Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe looks back at Sunday's big win, pointing to Bill Belichick's coaching staff as a major difference-maker against the Rams. "This was coaching at its best, proof that defensive backs coach Eric Mangini is a rising star on the NFL stage and an example of why special teams coach Brad Seely is considered by Belichick and predecessor Pete Carroll as one of the best coaches they've ever been around," Cafardo writes.
Cafardo also checks in on the **Adam Vinatieri** contract situation. The team was hoping to sign the clutch kicker to an extension this week, as yesterday marked the deadline for applying a pro-rated signing bonus to this year's salary cap, a move that would improve flexibility on future years' cap totals. The team was unable to reach an agreement with the kicker, who keyed the win in St. Louis, by last night's deadline, though that does not mean it won't get done. As Cafardo reports, "not getting a deal in place last night was certainly not the end of the world, as the Patriots can still sign Vinatieri before the end of the year and absorb the pro-rated portion of any bonus next season."
Bill Griffith of the Globe reports on the multi-billion dollar extensions the NFL has signed with the networks that broadcast football, CBS, Fox, and the satellite cable company, DirecTV.
Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald gives his unit-by-unit grades for Sunday's performance and, needless to say, the class has shown a marked improvement from last week's test in Pittsburgh. There are many A's given, including to the coaches, the running backs, the defensive line, and special teams. The low mark goes to the receiving corps, though they did feature 100 yards from David Givens and two touchdowns.
Michael Gee of the Herald lauds the Patriots versatility and willingness to do what the coaching staff asks of them. "The Pats don't worry when handed unfamiliar assignments. The jack-of-all-trades victory has become their trademark, writes Gee.
On a similar note, Steve Buckley contends the Patriots success stems largely from Belichick's rare ability to think outside the box. "Too many coaches in too many sports tragically cling to the same old rules and follow the same safe passages and press the same dull, predictable buttons," writes Buckley.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal believes the Patriots found their identity this weekend, something they could not do until last week's loss to Pittsburgh ended their 21-game winning streak. "Sunday, pen hit paper and the story of the 2004 Patriots began to be written. It may wind up being similar to the one written last year, and in 2001. Maybe it won't. But it unequivocally belongs to this group now," writes Curran.
Joe McDonald of the Journal reports Belichick is pleased as can be after what he considers the team's best game of the season. "Though plagued by injuries, the Patriots played one of the team's "most complete games" of the season and quickly replaced the question marks with exclamation points just one week after the defending Super Bowl champions suffered their first loss after 21 straight victories," writes McDonald.
In his notebook, McDonald points out a performance that seems to have been overlooked with the abundance of less typical plays and performances. For the third time this season, Corey Dillon topped the 100-yard rushing mark, proving how sorely he was missed against Pittsburgh. McDonald also reports on the loss of tackle Tom Ashworth, whose season ended when he was placed on injured reserve.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call gives his grades for the performance in St. Louis. The highest marks go to the coaching staff and the running game, while the low mark is given to the quarterback. Parente cites the costly fumble by Brady in the end zone when dishing out the B-.
Parente also features Troy Brown, whose unselfishness and willingness to accept a variety of roles is what makes him a special player. "Brown's attitude is one of the main reasons why Belichick asked him during training camp this summer if he'd be interested in taking some reps as a defensive back," writes Parente.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant writes the Pats impressed with all of their strategic moves, citing headline-grabbing moves like Brown playing defense, and also more subtle changes, such as tight end Daniel Graham teaming up with new starter Brandon Gorin for a day-long double-team of Leonard Little.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News breaks down the coaching staff's ability to shift their players around, adding value to a player with each new role they can pick up. It is called "the Beli-flex system, which takes into account that teams can only keep 53 players on their roster (61 including practice squad) and dress 45 on game day," writes Reiss. "Because of this math, emergency situations often arise."
In his notebook, Reiss chronicles the Ashworth injury, the team's continued success in the two-minute offense, and some sour grapes from Rams coach Mike Martz, who contends Brown's success at defensive back was due largely to his holding of St. Louis receivers.
The Portland Press Herald runs an AP article by Dave Goldberg, perhaps prematurely characterizing the Super Bowl picture as a three-team race. "The last two weeks changed the Super Bowl picture only marginally, adding Pittsburgh to the Eagles and Patriots as the NFL's pre-eminent teams at the season's halfway mark," writes Goldberg.
Jarrett Bell of USA Today praises the team effort, noting the Patriots appeared in a far different form than most alleged gurus prognosticated before the weekend. "It is not always what you think it is with the New England Patriots, who demonstrated once again Sunday during a 40-22 rout of the St. Louis Rams that they are perhaps the NFL's best example of an optical illusion," writes Bell.
If you enjoy News Blitz, you might want to check out bostonsportsmedia.com where Bruce Allen also offers links to what the media is saying about the Patriots as well as the other Boston sports teams. Allen also includes commentary on the media and does a good job holding everyone accountable