NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
The Patriots have already accomplished things never done in franchise history. They have won 10 straight games, which is a record in one season and overall, eclipsing the nine straight regular season games they won from Nov. 25, 2001 through Sept. 22 2002.
They have won 12 games for the first time in franchise history and are 7-0 at home for the first time ever. They have also allowed the second fewest points in football (222) behind only Tampa Bay (201). So while 2003 is already the greatest regular season in franchise history, it won't mean much if the Patriots can't close the season with a flourish that began in October and continues heading into the weekend.
The Patriots, who have clinched the division and no less than the third seed in the AFC, have now qualified for the postseason 12 times in 44 years and have captured their sixth division title since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Two of their three Super Bowl appearances have come following a season in which they won the division and earned a first round bye. The third, back in 1985, came as a Wild Card entry and saw the Patriots win three road games before being crushed by the Bears in Super Bowl XX. They have never been the conference's top seed.
Since the start of 2001, the Patriots are 35-14, but are 23-4 (.852) after Nov. 1, including 6-0 this season, 6-3 last season and 11-1 in 2001. One of those four losses came last year to the Jets.
The Patriots streak of 25 straight wins when taking a lead into the fourth quarter is the longest such streak in the NFL. The last time New England lost a game it led entering the fourth quarter was on Dec. 24, 2000, nearly three years ago, when it led Miami 24-17 entering the fourth and lost 27-24. Since then the Patriots have won six games in which they trailed or were tied entering the fourth quarter.
The Patriots secondary, with four new faces among its five regulars from last year to this, continues to lead a resurgent defense. With a log of 14 games this season, consider the following differences from 2002 to 2003. Opposing quarterbacks compiled a 75.4 passer rating against New England last year compared to a league-best 59.7 this year (minus-15.7). Opponents' completion percentage dropped 6.5 percent from 59.3 to 52.8. The Patriots already have an AFC-high (tied) 22 interceptions, four more than all of last season, and have allowed eight fewer touchdown passes (19 to 11).
The Patriots have only faced Chad Pennington once, and it was the young, impressive quarterback who won last December's matchup when he completed 23-of-33 for 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a game New York never trailed.
Pennington got his team on the board first when he hit Laveranues Coles for a 32-yard touchdown pass, but Kevin Faulk returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to tie the score. Pennington then found Moss for an 11-yard score for his second touchdown. The score was 17-17 midway through the third quarter when the Jets pulled away. Two John Hall field goals sandwiched Pennington's 15-yard scoring pass to Chrebet for the win. Curtis Martin rushed for 106 yards in the game while the Patriots managed 97 rushing yards as a team.
The Jets went on to beat the Packers the following week to win the division and bounce the Patriots from the playoffs.
The Patriots have six former Jets on the roster in Rick Lyle, Anthony Pleasant, Roman Phifer, Bobby Hamilton, Dedric Ward Fred Baxter. Five Patriots coaches, Belichick, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Brad Seely and Eric Mangini, have coached for the Jets.
The Patriots 13-5 record against the AFC East since the start of the 2001 season is the best in the division. The Jets are 10-8 during that time while Miami is 9-9 and the Bills are 5-13.
BY THE NUMBERS:
106 The number of passes the Patriots have defensed this year -- the most in the NFL. Baltimore is second with 90.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I haven't spent a lot of time listening to the radio with all due respect. I've been watching the Jets and they look pretty good." -- Bill Belichick when asked by a broadcaster if he is surprised that Red Sox trade talk involving Alex Rodriguez has dominated local talk radio rather than his 12-2 club.