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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/1/2006

In today's pass-happy, quarterback-coddling, wide receiver-revering NFL, sometimes the best offense isn't a good pass, it's a good penalty, says The Boston Globe's Christopher Gasper. In this piece, Gasper explains that defensive backs Artrell Hawkins and Ellis Hobbs were both flagged for big pass interference penalties last week against the Bears. "I think some of those calls were petty," said Hobbs. "I think Rex was kind of throwing the ball up and hoping for something and he got it. I have to live with that. All of us have to live with that and keep moving forward. I think our front seven understands that we have a tough job in the back end." Hawkins says he'd rather be in decent position on the play and risk being called, and Belichick talks about the history of the pass interference rule.

Boston Herald writer John Tomase offers a feature on offensive line coach Daunte Scarnecchia, who's known for his ability to form top-tier offensive lines. In the world of the NFL, his style is known as tough love. And no one is tougher on or loves his players more than Scarnecchia, now in his 23rd season with the Patriots and once again working his magic on an offensive line playing beyond the sum of its parts.

Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe talks to linebacker Tully Banta-Cain about how he's preparing to fill in for the injured Junior Seau on the starting defense. "I'm approaching it the same as I always have," said Banta-Cain. "I am picking up on my film study and making sure that I'm really down pat with my assignments, but I'm approaching it like I approach every game." Banta-Cain said Seau, whom he called a legend, will be missed not only for his high level of play, but for the energy level he brought to the team.

The Providence Journal's Shalise Manza Young reports on the substitution of Banta-Cain for Seau, as well. Seau was placed on IR, and is therefore done for the season. "I think the guys are confident in what I can bring and I'm confident I can get it done," Banta-Cain said this week. "I'm going to try to seize the opportunity and take advantage of it." With Banta-Cain and Colvin on the outside, Vrabel will once again slide inside, this time paired with Bruschi.

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call reports that Banta-Cain is bracing himself for his big chance. "This is a big opportunity for me. I'm excited. I've been looking forward to an opportunity like this my whole life. It's unfortunate the way it had to happen, but I will try to seize it," said Banta-Cain. Banta-Cain was a defensive end in college, but has transitioned to outside linebacker in the NFL.

Howard Ulman of The Republican offers an Associated Press piece on the team's loss of Seau and his potential retirement. Nothing has been announced as of yet, but Ulman talks to Seau's friends and teammates about the topic.

If you sat down to watch Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network last night (or on Thanksgiving) only to discover that you couldn't view the game, then this story is for you. The Boston Globe's Susan Bickelhaupt explains that there are still a number of cable providers not carrying the network, and others who only carry it in special packages. In Massachusetts, Comcast has 1.6 million subscribers, about half of whom get The NFL Network. The Bears-Patriots game last Sunday delivered high marks for the Fox.

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe offers a story on a hypothetical Super Bowl XLI, fast-forwarding to Feb. 4. In the piece, Shaughnessy places the Patriots and the Cowboys in an imagined Super Bowl of the future, pitting coach Bill Parcels of the Cowboys against coach Bill Belichick of the Patriots.

Albert Breer offers the Boston Herald's Patriots Notebook, in which he reports that cornerback Asante Samuel will be a free agent at the end of this season. He's having a career year, but negotiations with the Patriots are on pause so everyone involved can focus on the football that's still to be played.

Shalise Manza Young offers The Providence Journal's Patriots Notebook, which includes a story on Belichick's memories of working with Detroit. The Lions come to New England to take on the Pats. Also included are stories on Scarnecchia, Lions rookie Ernie Sims and the Patriots quarterbacks.

Alan Greenberg of the* Hartford Courant* reports on the Patriots receiving corps. Benjamin Watson and Reche Caldwell, while nowhere near the league leaders - Watson is 37th in receptions, Caldwell is in a five-way tie for 50th - are both having career years.

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Jennifer Toland explains that the Patriots have had a negative turnover ratio in five games this season, but have managed to win three of them, including last Sunday's showdown with the Bears. The Patriots have been focusing on protecting the ball all season, but now that December has arrived, that's exactly the kind of polishing the Patriots are hoping to get done.

Jennifer Toland of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports on Lions receiver Roy Williams, who's just sevan yards away from hitting the 1,000 mark this season. "It is a tough thing to handle," Williams said. "You're having a good year, but your team is a 2-9 ball club. We don't think that we're a 2-9 ball club, but in reality that is where we are." The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Williams leads the NFC and is second in the NFL in receiving yardage. He has 60 receptions, including a league-best 18 for 20 or more yards, and has scored four touchdowns.

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger talks to running back Kevin Faulk about taking the franchise record for most career catches by a running back. Faulk said the record-breaking 262nd catch was important to him, but not as important as the game he was playing in - he didn't even save the ball from that catch!

Glen Farley of The Enterprise reports that linebacker Mike Vrabel will be moving back to inside linebacker now that Seau can't play his position any more, leaving his outside linebacker position for Banta-Cain to fill in. "It doesn't really matter to me," New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel shrugged Wednesday. "I'll play outside. I'll play inside."

Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle reports on the Patriots newly acquired punter Ken Walter. Walter's taking an all-business approach in his return to the Patriots. "It was a sudden thing," he said Wednesday of his return. "It wasn't anything that was like being on-call or anything. It was part of the business it's quick and you just go where they want you to go."

Tom King of The Telegraph reports on the upcoming matchup between the Patriots and the Lions. King reports that the Lions have been the laughingstock of the NFL for a while, but the Patriots aren't laughing. "They're a very exciting team to watch," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "They're pretty fast and pretty good on defense up front.

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

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