring in a season - they've given up maybe 15 points a game, and there's a reason for that," Pennington said. "The reason is they have the ability to play defense in the red zone and still stop the run with their front seven. That's why they're so good. They don't have to blitz. They don't have to leave receivers one-on-one to get an extra rusher against the passer."

Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald offers the "best and worst" moments in the game.

Providence Journal writers Joe McDonald and Shalise Manza Young offer some talking points on yesterday's game, including kicker Stephen Gostkowski, the Pats defense, and inactive players.

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