Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe kicks off our 50th News Blitz with a look at troubled receiver Bethel Johnson. Johnson was deactivated for Sunday's game, in a move listed as a coach's decision. "Johnson said that if it was a motivational tactic by Belichick, it was unnecessary, writes Cafardo. "'You think that works? It doesn't work with me. I'm not that type of player. That don't work for me,'" Johnson told Cafardo.
Cafardo also features this weekend's homecoming for Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. "Hasselbeck, a former Boston College star and Norfolk native whose father, Don, was a Patriot tight end from 1977-1983, and younger brother Tim, another BC alumnus, is the Washington Redskins' third quarterback, will come home Sunday to face the Patriots, the team he used to root for," writes Cafardo.
In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger previews this weekend's game as a strategical showdown between two Super Bowl-winning coaches. "It's a game that features the preeminent defensive coach in the NFL against one of the most respected offensive minds of the last decade, yet for some reason Bill Belichick vs. Mike Holmgren doesn't quite seem like a natural rivalry," writes Felger.
In his notebook, Felger delves into the situation with Johnson. "Johnson, who has just two receptions on the year, admitted this year has been a struggle for him," writes Felger. "'I've worked hard to get myself to where I need to be. Sometimes when things don't go the way you perceive them, then mentally it challenges you,'" Johnson told Felger.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal tries to explain the very high praise Belichick afforded the Seahawks in a press conference earlier this week. "The verbal rubdown Bill Belichick gave the Seattle Seahawks yesterday left one wondering whether it will be his team hitting the green grass of Gillette Stadium on a 19-game winning streak Sunday or the one from the Great Northwest, which hasn't won a playoff game in two decades," writes Curran.
In his notebook, Curran also looks at the Johnson story, as well as the possible injury to Corey Dillon's ankle.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant notes the potential Johnson has to help the team, especially with the injuries to Troy Brown and Deion Branch. "Johnson, a second-year pro from Texas A&M, is the type of player who scares defenses," writes Greenberg. "Besides being one of the league's best kick returners, Johnson is one of the fastest players in the NFL, a constant deep threat whose mere presence on the line of scrimmage stretches a defense and gives his fellow receivers more operating room underneath a zone."
In his notebook, Reiss looks ahead to the major two-folded challenge that awaits Richard Seymour on Sunday. "No. 1, he'll likely be lined up across from Pro Bowlers Walter Jones (left tackle) and Steve Hutchinson (left guard). No. 2, since Seattle runs the quick-rhythm West Coast offense, it makes it more challenging for Seymour and his fellow linemen to make plays in the passing game," writes Reiss.
Reiss also looks at Johnson, who is clearly not living up to his potential. "Johnson said he was informed of his inactive status on Saturday, and was surprised by the move. In essence, the team decided street free agent Kevin Kasper -- signed only five days before --- and rookie P.K. Sam (0 catches) gave it a better chance to win," writes Reiss.
Mich*ael Parente of *The Woonsocket Call previews Sunday's game through the eyes of the Seahawks defense, a unit not to be taken lightly. "The Seahawks have allowed the fewest points per game and are sixth in total yards, fourth against the run and tied for ninth in third-down efficiency on defense," writes Parente. "With questions surrounding the availability -- and effectiveness -- of wideouts Troy Brown and Deion Branch and running back Corey Dillon, the Patriots could have a hard time moving the ball."
Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald features tight end Daniel Graham, who after two years of inconsistent play, is off to a great start in 2004. "Graham, 25, already has caught an AFC-leading five touchdown passes this season, matching his total of the first two years," writes Lowe.
The Union Leader runs an AP article by Jimmy Golen, checking in on Tom Brady. Brady was roughed up last week by the Dolphins, and is sporting a nice new scar on his chin. "But the bigger problem facing Brady this week is the scar on his record because of his performance against Miami," writes Golen. "Without two of his top four wide receivers, Brady played conservatively and not very effectively, completing 7-of-19 passing for 76 yards, two touchdowns and an interception Ã¢â'¬" the fewest completions and fewest yards he's had in 56 career starts."
Be sure to check out this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, which features the Patriots 19th consecutive win as its cover story. Peter King writes: "They do whatever it takes. The intensely physical 24-10 win over the Dolphins gave New England its 19th consecutive victory (including three in the playoffs), the longest winning streak in the 85-year history of the NFL. Go ahead and debate whether the Patriots are as good as the perfect 1972 Dolphins or could line up with Lombardi's Packers, or could slow Joe Montana's 49ers in their prime. All the Patriots know is what their Gatorade-soaked coach told them in a fairly businesslike locker room after the game: "You've done something no other team in NFL history has ever done."
The issue also has a feature article on Richard Seymour by Charles Pierce. Pierce writes about Seymour's South Carolina home, his days as a Georgia Bulldog, and his current Pro-bowl status with the Patriots, writing, "Richard Seymour followed the beacon of football from high school to college to the NFL. In one weekend of games, you can learn a lot about the man."