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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/19/05

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that for the first time this season, the Patriots beat a quality team with ease, stomping the Buccaneers, 28-0, before a charged sellout crowd that gladly celebrated the team's third straight AFC East Division crown. New England (9-5) officially qualified for the playoffs with the victory, and the two-time defending Super Bowl champion will play for seeding in the final two weeks of the season. "It feels good, but we've got a long way to go," said linebacker Willie McGinest, who contributed two sacks and a fumble recovery to the effort. "We're not celebrating. You just see guys come in and just ask for the [division championship] hats and T-shirts. It's nice that we accomplished that, but our goals are a lot bigger. It starts with the Jets next week. We have a long road to go. We're just gonna keep working harder and see what happens." The division title, the ninth overall for the franchise, is the sixth for the Patriots in the 12 years Robert Kraft has owned the team.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Pats sacked young quarterback Chris Simms seven times, forced a pair of fumbles, and recorded their first shutout since the 2003 season finale in Saturday's 28-0 victory. For all the dynamism the Bucs supposedly possessed, the Patriots didn't look fooled. Tampa Bay ran Carnell "Cadillac" Williams for three yards or less on eight of its first nine first-down plays. The Bucs completed just two passes of more than 15 yards.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that following last week's win over Buffalo, quarterback Tom Brady offered this assessment of his team: "We're 8-5. I don't think anyone's too fearful of a team that's 8-5." Now New England is 9-5, winners of three straight, winners of the AFC East, and possessors of a defense that has allowed premier backs Curtis Martin (29), Willie McGahee (3) and "Cadillac" Williams (23) a combined 55 yards in those games. Fearful? Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden certainly sounded like someone who wouldn't want to meet the Pats again. "Who doubts them? Right now the people that doubt them, let's put their names in the newspaper so New England knows who they are," Gruden said. "I don't know how you doubt them. They have the best quarterback in the league, the coach is a great coach, and they are a physical, veteran-laden team. They are a handful. That is my opinion."

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that for the past month or so, Tom Ashworth has worked at fullback in practice and some in games to give the Patriots a big blocker in short-yardage situations. Saturday, however, Ashworth was open and Brady threw it to him, resulting in a 1-yard touchdown, the first in the Patriots' 28-0 win over Tampa Bay and the first of the five-year veteran's career.

Dan Ventura of the Boston Herald offers a story on David Givens breakout performance in Saturday's win over the Buccaneers. caught six passes for a career-high 137 yards and a touchdown in a 28-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a win that clinched the AFC East title. The six receptions give Givens 56 on the season, matching a career-best established last season. "I had a few weeks on sabbatical, then I was down for a few weeks after that," said Givens, who missed three games with a knee injury suffered against Indianapolis. "But now I feel like I'm back to my normal self again. It took a couple of weeks to get there, but with a knee injury, it takes time to heal and I'm 100 percent now."

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that the Patriots have won three straight games for the first time this season, and in the wins allowed one touchdown and one field goal. "Well, it is good to play consistently," Belichick said after Saturday's victory. "I mean we are always striving for that. We have had a good part of the season where we were so up and down in practically every area of the game. It certainly helps our football team when we can go out there and consistently do things sort of right, not perfect, but sort of right, and then correct them and try to get 'em right, rather than feast or famine -- 1-yard loss or an 80-yard touchdown, four three-and-outs or two 90-yard drives -- where you just don't have any idea what's going to happen." The Patriots now know one thing that is going to happen -- they will host a wild-card playoff game. Richard Seymour suggested that not many NFL teams would put a date against the resurgent AFC East champions on their Christmas wish list.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that so many big things went right in Saturday's 28-0 annihilation of the Buccaneers, it was easy to miss the little things. When the Patriots struggled early in the season, their failures were often of minutiae. Maybe nose tackle Vince Wilfork strayed from his responsibilities in the middle. Or linebacker Monty Beisel lined up just a half-step off, then reached the hole a half-step late. Maybe the Pats allowed 2 yards on third-and-2, or 4 yards on third-and-3. Saturday was a different story.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his Patriots playoffs scenarios. With the 28-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England clinched the AFC East. If everything holds to form, the Patriots will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs in 19 days. It will be exceptionally difficult for New England to get the third seed, which the 11-3 Bengals currently own. In order for that to happen, the Pats have to win their final two games and have the Bengals lose at home to 4-10 Buffalo and at 8-6 Kansas City.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that Tedy Bruschi had his best game of the season Saturday in the Patriots' 28-0 victory over the Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium. He led them with 11 tackles, knocked down a pass and had his first two sacks of the season. The Patriots had seven sacks, their most in a game since they had eight in Philadelphia on Sept. 14, 2003.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card. The lowest grade of a C went out to the Patriots running backs.

Michael Parente of the Woonsocket Call writes that the excitement in the Patriots' locker room Saturday following their 28-0 win against the Buccaneers had little to do with the AFC East championship T-shirts and hats being passed around. After another lopsided victory - their third in a row - it appears the two-time defending Super Bowl champions are peaking at the right time. The running game is getting back on track, the defense has jelled and everyone is on the same page as the Patriots prepare for the playoffs.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of the Patriots win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest mailbag where he answers your questions.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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