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Win was half empty, half full

After taking time to look at the film of Sunday's improbable 33-30 comeback win over the Bears, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick admitted he saw plenty of good and bad.

In a game that saw the teams combine for just 12 points in the first half and convert on just 11-of-32 third downs, Belichick said in his Monday press conference that both teams did some things that they could build on.

"There were obviously a lot of highs and lows in that game," Belichick said. "We started out and had a number of problems, and the Bears really did a good job in a lot of areas and played very well obviously. Then the last 20 minutes of the game, or quarter and a half, or however you want to call it, even the two-minute drive at the end of the half, there were some positives there to start working with. In the end, a lot of things had to go right, and fortunately for us a lot of things did toward the end of the game. The end result is a fairly good feeling, but not without acknowledgement that there were a lot of problems in the game, a number of mistakes, and obviously a real close call there."

"Again, I think you've got to give the Bears a lot credit. They did an awful lot of things well, played very hard, played us about as tough as you could play it. But in the end, I certainly have to take my hat off to a lot of the players that stepped up and made big plays at key times, and were able to pull that one out. You can kind of look at this one half empty or half full, but just a little bit more on the positive side just based on the way it ended up."

As for negatives that need to be taken into consideration following the impressive win, Belichick pointed to third down play on both sides of the ball. The issue, along with red zone defense, has hindered the team throughout the season.

"Certainly the things that hurt us the most were our third down performance on both sides of the ball, that was a big factor in the first part of the game," Belichick said. "And the fact that we didn't do well converting, we were like 0-for-7 the first two and a half quarters out there on third down offensively. Defensively we gave up either third down conversions or a third down conversion that ultimately led to fourth down conversion."

"There were some other problems too naturally, we had some turnovers in the third quarter, but I think the third down conversion situation accentuated our problems significantly and that's something that we've been working on, and we need to continue working on."

But it is also important that regardless of how it was achieved the Patriots came away with a win. In the current nature of the NFL, that is the only thing that matters. At 5-4 the Patriots are just a game back of Denver for the best record in the AFC and are tied for first place in the AFC East. So as part of the win on Sunday there were some impressive group and individual efforts from Patriots players.

One such effort was kicker Adam Vinatieri's career-long 57-yard field goal that is also the longest in the NFL this season. Belichick said that you almost expect Vinatieri to continue to make amazing plays and that he is a "little spoiled" to have the consistent kicker.

"The way Adam hit the ball in pre-game I thought really that going in that direction, if we had to have it, that he'd probably would have a shot from 60," Belichick said. "The question in a situation like that, though, is not just whether he can get the ball there, but whether he can get it through. You try a 57-or 60-yard field goal, whatever it is, and miss it then you're giving them the ball at mid-field on a short field where the wind and field position in a game like that was important, particularly early in the game."

Another Patriots positive of late has been the production of the running backs in the passing game. In fact Kevin Faulk had a career game with seven catches for 109 yards and two scores against the Bears.

"One of the things actually we talked about this morning as one of the real positives of the game is that the backs did a good job of catching the ball. They made some big catches, and we got the ball to them on a number of occasions. That third-and-10 play to [Marc] Edwards on the slant was another big play in the game, so that was key for us to be able to keep that drive going. If we don't hit that one, I don't know. There's a lot of plays if we don't make them, I don't know, but that was a big one. The backs did a good job. They did a good job in blitz pick-up, because the pressures that we had for the most part weren't a problem with the backs on blitz pick-up, it was some other part of the protection. I thought they caught the ball well."

So following a key win against the Bears and a 2-0 start to a three-game road trip the Patriots, as the saying goes, have their destiny in their own hands. The schedule favors the team with three of the final four games of the season at Gillette Stadium against its AFC East foes. But first comes this Sunday's emotional game against the Raiders in a rematch of last season's "Snow Bowl." Both teams have been inconsistent to this point in 2002, but should be charged up for what should be an emotional Sunday night affair.

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