NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
WR Deion Branch's hand injury is not considered serious. Branch left the game during the Patriots' opening possession when he appeared to jam his fingers adjusting to catch a pass and did not return. He had a splint on his hand after the game. Asked if Branch will miss the Jets game this week, Belichick said, "I wouldn't think so." It remains possible that J.J. Stokes could be re-signed to add depth to the receiving corps again since Branch is dinged along with David Givens, who tweaked his leg but remained in the game. Durability has been an issue for the Patriots' receivers all season.
WR Bethel Johnson was inactive Sunday reportedly because the coaches were unhappy with his approach and preparation during the week. It is not unusual for the team to activate only four wide receivers for the game and with Troy Brown back in the mix, Johnson just seemed to be the odd man out. But the Boston Globe reported that Johnson's absence was disciplinary and a message to the rookie wideout to clean up his act. With the playoffs approaching and two critical division games on tap, coach Bill Belichick is obviously trying to get his team focused on what's ahead and not what it's already done.
DL Dan Klecko limped off the field during a goal-line offensive series when he apparently injured his leg serving as a lead blocker for Antowain Smith. DT Richard Seymour replaced him and Smith proceeded to score from 1 yard out with an impressive second effort.
RB Antowain Smith's lost fumble in Sunday's win was his first since the 2002 season opener when Pittsburgh's Lee Flowers both forced and recovered a Smith fumble. Neither of the turnovers resulted in points scored for the opponent. A CBS graphic indicated that Smith touched the ball 418 times between fumbles. Smith's 1-yard touchdown plunge Sunday was his 11th in his last 12 post-Dec. 1 games. The Patriots are 16-2 in games he rushes for a touchdown.
TE Daniel Graham re-emerged as a weapon in the passing game. Graham led the Patriots with five receptions for 69 yards and a 27-yard touchdown grab. He now has 36 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns after catching just 15 passes for 150 yards and one score as a rookie last season. He is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions along with Branch, Brown and Givens.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I didn't fumble so I'm not in his arena. I might be his next door neighbor, but I'm not in his house." -- Cornerback Tyrone Poole who, while returning an interception for a would-be touchdown, held the ball up in celebration at about the 5-yard line only to be caught from behind. He was responding to a comment made by teammate Ty Law that compared his display to Leon Lett's infamous Super Bowl fumble.