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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/21/05

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that despite losing left tackle Matt Light and center Dan Koppen, both Pro Bowl-caliber players, the line has managed to survive and at times excel. The proof is in the stats: Tom Brady has been sacked only 23 times and is on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards for the league's No. 1 pass offense. He has been hit a lot (for evidence, see the brace on his right knee), and that will be a concern as the competition gets better. "It's a tribute to the Patriots offensive line that they have survived and kept Brady upright," said Mike Maser, a former Boston College offensive line coach, "There are obviously a bunch of guys over there with a lot of pride in the way they play the game. There's obviously a lot of desire to keep Tom Brady healthy. That's probably the biggest motivation. Nobody wants to let Brady down. Keep him healthy and look what he does."

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers a story on Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel. There aren't many teams for which a player like Vrabel could have his NFL world turned inside out and there not be a ripple because of it. But the Pats proved long ago they aren't just another team, and Vrabel's move to inside linebacker two months ago has not only been smooth, it's helped save the season. "Honestly, if I was doing this going into my contract year, it may be a situation," Vrabel said. "But things were taken care of and it's a non-issue. Listen, it's been nine years of trying to find a position and now I can play a whole bunch of them. And playing next to Tedy is cool."

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that offensive lineman Matt Light said he's been encouraged by his rehabilitation from a broken right leg and subsequent complication (blood pooling), but the Patriots left tackle wouldn't say whether he feels he can make it back this season. "Rehab is never fun but I'm just doing what I have to do," Light said. "I feel progress is being made, so when you feel progress you're always encouraged. But I don't know about anything else. You just work as hard as you can in hopes you can work yourself back." Light's status on the Patriots' injury report has remained "doubtful" with a leg injury. Part of the reason that he hasn't been placed on injured reserve may be that the team doesn't have salary cap space to add a player anyway.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that the Pro Bowl rosters will be announced today, and several Patriots have a chance of going to Hawaii. In a surprise, fullback Patrick Pass was the only Patriots player to win the fan voting at his position. The selection process is made up of three separate votes - fans, coaches and players. Only players winning the fan vote at their position receive the one point of credit in the final equation along with the players voting and coaches voting. Tom Brady, who finished third in fan voting among AFC quarterbacks behind Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, has a chance to go to his third Pro Bowl, which will be held Feb. 12. Other Patriots who fared well in the fan voting: Richard Seymour, who was fourth among AFC interior defensive linemen; Mike Vrabel, who was fourth among outside linebackers; special teams ace Larry Izzo (second); and punter Josh Miller (second).

Carol Beggy and Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe write that fear of tipsy, rowdy fans during the holiday season led New Jersey officials to ban alcohol sales at the Meadowlands for Monday night's game. The ban comes after a Nov. 27 Jets-Saints game during which police made nine arrests. In one altercation in the second half, two fans were stabbed outside of a men's room. In another incident, a state trooper broke his leg while trying to eject a fan who reportedly threw a beer bottle.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that twenty-one kids between the ages of five and 12 from the Tannerhill Residential Program for Young Children were given $300 to shop at Bob's yesterday, courtesy of Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, the Patriots fourth-year wide receiver, the Pats Charitable Foundation and Bob's. The event was called "Branch-ing Out for Christmas."

Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that the Patriots (9-5) have fashioned the best three-game defensive run in franchise history, limiting the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and the Bucs to a grand total of 10 points. They punctuated this spurt with a 28-0 mugging of Tampa Bay - the Patriots' first shutout since the 2003 regular-season finale and only the 21st blanking in franchise history. ''To give Eric Mangini his first goose egg as defensive coordinator, I congratulated him after the game,'' linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.

Peter King of SI.com discusses Tom Brady's 3 touchdown performance against the no. 2 rated defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his weekly "Monday Morning Quarterback" column.

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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