January 6, 2002
Ericsson Stadium (73,250) - Grass
1:00 p.m. EST
This week's game will be broadcast regionally on CBS (locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston). Gus Johnson will provide the play-by-play detail and will be joined by broadcast partner Brent Jones.
WBCN's Rock Radio Network 104.1 FM. Gil Santos, now in his 25th season as voice of the Patriots, will call the action along with Gino Cappelletti. The tandem is enjoying their 18th season together. For a complete listing of all local affiliates, please see page eleven.
The New England Patriots (10-5) will close out the regular season when they travel to Carolina to play the Panthers on Sunday, Jan. 6. The game, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, was postponed along with all the other Week 2 games in the NFL following the tragedies of Sept. 11. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
The Panthers are the only NFL team the Patriots have never defeated. The Panthers won the only game played between the two teams during their expansion season of 1995 with a 20-17 overtime victory. A Patriots victory over the Panthers would not only even the series, but also improve the Patriots record against the NFC to 3-1 after going 0-4 in non-conference games a year ago.
The Patriots, who enjoyed the holidays with a Week 16 bye, enter the final week of the season riding the momentum of a five-game win streak. On Saturday, Dec. 22, the Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins in their final regular season game at Foxboro Stadium and snapped a five-game series losing streak to the Dolphins with a 20-13 victory. Twenty-four hours later, the Patriots wrapped up a playoff berth for the fifth time in eight seasons when the New York Giants defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Dec. 23.
The Patriots have won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11, but now must adjust their routine to keep their momentum despite having 15 days between games. Bye weeks have historically created obstacles for NFL teams. This year, the 28 teams that have enjoyed bye weeks have a combined 11-17 record (.393). Since bye weeks were initiated in 1990, the Patriots have only won four of their 12 games (.333) following their bye week.
A victory over the Panthers would give the Patriots an 11-5 regular season record, which would tie a franchise record for wins in a season (1996, 1986, 1985, 1978 and 1976). It would also tie Coach Belichick's best season as a head coach when he led the Cleveland Browns to an 11-5 record in 1994. The Patriots will need a victory to earn a division title and guarantee a home playoff game. A victory could also potentially earn the Patriots a second-place seeding in the conference, which would provide the Patriots with a bye week prior to hosting a divisional playoff game (playoff scenarios are listed on page eight of this release)