St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Even a tight defensive struggle is old hat to streaking New England


wire services
Published October 25, 2004

FOXBORO, Mass. - With a little more than two minutes to play and the Jets driving for a go-ahead score Sunday, the Patriots defense huddled on the sideline.

It was fourth and 8 from the New England 30, and the Patriots clung to a six-point lead. They stayed calm, drawing on their varied experiences in close games, and knew they had to get after Chad Pennington to have any chance at saving the game.

When the ball was finally snapped, Pennington hurried his throw to Wayne Chrebet, and Rodney Harrison broke up the pass with 2:14 remaining. The Patriots had come through again and extended their NFL victory streak to 21 games.

The Patriots also set the regular-season mark of 18 straight wins, surpassing the 17 won by the 1933-34 Chicago Bears. They also moved to 6-0 for the first time in franchise history while handing the Jets their first loss this season.

"Chrebet went up the seam, and I saw the ball. I saw Pennington looking at him and I just broke on the ball and tried to touch it," Harrison said. "We were successful at it."

Since 2003, the Patriots are 9-1 in games decided by seven points or less. For that reason, there was no panic when the Jets started driving down the field.

"It's nothing new to us," cornerback Ty Law said. "Whenever the situation presents itself, it's, "Oh we've done this before.' No one's tight, no one's nervous to make a play."

The matchup was the first pitting two undefeated teams with five or more wins since the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams were both 6-0 going into a game on Oct.28, 1973.

Sunday's game lived up to the hype and turned into a defensive struggle in the second half.

New England led 13-7 at the break and could not muster much on offense in the second half. Neither could the Jets until late in the fourth quarter. Facing fourth and 1 from their own 23, coach Herman Edwards decided to go for it.

Pennington made the first down on a 2-yard sneak. New York then marched to the Patriots 27. Richard Seymour and Willie McGinest made a crucial play on third and 5, forcing Curtis Martin to lose 3 yards on a run. On fourth down, Pennington tried to throw to Chrebet, but Harrison was there to make the play.

Edwards said there was no way the Jets would settle for three points.

"We're not kicking a field goal," Edwards said. "You're not going to get lucky and beat the champs. We were in fourth-down territory the whole way."

Tom Brady finished 20-of-29 for 230 yards and a touchdown, while Corey Dillon had 22 carries for 115 yards, the first 100-yard runner the Jets have allowed all season.

Martin passed Jim Brown for seventh place on the NFL career rushing list. He had 70 yards on 20 carries and now has 12,382 yards, compared to Brown's 12,312.

The Jets had their first drive of the game squelched because of a mistake, when Ted Johnson forced Jerald Sowell to fumble at the Patriots 15, and Randall Gay recovered.

"Playing New England is very much like playing chess," Martin said. "When two very good people play chess, the one that makes a mistake loses, and that's what happened today."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.