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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/19/2006

Ron Borges of The Boston Globe explains that "there are mathematical chances and real chances, and with two weeks to go it is probably time for Patriots fans to face the real ones." At the moment, the Patriots are the fourth seed in the AFC, meaning they would host the Bengals or Broncos in the first round barring any other changes, although the Jaguars and Jets remain very live outsiders in what has become an 11-team race to the postseason tournament. Borges walks you through a number of scenarios and previews the last two games in the regular season.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his Patriots Report Card on the Texans game. He's hard on the receivers, but everyone else passes with flying colors following what Felger calls one of the few "complete, 'team' performances of the season.

Ian Clark of The Union Leader offers his weekly Patriots Report Card, reporting that the Pats are "back on track with two games to go."

The Patriot Ledger's Eric McHugh offers a little bit of 'chalk talk' on the Pats-Texans game, offering his thoughts on individual players and the game.

Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe reports on nose tackle Mike Wright, who filled in for the injured Vince Wilfork (ankle) on Sunday against Houston. "He hasn't played a lot of that position," said Belichick, who called Wright one of the strongest players on the team. "He's certainly a lot better than he was at it last year, and he's a lot better at it than he was earlier in the year. If he keeps working at it I'm sure he'll continue to get better. There's a lot of little things that go into it. It's a tough position to play and he's definitely getting better." Also included are Patriots notes on Belichick and rookie tight end David Thomas.

The Boston Globe's Christopher Gasper offers a feature on wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who dropped his first pass against the Texans only to secure a nice touchdown catch later in the game. "I wanted that first one. It should have been a touchdown. I was able to make up for it later on," said Gaffney, who hauled in a 6-yard TD pass from Brady with 1:11 left in the second quarter that gave the Patriots a commanding 27-0 lead at halftime.

Win Bates of The Enterprise explains that Gaffney had only scored seven other touchdowns in the NFL entering last weekend's game, but they had all been for the Texans. On Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Gaffney scored against the Texans. "I came in and wanted to do well against them [Sunday]," said Gaffney, who was signed by the Patriots on Oct. 9 as a free agent. "I wanted to get into the end zone today and I was able to. It was special to go out there and get a win against my former team and also score a touchdown."

The Boston Herald's Tony Massarotti tries to figure out who has an edge in the AFC. "You guys are a lot more interested in everybody's record than I am," said Belichick yesterday. "I'm interested in how it's going to be played this week. That's the only thing that really matters. Everybody wants to add up their wins and losses and look up their stats, and they've got it all figured out, and I don't think that's the way you really play the game." Massarotti previews the Jaguars game, but ultimately concludes that "in this league, at this moment, nothing means anything anymore."

John Tomase of the Boston Herald features cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who had an interception and a 93-yard touchdown return against Houston after seeing his defensive snaps diminish against Miami. "Ellis is good for this football team," Belichick said. "He does a lot of things to help us win. Both phases of the game, practice. He's a good solid player for us."

Chris Kennedy of The Republican explains that Hobbs has been working through the pain of a broken wrist all season. Hobbs had surgery on the wrist in September. "It hurts, but I'm going (to work through it)," he said, "but I'm not going to pick up a cup or a piece of paper, so it's fully healed and ready to go next season." Also included are short pieces on Wright and Gaffney.

Glen Farley of The Enterprise reports that Hobbs turned in a command performance against Houston, noting that "Hobbs was both, a true playmaker and a gamebreaker on Sunday afternoon." Hobbs said, "It was great to get back to my form of ball."

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger also reports on Hobbs, who was hoping to put forth a better-than-average performance prior to the Houston game. "His attitude is one of the best attitudes I have seen," free safety Artrell Hawkins said. "He works hard. It's hard to not play the way you are used to. I have been in that situation. A lot of players have been in that situation in this league. What matters is how you react. I told him last week when we were flying back from Miami, I was proud of him and to keep working like he does. He did just that. He answered the bell. I don't think anyone deserves a better game than Ellis had [Sunday]."

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that the Patriots only produced two touchdown in six trips into the red zone on Sunday. On the other four, kicker Stephen Gostkowski was called onto the field to convert field goals. Also included are Patriots notes.

Har*tford Courant *writer Alan Greenberg offers an update on the Patriots current injury concerns, looking at how backups filled in against Houston. He assess the team and discusses the team's future.

The Boston Herald sports staff reports the results of its weekly fan poll. This week, a majority of fans attributed the win to excellent play by running back Kevin Faulk.

The Boston Herald's John Tomase offers coach Belichick's reactions to accusations that the team was warned by the league about recording opposing teams' signals. "We haven't heard anything from the league," Belichick said. Also included are notes on Stephen Gostkowski and Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson.

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that the Patriots were the last team in the league to score a touchdown on defense or special teams. "Coach Belichick stood up on Saturday morning and said that we are the only team that hasn't scored a touchdown on special teams or defense," quarterback Tom Brady said after Sunday's win over Houston. "At least we don't have to hear that this week." Ellis Hobbs took care of that in the third quarter, when he fielded a Texans kickoff and raced 93 yards to the end zone.

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger reports that Tom Brady and coach Belichick should both be in better moods following the Houston game than they were last week after being shut out by the Phins. "There's always pressure around here with No. 12 as our quarterback," Evans said. "You get in that huddle, and you just sense the pressure because he is such a perfectionist. There's never the idea that let's go punt or let's go get 3 points. It's, hey, we're scoring on this play. If we don't, it's going to be the next play. The focus is always about 7 points."

Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call explains that "the perception of the New England Patriots as bumbling fools who'd screw up a one-car funeral has been somewhat overblown for the past few weeks." Parente sees the Patriots as being right on target with two regular season games to go. "It's about time," fullback Heath Evans said. "We didn't do anything differently this week in practice. We're always focused on it as a core group of skill position players and just got it done (Sunday)." Sunday was as clean a game as they've played in nearly two months. They went without fumbling for the first time since Week 4 and only committed two penalties for 10 yards - their lowest total since the season opener against the Bills.

The Woonsocket Call's Michael Parente explains why running back Kevin Faulk could be a no-show against Jacksonville. Faulk limped out of the locker room Sunday and did not answer questions from reporters after scoring two touchdowns in the Patriots' 40-7 win over Houston. Bill Belichick offered no updates Monday on Faulk's status.

USA Today offers its Inside Slant on the Patriots, updated recently.

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