The Patriots extended their winning streak to 17 games with a 23-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon. Though the win was sloppy at times, there are several positives to take out of the desert. First and foremost was the performance of running back Corey Dillon, who ran 32 times for 158 yards. As Ron Borges writes in The Boston Globe, "it was the kind of game Corey Dillon was brought to New England to win."
While Dillon dominated on the ground, the star of the passing game was unquestionably David Givens, who stepped up after an injury to Deion Branch to finish with six catches for 120 yards. Givens had 95 of those yards in the second half, and as Joe Burris notes in the Globe, "his efforts were among the reasons the Patriots never appeared in jeopardy of losing their lead."
Burris also gives credit to the defense, which was looking to rebound from a less than stellar game against Indianapolis. "The heat was on the Cardinals from the outset. In the first half, they had just 49 yards of total offense on 27 plays. That included 3 yards on 14 plays in the second quarter," writes Burris. "The Cardinals, after recovering a Tom Brady fumble and returning it to the New England 11, had to settle for a 51-yard field goal by Neil Rackers on their second drive of the second quarter. The summary of that scoring drive: 4 plays, minus-22 yards."
Nick Cafardo of the Globe lauds Mike Vrabel for his heads-up act of chicanery that contributed to a missed Arizona field goal shortly before halftime.
Cafardo also reviews the game, pointing out that the Patriots have room for improvement, but also a knack for racking up the W's. "The Cardinals might have been pesky and tough, the 100-degree heat on the field posed some problems, and the emotional halftime tribute to Pat Tillman gave the Patriots all they could handle, but New England has made winning a habit and an art form," writes Cafardo.
Jerry Brown of the Globe looks at yesterday's game through the eyes of Arizona quarterback Josh McCown. McCown, who was harassed all game by the swarming Pats defense, had only high praise for the defending champions. "I got outside the pocket a few times, and there were people coming from everywhere. It's rare to see guys coming from the other side of the field at full speed. They are all coming and they play the whole play," McCown told Brown.
In The Boston Herald, Michael Felger highlights the disappointment the Patriots felt knowing they could have done more against the Cardinals. "The Pats had just secured their 17th consecutive victory with a 23-12 win over woeful Arizona, and many key veterans weren't happy about it," writes Felger. "They saw a game that should have been a blowout turn into a tight second-half affair only because of their own sloppiness and ineffectiveness."
Kevin Mannix of the Herald supports Felger's points by quoting Brady. "We left a lot of plays out there today," Brady told Mannix. "The way we're playing now isn't going to be good enough much longer. It's good to get a win, especially on the road, but we're just not doing the things we need to do."
In today's notebook, Felger reports on the injury suffered by Branch just before the half. "It was a scary play that led to a scary scene, but based on the post game comments of coach Bill Belichick, it appears the Patriots and Deion Branch dodged a bullet yesterday," writes Felger.
Brian Gomez of the Herald reviews yesterday's halftime ceremony honoring Pat Tillman. "On Sunday, Tillman, the first NFL player killed in combat since the Vietnam War, was honored across the NFL, as all players wore No. 40 decals on the back of their helmets," writes Gomez. "The Cardinals paid tribute to their former player at halftime of the 23-12 loss to the Patriots, including the presentation of a framed jersey with Tillman's name and No. 40 to his widow, Marie."
Gomez also gives credit to tight end Daniel Graham, whose two catches both went for touchdowns. "It was the type of production the Patriots needed from Graham, whose crisp routes drew attention downfield, enabling wide receiver David Givens to find open seams," writes Gomez.
G.E Branch III of USA Today reviews yesterday's game with an eye on streaks. "From the New England Patriots' 17th win in a row to a smudge on Jerry Rice's incandescent résumé, Sunday's NFL games were characterized by streaks," writes Branch.
In The Providence Journal, Tom Curran's game review is keyed by the Pats new workhorse. "Yesterday was plain evidence of why the Patriots took a chance and traded a second-round pick for Dillon in April when other teams turned their nose up at him, writes Curran. "He can single-handedly cover up a lot of ills, and the Patriots had some yesterday."
Jim Donaldson of the Journal contrasts the success of the Patriots with this weekend's failings by the Red Sox and the Ryder Cup team.
Donaldson also notes that the Pats were able to beat the heat yesterday by constantly rotating their on-field personnel.
In their Patriots notebook, Donaldson and Curran discuss the Patriots contingent of fans that surfaced in Arizona, various bumps and bruises suffered by the team, and the unusually uneven game played by Brady. "Folks have grown accustomed to the Patriots quarterback threading throws into tight spots, making quick decisions and hardly ever missing open receivers. But against the Cardinals, Tom Brady labored a little."
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant looks back at Dillon's performance, pointing out that the more Dillon runs the more the defense will get to rest. "And that's why even though Corey Dillon has been [Roman] Phifer's teammate for only a few months, he is rapidly becoming Phifer's favorite player," writes Greenberg.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call also reviews Dillon's game, noting that the Pats new running back is just happy to be here, and continues to say and do all the right things. "Dillon would've had a touchdown, but it got called back thanks to a penalty by Christian Fauria. That did little to dampen his spirits. As long as the team wins, he's satisfied regardless of what the numbers are," writes Parente.