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Patriots.com News Blitz 11/24/04

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe looks back at Monday night's game, and pinpoints the Patriots rush defense as one of the keys to the hard-fought victory. "It is no small coincidence that once the Patriots were able to stop Kansas City's Derrick Blaylock, the replacement for the injured Priest Holmes Monday night, they found themselves in control of the game," writes Cafardo.

Jackie MacMullen of the Globe points to a phenomenon that has been sweeping Patriots Nation since Week 2 in Arizona. Ever since he ran over the Cardinals for 158 yards, the most by a Pats back in six years, Corey Dillon has become as popular as any athlete in New England, with the possible exception of Tom Brady. Chants of "Corey" fill Gillette Stadium each time the offense's new workhorse plows for a big gain. As MacMullen writes, "the running game is Corey Dillon. The offensive balance is Corey Dillon. The most important Patriots offseason acquisition is Corey Dillon."

Cafardo highlights the prowess of the passing game, as Tom Brady went over 300 yards for the second time this year, and first time since opening night. As Cafardo points out, the passing game has been helped all year by the presence of Dillon, whose ability to break a big run at anytime keeps the opposing defenses honest.

Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald gives his unit-by-unit grades for the performance Monday night. "Remember that warm and fuzzy and optimistic feeling from a year ago when that championship group managed to overcome a series of serious injuries to key players and still keep winning. Well, the Pats are doing it again," writes Mannix.

Karen Guregian of the Herald stresses the importance of the final six games, as the Patriots begin to worry about home-field advantage come playoff time. "It's all about where the Pats are going to play Pittsburgh or Indianapolis down the road in the playoffs," writes Guregian. "It's about winning those six games to give them a shot at home field against either the Steelers or Colts or whichever two teams come between them and another date with the Super Bowl."

George Kimball harkens back to a big play Monday night that had the Chiefs steaming mad. Not long before the half, Kansas City was driving through the red zone on the verge of a score. KC QB Trent Green looked for Tony Gonzalez, the league's best tight end, in the end zone. Facing a double-team, Gonzalez was unable to get open, and the ball was intercepted by Rodney Harrison, killing the Chiefs drive. On the big play, which was largely the turning point of the game, there was contact between Gonzalez and Pats linebacker Roman Phifer, though no call was made. Gonzalez was livid. "Even the Kansas City quarterback conceded that it was one of those borderline plays that are sometimes called and sometimes not, but when the victim of the play is an all-world tight end, he's supposed to catch a break from the officials now and then," reports Kimball.

Tom Curran of The Providence Journal wisely reminds us that not all is perfect on the Patriots roster, as the team desperately misses its starting cornerbacks. "Right off the top, starting cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Ty Law were both out and they were replaced by Earthwind Moreland, Randall Gay and Asante Samuel," writes Curran. "Since each one of the trio has had his moments while filling in for the Tys, it became easy to forget that they are raw, raw and raw. Monday night served as a reminder."

Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant examines the same weakness of the Patriots, asserting the team was able to win by balancing the big plays they gave up with somekey defensive stops.

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call provides his grades for the Patriots units. With the exception of the defensive secondary, which was torched for two touchdowns, Parente gives solid marks all around.

Parente also looks ahead to Sunday's game with the Baltimore Ravens, who may be the second straight Patriots opponent to be playing without their dominant, Pro-Bowl running back. Ravens stud Jamal Lewis twisted his ankle early in Sunday's game with Dallas, and is doubtful for Sunday. "Lewis is primarily the only player opponents have to watch out for on offense, and if he doesn't play, the Ravens will have a hard time scoring - even against a Patriots defense without Ty Law and Tyrone Poole," writes Parente.

Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com praises Brady's toughness, citing his fourth-quarter play against the Chiefs. "We all know he's smart, he's accurate, he's a winner and he's one of the best leaders in football. In Kansas City, we saw his toughness," writes King.

On CBS.Sportsline.com, Pete Prisco provides his weekly Power Rankings. Once again, the Patriots occupy the number two slot, behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers, manufacturers of New England's only defeat. "There is no letup in this team, despite all their injuries in the secondary. They keep on rolling," writes Prisco.

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