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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/9/2006

Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that Patriots VP of player personnel Scott Pioli declined a request by the New York Football Giants to interview for a potential job in their front office. "I am very honored to be granted the opportunity to discuss a potential position with the New York Giants," Pioli said in a statement. "I have tremendous respect for the Kraft family, the Mara family, the Tisch family and the Giants organization. After careful consideration, and for personal reasons, I am continuing in my current role with the New England Patriots," said Pioli in a press release. Pioli, who turns 42 in March, is concluding his seventh year in charge of the Patriots personnel department.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that Pioli has decided to stick with the Pats. "That Pioli would not talk with the Giants could mean Kraft will give Pioli a big raise and a heftier title, probably both. If the Patriots' success is an accurate gauge, he deserves it," writes Greenberg. Pioli, a Central Connecticut grad, was the Sporting News' George Young NFL executive of the year in back-to-back years, coinciding with the Patriots' Super Bowl victories after the 2003 and '04 seasons.

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal also reports on Pioli's decision to stay with the Patriots. Plus, check out notes including a short piece on running back Kevin Faulk.

Michael Felger of the* Boston Herald* offers his weekly Patriots Report Card. Nobody did worse than B-minus this week, but with the Cargers on the horizon, this is no time for recess.

[Ian Clark ](http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Patriots Report Card: Setting sights on San Diego&articleId=b862613e-2886-4872-9419-c59c32836cd1)of The Union Leader also offers his weekly Patriots Report Card. The offensive line, quarterback and special teams department all made the grade against the Jets, according to Clark.

The Boston Herald held it's weekly online poll to determine the Player of the Game in the eyes of the fans. This week, the offensive line rose to the occasion. Apparently, mud really is slippery (or was when the Jets came to town last November).

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call reports that Brady was well-protected by his line this week, and that spells trouble for opposing teams. "As long as Brady has time to throw, the weather's always sunny in the Patriots universe," writes Parente.

Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News tells you what's happening at Gillette Stadium right now: film study. "By now, someone in the Patriots organization has looked at almost all of the 1,016 offensive plays and 985 defensive plays, plus another 449 on special teams, that the Chargers have run this year," writes Breer. "You want to try to get somewhere into an area of, 'this is what we gotta defend, this is what we gotta take care of, this is how we want to attack them,' " said Belichick. "And try to boil that down, so when the game actually comes, you're in the right vicinity."

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that Belichick took a break from studying the Chargers to meet with the media at 9am yesterday. Before heading back to his work, Belichick summed things up: "Forget about the Jets. It doesn't mean anything right now. That game is in the books. It's done. It's time to move on, and believe me, we know what kind of challenge we have ahead of us."

Mark Farinella of The Sun Chronicle reports that Belichick was at Gillette Stadium at 7am on Monday morning to further break down Chargers information in preparation for the upcoming game. "We put all of our energy and time into the Jets," he said, referring to Sunday's 37-16 wild-card round victory that set up this Sunday's AFC Divisional showdown against the top-seeded Chargers on the Left Coast (4:30 p.m.; Ch. 4, 12). "Now we are obviously behind on San Diego, so we'll try to put the full court press on them."

Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Patriots are the underdog in the upcoming Chargers game. "No team relishes being cast as the underdog at this time of year more than your New Englanders. Las Vegas has placed them in that role, but the Patriots spoke out just to make sure all of America knows the insurmountable odds they're trying to overcome. It was a smart and pre-emptive mind-games move, one we've seen around here before. The Patriots place the pressure to not lose squarely on San Diego while rallying around the 'no one believes we can win' mantra," writes Garven.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant takes a look at San Diego, noting that "the Chargers outscored their opponents 492-303 this season, the most lopsided differential in the NFL." The Chargers have been the NFL's best team this season. West division champions, they have the conference's No. 1 seed and the NFL's best record (14-2). They have won 10 in a row, twice beating the Broncos (35-17 and 48-20). Both their losses were by three points on the road. They lost to Baltimore 16-13 Oct. 1 and Kansas City 30-27 Oct. 22.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald offers the Cliff's Notes on San Diego. For those of you whose minds haven't left the AFC East this season, the Chargers boast three frightening athletes: MVP running back LaDainian Tomlinson, steroidal linebacker Shawne Merriman, and uber-tight end Antonio Gates. Also included are key stats.

Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe offers a preview of the upcoming Patriots-Chargers game, noting that Tom Brady couldn't sleep after beating the Jets in Gillette Stadium last weekend. He got up from bed to take a look at the information he'd been given on the Chargers.

The Providence Journal's Joe McDonald previews the Chargers game. "The word 'great' was flying around the New England locker room like game-worn socks as the players described San Diego, and for good reason," writes McDonald. "The Chargers have won 10 games in a row and haven't lost at home this season. They have the ability to score a ridiculous number of points, and are also coming off a bye week."

Richard A. Johnson, a Boston Globe correspondent, takes a look in the rear-view at the last time the Patriots met the Chargers in the playoffs. The year: 1963. The league: the AFL. The final score: 51-10, with the Patriots falling. Will lightning strike twice?

Ron Borges of The Boston Globe talks to a number for coaches and scouts from around the league about Chargers running back (and league MVP) LaDainian Tomlinson. "He may be the greatest football player I have ever seen," said recently deposed Raiders coach Art Shell.

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald reports on Tomlinson, noting that "Belichick must find a way to stop the great LaDainian Tomlinson." "He's the MVP," Belichick said of Tomlinson yesterday at Gillette Stadium. "I don't know how you could be any more complete than that. Run, catch, throw, play blitz-pickup. He can do it all." Tomlinson, of course, is coming off a truly historic season in which he scored a record 31 touchdowns and passed for two others. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and amassed a stunning 2,323 yards from scrimmage. He caught more passes than anyone on the Patriots but Reche Caldwell [stats]. On average, when Tomlinson touched the ball, the Chargers gained 5.7 yards.

Chris Kennedy of The Republican features Tomlinson. "He's looked pretty good to me, unfortunately, every time we've seen him," Belichick said. "We're usually looking at the back of his jersey. We haven't done very well against him. He's killed a lot of people besides us, and he's killed us." In late September 2002, he rushed 27 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns as the Chargers won 21-14 at home against the Patriots. That total of 217 rushing yards ranks as the third highest posted against a New England defense; O.J. Simpson twice rushed for more against the Patriots.

Jim Donaldson of The Providence Journal reports on Cranston native, and former gym teacher in the Providence school system, A.J. Smith. Smith is now the GM of the San Diego Chargers. His first paying NFL job -- at $3.50 an hour -- was as a part-time scout and film grader for the New England Patriots.

Boston Herald writer John Tomase explains that this is the best time of the year for the Patriots. "The late-season winning streak has been a staple of the Patriots during the Super Bowl era. Their three championship seasons since 2001 ended with streaks of nine, 15 and five victories, respectively. Should they claim another title this year, they'll have won six straight to end the year. Beyond the streaks, however, are the underpinnings. The Patriots generally win more as the schedule wears on because they end the year playing better than they started it. This season is shaping up to be no exception," opens Tomase.

The Patriot Ledger's Eric McHugh takes a look at the Patriots offense in the Jets game. Jabar Gaffney came up big. "Tom Brady obviously needed someone to throw the ball to," Jets linebacker Victor Hobson said after the Patriots 37-16 wild-card victory, "and he got the ball to (Gaffney)."

The Patriots Ledger's Ron Hobson reports on the Patriots defense in the Jets game. "There's a reason the New England Patriots spent so many first-round draft choices to build their defensive line. The linemen they drafted can win games with their heads as well as with their brawn," writes Hobson.

For other Patriots Ledger notes on the game, including "Who's hot" and "Who's not," check out this chalk talk by Eric McHugh.

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call reports that safety Rodney Harrison could play against San Diego (his former team) this weekend. "We'll see," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "We're just day-to-day. We got past the Jet game and now we'll start working on next week. All I knew is what I told you last week, so we'll see where we are."
Also included are a number of notes and quotes from Gillette Stadium.

Interested in traveling to watch the Pats play the Chargers in sunny San Diego this weekend? Who the heck isn't, right? Jay Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald offers a look at what tickets are selling for right now, and even gives you average flight costs.

Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald report that coach Belichick apologized to the reporter he pushed on the way to Jets coach Eric Mangini after the game. "I do feel bad about that," he said.

Don't forget to check out USA Today's Inside Slant on the Patriots, updated yesterday.

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