Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that the Patriots pounded the New York Jets, 31-21, in the final "Monday Night Football" game on ABC. New England (10-5) continued its fine stretch of play, having put together a season-long four-game winning streak with the 15th win in its last 16 divisional games, and sixth straight defeat of the Jets. The Patriots will finish the regular season at home against Miami Sunday, then host a playoff game the following weekend at Gillette Stadium. Brady wasn't particularly sharp (18 of 29 passes for a season-low 185 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception) , but he did move past the 4,000-yard mark for the season, becoming the second Patriots quarterback to do so. Drew Bledsoe threw for a team-record 4,555 yards in 1994.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the final score -- 31-21 -- may not reflect the whipping the Patriots put on the Jets last night, but make no mistake: This was no contest. For the fourth straight game, the Pats allowed less than 200 yards in total offense, and only a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ty Law in the first quarter kept the Pats from blowing the Jets into the Hudson River before halftime.
Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe writes that linebacker and sometimes tight end, Mike Vrabel had a career night catching 2 touchdown passes and also led the team with six tackles and one sack. He currently leads the team in tackles with 103 and has four touchdown catches, three on offense. Vrabel is also tied for second on the team in touchdown receptions (three) with fellow tight ends Benjamin Watson and Daniel Graham. "He's doing a good job so far," Watson said. "I don't worry about it. It's just another benefit we have, that we can put him in there in a skill position like that and he can score for us. 'As long as we are] winning the games, that's what counts. He been doing it longer than me. He's been doing it here for longer than I have. I need to take advice from him." [John Tomase of the Boston Herald also offers an article on Mike Vrabel.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that linebacker Tedy Bruschi was hurt on punt coverage on the next-to-last play of the first quarter when Mike Vrabel inadvertently barreled into him. It appeared Bruschi injured an ankle or his lower left leg, but the Patriots did not provide any details. After the game, Bruschi sat at his locker getting dressed, and said, "I've got nothing for you guys. Sorry guys." He then got up and walked out of the locker room to the bus.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that instead of celebrating a 31-21 win over the Jets this morning, Pats fans find themselves fretting about the Patriots' inspirational and literal leader, Tedy Bruschi. "Tedy's one of those guys, I saw him twist his knee up last year behind his body and he played the next week," said receiver David Givens. "After seeing something like that, you think, man this guy gets up from anything. And then today he didn't and that's shocking, but injuries are part of the game." That injury overshadowed an effort that saw basically everything else go right. Save for a career-best 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ty Law, the Pats dominated the Jets, taking a 21-7 halftime lead and never looking back. The victory gave the Pats at least 10 wins for the third straight season and fourth time in five years. It also improved the franchise's all-time winning percentage to .500 for the first time since 1969. But none of that could change the fact that the biggest story was Bruschi.
Can the Patriots keep their swagger without their heart and soul, who wound up needing a cart to take him off the field? Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that with players moving to new positions, rookies taking over starting roles and newcomers filling in for key injured veterans, it was tough to walk the walk. But with time, with players returning from injury, with the communication improving on defense and with wins being strung together, players have started to believe in themselves and the system. Bruschi, who appeared to suffer the injury when teammate Mike Vrabel inadvertently stepped on his leg during punt return coverage, has been a driving force of the Pats' growing confidence. He's made a huge difference calling the plays and setting the defense. Against Tampa, he looked very much like the Bruschi we had marveled at pre-stroke. "Tedy's like the navigation in the car. We don't want to go anywhere without the navigational system," teammate Richard Seymour said. "That's a good analogy of what he brings to this football team. Of course you can still drive the car, but you don't want to."
Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe offers a story on Patriots center Russ Hochstein. Benjamin writes that since Hochstein's first start at center -- the narrow win over New Orleans at home Nov. 20 -- the New England offensive line has regained a sense of normalcy. Other than the two games in which Tom Ashworth subbed for Nick Kaczur at left tackle, the line has remained intact: Kaczur, Logan Mankins, Hochstein, Stephen Neal, and Brandon Gorin. After Hochstein's first two games at center, in which Tom Brady was dropped for three sacks against both New Orleans and Kansas City, the Patriots' line improved in pass protection, allowing four in the next three games, all dominating victories. "Russ is smart, he has some good experience in our system, and he's done a good job both mentally and physically executing the techniques and blocking and all that," coach Bill Belichick said. "I think he's getting a little bit better each week as he's gaining a little more experience, and working with Logan and Steve."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers a story on rookie cornerback Elllis Hobbs. The Patriots' rookie cornerback continued to distinguish himself last night in the Pats' 31-21 victory over the Jets. And as he has in previous games, Hobbs got the job done by showing good closing speed and instincts. The most notable case came with the Jets facing a third-and-3 in the final quarter. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger attempted to hit receiver Laveranues Coles with a quick slant, but Hobbs came up from behind Coles and knocked the pass away.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that from Gifford, Cosell, and Meredith to Michaels and Madden, the Patriots have had plenty of history on "Monday Night Football." Last night's game against the Jets was the final Monday night telecast on ABC, ending a 36-year run for the network with the history-making series. Coach Bill Belichick said he was humbled to be part of the final chapter. "I'm fortunate and honored to be a part of this game in the National Football League with the New England Patriots," Belichick said. "It's an honor and a privilege for me to coach this team and to be a part of the franchise that's in the greatest league in professional sports and to work for an owner like Robert Kraft, who has given me the opportunity to do that. I'm very thankful for the situation that I'm in and to have an opportunity to even participate in a game like this."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that just when the defense had achieved a modicum of health and stability, starters Tedy Bruschi and Asante Samuel left the game with leg injuries in the first half. That preceded kick returner Bethel Johnson being helped off the field to open the second. While the status of those players was unclear after the game (Bruschi walked without a limp after the game), the injuries should provide Bill Belichick ample reason to peel back against the Dolphins.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of New England's 31-21 win over the New York Jets.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.