Duane Starks Assumes Scapegoat Role

The Patriots defense has been nothing short of disappointing the first half of 2005. Free agents Monty Beisel, Chad Brown and Duane Starks were all supposed to play a big part on the team's defense, yet each has lost their starting roles. The last man to fall from grace is Duane Starks who has been unable to overcome nagging injuries to be the playmaker New England needs in the secondary. Thursday the team put Starks on IR, making him the latest scapegoat for the team's poor play.

Duane Starks Assumes Scapegoat Role
By Site Staff

The Patriots still don't have any answers for their porous defense. But they do have a scapegoat.

Cornerback Duane Starks, obtained from Arizona in an offseason trade, was benched for the second half of Monday night's 40-21 loss to the Colts. Starks was matched up against receiver Reggie Wayne for the first half, and after watching Wayne catch six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, the Patriots' coaching staff pulled the plug.

Randall Gay, who started at strong safety instead of at his normal cornerback spot, subbed for Starks. Gay eventually was removed, too, in favor of rookie Ellis Hobbs.

Starks has been in a terrible slump, and his demotion seemed inevitable.

Asked if it hurt to watch the second half from the bench, Starks said, "Of course. I'm a competitive person. I like to go out and compete. I like to be put in the right situation where I can go out and do some things. It just hasn't happened. The second half I was on the sidelines. I could have had a camera in my hand, just watching what was going on, same as you guys (in the media)."

Starks wasn't solely to blame for the loss, the second time this season that the Patriots have allowed 40-plus points at home.

Indy's Marvin Harrison twice got behind cornerback Asante Samuel for long gains and also out-jumped him for a 1-yard touchdown on a fade pattern. The Patriots, playing without star defensive lineman Richard Seymour (knee) for the fourth straight game, also failed to generate a pass rush against Peyton Manning.

"Basically, it seems like there's a problem that needs to be fixed," Starks said. "And it don't lie with one person, you know? It's just collectively as a group we need to come together."

Starks was placed on the reserve / injured list November 10, 2005, with a shoulder injury ending his season, and possibly his future as a Patriot.


--Not that it helped him, but quarterback Tom Brady enjoyed another fast start, at least statistically, against the Colts. He was 10-of-10 for 105 yards in the first half.

Brady has made a habit of sizzling openings against Indianapolis. He completed 10 of his first 11 attempts in last year's divisional playoff game, started 9-of-11 in the 2004 regular-season opener, was 7-of-9 to begin the AFC Championship Game after the 2003 season and hit on his first 12 passes in a win in Indy on Nov. 30, 2003.

Brady, now 6-1 lifetime against the Colts, was in no mood to talk about his game. Instead of taking questions, he gave a 14-sentence statement (sample: "I don't have much to say. I mean, we got our butts kicked") and left the interview room.

--Third downs have been a major problem for the Patriots over the last two weeks. They beat the Bills despite allowing Buffalo to convert half of their 14 chances. They had no such luck against the Colts, who were 12-of-17 (71 percent).

"That's the whole series," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "You can do well on first down and second down, but if you don't get off the field you have to do it all over again, first and 10. Third down is the biggest down in the series. That's a problem we have right now, and we have to work on it."

--LB Mike Vrabel had his second interception of the season. It was the seventh of his career.

--TE Daniel Graham's 31-yard TD catch on a screen pass was his third of the season and the 15th of his career.

--QB Doug Flutie saw his first regular-season action for the Patriots since Dec. 3, 1989. Flutie, in his second tour of duty with the team, was 3-of-7 for 20 yards and lost a fumble on the game's final play.

--WR Troy Brown (five catches for 57 yards) moved into second place on the team's all-time receiving yardage list, passing Irving Fryar. Brown has 5,728 career yards, four ahead of Fryar.

--WR David Givens had a season-long 35-yard reception on a third-and-23 in the second quarter.

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