Patriots stick to formula

Associated Press
Published October 10, 2005

ATLANTA - The Patriots squandered a couple of big leads. That was merely a setup for Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, who combined again on a last-minute win.

Brady threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns and Vinatieri hit a 29-yard field goal with 17 seconds left to lead injury-plagued New England.

The Patriots avoided their first losing streak since 2002 despite squandering leads of 14-0 and 28-13 to a team that didn't have Michael Vick.

"We put a lot into this one," said Brady, who spouted off in defense of his teammates after a 41-17 loss to San Diego the previous week. "We've had doubters for a long time. We're just going to keep coming out and doing the hard things every week."

Matt Schaub filled in admirably for the injured Vick with three touchdown passes, including a tying score with 3:52 left. Schaub threw a 14-yarder to Dez White, then hit Brian Finneran for a two-point conversion.

With the Patriots backed up at their 26 on second and 20, Atlanta cornerback Allen Rossum was called for blatant pass interference on Deion Branch - the last of four penalties in four plays, giving New England a first down at the Falcons 44.

Patrick Pass, replacing the injured Corey Dillon, broke off a 15-yard gain that set up the 19th winning kick of Vinatieri's career - two of those, of course, won Super Bowls.

"The offense did a good job in the two-minute drill to get down there and use up all the clock," Vinatieri said. "We found a way to get it done."

Vick went out Oct.2 with a strained ligament in his right knee. He barely practiced all week but was listed as probable until Saturday, when the Falcons downgraded him to questionable.

Vick watched from the sideline, dressed in a visor and gray sweatshirt.

"He wasn't ready to play," coach Jim Mora said. "It was an easy decision. When a player is not ready to play, you are not going to put him out there in harm's way. This team felt confident we could perform with Matt Schaub, and I think we proved that to be true."

Schaub, a second-year player from Virginia, completed 18-of-34 for 298 yards and had no turnovers. Finneran caught five passes for 103 yards.

But the Falcons couldn't slow Brady, who completed 22 of 27 to lead a 483-yard performance by the Patriots.

Dillon rushed for 106 yards before he went to the locker room with an undisclosed injury late in the game. He returned to watch Vinatieri's winning kick and wouldn't disclose the nature of his problem.

NOTABLE: Mora said linebacker Edgerton Hartwell (right Achilles' tendon) and backup cornerback Chris Cash (arm) might be out for the season.