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Patriots.com News Blitz 10/8/04

Michael Vega of The Boston Globe features Patriots lineman Stephen Neal, who replaced Russ Hochstein in the starting lineup last week. "Despite his limited football background, Neal, who spent all of last season on injured reserve (shoulder), has relied upon the athleticism and brute strength he used on the wrestling mat to help him make the transition to the gridiron," writes Vega.

Vega also reports on the accusation by a pair of Bills players that Vince Wilfork laid out cheap shots in last Sunday's game. "[Coach Bill] Belichick said there was no way an official could determine the intent of a player when plays occur that quickly."

Jim McCabe of the Globe notes that while the Patriots are enjoying an excellent run, it was not always so easy to be a Patriots fan.

Michael Felger of The Boston Herald reports on the defense, a unit that feels it still has something to prove. "For the defense, the focus was two things above all others: run defense and big plays," writes Felger.

Felger's notebook includes a look at the receiving corps, which is likely to be somewhat depleted by injuries this weekend. "The injuries will surely open up some opportunities for young players such as rookie P.K. Sam and perhaps even newly signed special teamer Kevin Kasper, who is the seventh receiver on the active roster," writes Felger.

The Herald also runs an excerpt from Felger's new book.

Tom Curran of The Providence Journal checks in on new running back Corey Dillon, who has silenced those who questioned his questionable past. "All the Patriots have gotten so far from the alleged malcontent is production, consistency and a sense that Dillon makes things better," writes Curran. "No fits, no fights, no AWOL days, not a single blasphemy. He's everything they hoped for, reliable as can be."

In his notebook, Curran asserts that Belichick refuses to overlook the Dolphins. He also updates the playing time of Dan Klecko and Tully Banta-Cain, and notes that rookie wideout Sam should see some time this weekend.

Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant writes it is not getting any easier for the Dolphins, who bring their 0-4 record into Foxboro this Sunday. "Tailback Ricky Williams' stunning retirement the week before training camp, injuries, and two incompetent quarterbacks - incumbent Jay Fiedler and newly arrived A.J. Feeley - have turned the Dolphins offense into a turnover machine and its esteemed defense into 11 angry - and exhausted - men," writes Greenberg.

The Standard Times runs an article by Steven Winelooking at the Dolphins inability to hold on to the ball. "[Miami coach Dave] Wannstedt has preached and pleaded and simplified the offense and twice changed quarterbacks, all for naught. With 14 turnovers, the Dolphins are the NFL's most generous team," writes Wine.

The Portland Press Herald runs an AP article featuring Sam, who should finally see some action this weekend. "With so many good receivers, he's had to be patient after making 50 catches as a junior last year and leaving school with eligibility left."

In The Union Leader,Ian Clark'snotebook examines the special teams, arguably the team's weakest area in last week's game. "The special teams got extra work this week in practice and Sunday's visit from Miami offers a chance to get better as the Dolphins have also struggled on special teams," writes Clark.

ESPN.com's football page has a series of articles about the Patriots as they try to make history this weekend with their 19th consecutive win.

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