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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/26/2006

Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe offers an interview with the first-year Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels explained that the game plan for the Christmas Eve matchup was unlike any other the Patriots employed this season. For a team that prides itself on altering its game plan each week, what they did was more than a simple renovation; it was a complete knock-down-and-rebuild project.

The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss explains that When the Patriots defense needed a big play to stop the Jaguars final drive Sunday, linebacker Tedy Bruschi wasn't surprised who delivered it. He has seen defensive end Jarvis Green come through in the clutch before. "It seems like he makes big plays for us in the biggest games," said Bruschi, pointing to Green's strip sack of quarterback David Garrard that sealed the victory.

Let the second season begin, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. Now that the Patriots officially are in the postseason, the question is which team they will play and what they will do once they get there. Though they're clearly not the juggernaut of seasons past, the Pats still have a shot at 12 victories, which would be the second-highest total in team history, trailing only the 14 wins of the 2003 and 2004 squads. The Patriots know they will be playing on wild card weekend. By beating the Steelers Sunday, the Ravens knocked the Pats out of contention for one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his Patriots report card. Based on the grades, Brady and the running backs should have no fear of their parents. Heck, they might even get a boost in allowance.

[Ian Clark ](http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Patriots Report Card: High marks in win&articleId=0e5edf75-284f-4786-a500-1936942df15e)of the Union Leader also offers a Patriots report card. He's toughest on the defensive backs and special teamers.

The Boston Herald sports staff offers its weekly Player of the Game, selected by readers. This week, the master of the postseason got an overwhelming 61 percent of the votes...

Bill Reynolds of The Providence Journal takes a look at the Patriots winning ways. Despite roster turnover, they remain one of the league's greatest franchises.

Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that, after a shutout loss to Miami three weeks ago, things were looking grim for the Pats. But winning can change a lot of minds. And winning a game in a fashion that's come to be expected of New England in recent seasons -- by tailoring the game plan to best fit the opponent and turning in a strong defensive performance -- helps alter perceptions as well.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant explains that the Pats were a little more overt about their elation over the win after becoming only the second team this season to score more than 17 points at Alltel Stadium. The Jaguars were allowing 9.1 points a game at home before Tom Brady (28 of 39, 249 yards, one TD) and his receivers spread out the Jaguars and controlled the game with quick routes, vital because the Jaguars have a strong rush and Brady was often operating out of an empty backfield.

Rich Garven of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that a home playoff game is in store for the Pats, no matter what happens on Sunday in Tennessee, since they clinched their division. Topping Tennessee would give the Patriots their third straight win and sixth in seven games. It would keep the train on the track and motoring along in the right direction. (And, while it's a long shot, there is a better chance of hosting the AFC championship game as the three seed rather than the four.)

Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger reports on newly signed punter Todd Sauerbrun, the three-time Pro Bowler whose 12-year career has been pock-marked by controversy - everything from his silly public feud with the field goal-kicking Gramatica brothers to an arrest for driving under the influence to allegations of steroid use. Sauerbrun was released by the Denver Broncos in October after serving a four-game league-mandated suspension, reportedly for testing positive for the banned dietary supplement ephedra. Sauerbrun, who turns 34 on Jan. 4, had been out of work since then.

David Brown of The Standard-Times offers a feature on rookie tight end David Thomas. The most-reasonable fears in Patriots Nation last week pertained to the absence of Ben Watson, whose knee injury would theoretically deprive Tom Brady of a vital weapon against the league's No. 2 defense. But Patriots fans, like the Jaguars, failed to account for David Thomas. Thomas, the rookie tight end out of Texas, used to be Vince Young's go-to guy. On Sunday, he was Tom Brady's, catching five passes to lead the Pats with 83 yards, including his first NFL touchdown reception, to help New England beat Jacksonville 24-21 and clinch the AFC East.

The Boston Globe offers an Associated Press piece by Mark Long, which explains that the Jets knocked off the Dolphins yesterday, bringing them one step closer to the playoffs. They play Oakland next week.

USA Today offer an Inside Slant on the Patriots, which was updated today.

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