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Last night's game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts somehow lived up to the hype that had been building since it was announced the game would be the center of the NFL's kickoff extravaganza. The Patriots again beat the Colts in a game that came down to the final play, holding on to a 27-24 victory. "Though Patriots defensive players were criticizing themselves for a poorly played game, it was two magnificent plays in the fourth quarter -- by Eugene Wilson and Willie McGinest -- that enabled New England to claim a 27-24 victory in the season opener on a night when they raised their Super Bowl XXXVIII banner," writes Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
Despite the gritty win, Jackie MacMullen notes the Patriots have much to improve on as they move into Week 2. "The Patriots wake up this morning knowing the film sessions ahead will be gruesome. They will undoubtedly be subjected to witnessing all 142 yards Edgerrin James rushed for in a losing cause," writes MacMullen in the Globe. "They will most certainly review the eight penalties for 55 yards, some that appeared to be the result of new, tighter restrictions in the defensive backfield. They will review a costly fumble by Deion Branch on a punt return."
One of last night's brightest stars was Corey Dillon, who rushed 15 times for 86 yards to accompany a monumental fumble recovery that occurred when Tom Brady was stripped behind the line of scrimmage. Dillon endeared himself to the passionate New England crowd in his Patriots debut, as evidenced by their repeated chants of Corey, Corey! "I guess people thought I was old and couldn't play anymore or something," Dillon told Cafardo. "I'm new here and for the crowd to receive me like that was very nice and exciting for me."
Ron Borges of the Globe attributes last night's victory to the play of the defense. "They won with an ill-tempered defense that refuses, regardless of what is in front of it, to give in," writes Borges.
Also in the Globe, Ron Indrisano lauds the performance of Brady, who he says outshined his counterpart, Peyton Manning. "The Patriots came out in a no-huddle, no-running back offense. Their opening drive, all passes, led to a field goal, and after that Brady kept at it, featuring effective play-action fakes sharp rollout throws," writes Indrisano.
Adam Kilgore reviews the impact of the new emphasis on defensive holding. "With only one flag thrown in the secondary in the first half, there seemed little difference in the way the referees were calling pass interference," writes Kilgore. "In the second, though, the Patriots were hit with what they felt were a rash of iffy pass interference calls brought about by the new emphasis on stopping defensive backs from impeding receivers after 5 yards."
Joe Burris commends Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James for a professional reaction to last night's loss. "I take the blame for the whole loss. The first fumble, I was just trying to slide for more yardage," James told Burris. "We moved the ball, and we did everything we wanted to do but we can't make mistakes. We can do things right and do the 11th thing wrong, and it's like we did it for nothing."
Burris also reports on the highlight of last evening's pre-game festivities, the raising of a second banner. "Amid the pulsating rhythms, blaring riffs, and fireworks displays that made Gillette Stadium a virtual Patriotpalooza last night, the defending Super Bowl champions unveiled their second championship banner," Burris writes.
In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger reviews the game, writing "it was a star-studded opening night unlike any other in the history of New England sports. It was a result that everyone has come to expect from the New England Patriots."
Felger also reports that the Patriots restructured Brady's contract, a move that spared them the difficult prospect of cutting veterans, but may prove costly against the salary cap down the road. "Sources confirmed last night that the Pats guaranteed Brady's $5.5 million base salary in 2004, a maneuver that saved the Pats around $3 million against this year's salary cap but pushed Brady's future cap numbers into Law's neighborhood," writes Felger.
Kevin Mannix says fans should be prepared for another wild ride with the Patriots this season. "[They] may not take you to the last stop like they did last year and chalk up another championship. But from what we saw last night, this team will still provide excitement and entertainment while finding a way to turn what looks like certain defeat into victory. Particularly against the Colts," writes Mannix.
Mark Murphy reports in the Herald that Ty Law was hurt last night, which explains why he continually came in and out of the game. "There was the Pats cornerback last night, missing most of the second half with a tightened right leg muscle as his teammates fell increasingly vulnerable to the so-called Patriot Act: The league's new emphasis on illegal contact in the secondary," writes Murphy.
Rich Thompson looks at Branch, who overcame a costly special teams fumble with a solid performance on offense, as he picked up the slack left by injured number one receiver Troy Brown. "With Brown out of the lineup with a knee injury, Branch became quarterback Tom Brady's primary target against the undermanned Colts secondary," writes Thompson. "Branch tied tight end Daniel Graham for the team lead with seven receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown."
In The Providence Journal, Tom Curran reviews the Colts mistakes that ultimately cost them the game.
Curran also reviews the play that may have sealed the Patriots victory, "another game-altering play against the Colts by the wizened veteran Willie McGinest."
Kevin McNamara of the Journal looks at the other big defensive play that helped the Pats down the stretch, this one courtesy of second-year man Wilson. "Wilson, known as one of the team's hardest hitters, popped James on the shoulder pad just as rookie Vince Wilfork was coming under him," writes McNamara. "When the ball jarred loose, Wilfork tugged it away and the Patriots had dodged a huge bullet."
While the plays by McGinest and Wilson were more than instrumental in the victory, the Patriots needed one more stroke of luck. They got it when Mike Vanderjagt, arguably the league's best kicker, ended his NFL-record streak of 42 consecutive made field goals missed wide right from 48 yards. As Jim Donaldson writes, "it should be pointed out that he would have had a chip shot had it not been for a third-down sack of Manning by Willie McGinest, who came in untouched from the left end."
Also in the Journal, Bill Reynolds contrasts the Patriots current success with all other previous Patriots eras, which were times of little success and, often, much embarrassment. "Like the time Bob Gladieux went to the opening game in 1970, a few days after he'd been cut by the Pats," writes Reynolds. "As the infamous story goes, Gladieux loaded up on brews before the game, then got called to the locker room during the pregame warmups, and actually found himself in the game."
Shalize Manza Young spotlights one player who has helped turn this team into such a roaring success, defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Seymour, with two Pro Bowls in his three year career, may be young, "but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel have entrusted the defensive line to the 24-year-old this season."
Check out the Journal's briefs, notes on the game from all of their Pats writers.
While many seem content to chalk up last night's victory to that Patriots "magic" that nows seems to be taken for granted, Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News knows the Patriots received more than their share of luck last night. "The Colts have the horseshoes on their helmets, but the Patriots had them in the place that counts last night. They were mighty fortunate to escape their season opener with a 27-24 victory over Indianapolis at Gillette Stadium," Reiss writes.
Reiss also reports on the personnel shuffling the team experimented last night, specifically on the offensive line. "In a sure-fire sign the Patriots have yet to settle on a full-time offensive line, the team took the unique step of shuffling its personnel throughout last night's season opener," writes Reiss.
Dan Pires of The Standard Times gives in-depth analysis of last night's game. "Part of the Colts' defensive game plan appeared to include cutting defensive end Richard Seymour's legs. Seymour spent a good deal of time on the ground on the Colts initial drives. The plan also included running right at him, too," Pires writes.
Ian Clark of The Union Leader points out that with all the surrounding fanfare combined with the hype of the actual game, last night's slugfest resembled another well-known football game. "The last time the New England Patriots took the field, there was a lot of pregame hype. Of course, that was a Super Bowl. Last night looked more like Super Bowl Lite," writes Clark.
In his game review, Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call highlights the difference made when McGinest's sack of Manning pushed the Colts back 14 yards. "In this league, a 34-yarder is automatic, but it's not as easy from 48," Vanderjagt told Parente.