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Patriots face tough test against Seahawks

Posted: Friday, October 15, 2004

Until the final 11 minutes of the Rams-Seahawks game last week, Seattle's visit to New England this Sunday looked like one of those overhyped matchups labeled ''Super Bowl Preview!!!!'' or ''Streak-Ender!''

It still could be either, of course.

But now it looks like just another home challenge to the Patriots by a good team the type that during their record 19-game winning streak they've always found a way to win. Ask Indianapolis or Tennessee, which have lost to the Patriots a combined five times (twice in the playoffs) during the run.

Seattle is a much more dangerous opponent than the Dolphins, against whom the Patriots won their 19th straight, setting the record for consecutive victories that dates back to last September and includes playoffs.

In the first 232 minutes of their season, the Seahawks allowed opponents just 23 points and were on the verge of going 4-0, just like the Patriots. Then they allowed 17 to the Rams in the final eight minutes of regulation and three minutes of overtime, a loss all the more painful because it came against the only team that figures to challenge them for the NFC West title.

''It's great to be good, but you have to couple being talented with playing smart,'' said coach Mike Holmgren, who acknowledged he should have been able to run out the clock because the Rams had no timeouts left.

''We'll learn from this a painful, painful lesson and then keep going because this is a pretty good football team.''

That ''pretty good football team'' now has the challenge of trying to be a streak-breaker.

And a streak-ender, because it turns out there's another landmark to reach this week for New England: 17 straight regular-season victories, the only one the NFL officially recognizes. The Chicago Bears did it in 1933-34 (the same Bears who also won 18 in a row, including the postseason).

The game is a homecoming for Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a former ball boy for the Patriots who played at Boston College and whose father Don played tight end for New England from 1977-83.

''I was a Patriots fan until they traded my dad in 1983,'' he says. ''Then I became a Raiders fan, a Vikings fan, then a Giants fan. Then when we were done playing, I became a ball boy.''

That might make a win even sweeter. But in any case, the Patriots seem bound to lose soon. They really aren't playing that well and they are hurt at wide receiver, one reason Tom Brady was 7-of-19 for 76 yards last week. After the Seahawks, they welcome the Jets, then visit Pittsburgh and St. Louis, four teams who currently are 14-4.

If they get by all four, the 1972 Dolphins might have something to worry about.

Carolina (1-3) at Philadelphia (4-0)

If the Eagles aren't motivated by their loss to the Panthers in last season's NFC title game, this could be a trap. But the Panthers, who went without almost any serious injuries last season, are losing stars weekly. The latest is All-Pro defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Sometimes a bye week can stop a team's momentum, although the Eagles played indifferently in their last game, a 19-9 win in Chicago. Donovan McNabb should have things easier against a defense missing DTs Jenkins and Brentson Buckner than he did in the title game last season.

Pittsburgh (4-1) at Dallas (2-2)

This will not be anything like the great Super Bowl battles these two had more than a quarter-century ago.

But it probably will be the most difficult task faced so far by Ben Roethlisberger, who has won his first three starts for the Steelers. Bill Parcells has been trashing himself and his team for mistakes in the loss to the Giants last week and an inspired Parcells defense is not normally friendly to rookie quarterbacks.

Green Bay (1-4) at Detroit (3-1)

The records are reversed from what they've been recently in this rivalry, although the Lions have won four of the last six games in Detroit, including a 22-14 victory last season. The two losses were by a total of eight points in Marty Mornhinweg's two disastrous seasons.

The Packers are three games under .500 for the first time since 1992, Brett Favre's first year in Green Bay. ''Obviously, I am shocked,'' coach Mike Sherman says. ''These are tough times. They are tough times for me, tough times for the team, tough times for our fans.''

Tampa (1-4) at St. Louis (3-2) (Monday night)

That rally in Seattle saved the Rams' chances of winning the division. Had they lost, they would have been three games back with a loss to the only rival that matters.

The Bucs won in QB Chris Simms' first start, but Simms went out and Brian Griese was sharp as his replacement. Griese starts this week, but his history has been mediocrity or worse after the occasional good game.

Minnesota (3-1) at New Orleans (2-3)

Daunte Culpepper has been brilliant for the Vikings 396 yards and five TDs in Houston last week. But that was almost a loss and this one could be dangerous against what is probably the NFL's most unpredictable team.

''We need a win obviously for our morale, for the organization, the city, fans, we need a W,'' says Deuce McAllister, who returned from a sprained ankle earlier than expected and ran for 102 yards against Tampa Bay, but had a fumble returned for a touchdown.

San Diego (3-2) at Atlanta (4-1)

Two of the more pleasant surprises in the NFL and an interesting convergence.

When the Chargers traded the draft rights to Michael Vick to Atlanta in 2001, they chose Drew Brees with the first pick of the second round. Brees currently is fifth in the league in passer rating at 100; Vick is 25th at 77.7.

The player San Diego took in the first round that year, LaDainian Tomlinson, has become one of the league's most valuable performers.

Miami (0-5) at Buffalo (0-4)

The NFL's only winless teams. But three of Buffalo's four losses are by a total of eight points, and in the fourth, the Bills were 17 yards away from tying New England when the Patriots forced a turnover for the clinching TD.

Thanks to Ricky Williams, the Dolphins have no running game, and both QBs, Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley are banged up. So this could be the first NFL start for third-stringer Sage Rosenfels. Or maybe Wes Welker, the return man/kicker, can play there.

San Francisco (1-4) at New York Jets (4-0)

The last time the Jets started 4-0 was under Al Groh in 2000, but they ended up 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

The 49ers haven't started this badly since 1979, Joe Montana's rookie year. Their one win came last week, when they had to come from 16 points down late to beat Arizona, whose history is as dismal as the Niners' is glorious.

Kansas City (1-3) at Jacksonville (3-2)

Are these teams moving up and down to the levels at which they were expected to play?

The Jaguars, who started with three close wins, have now lost two straight and allowed 176 yards rushing to San Diego, 103 of them by Jesse Chatman, who is not Tomlinson. Before that, opponents had averaged less than 110 against them.

Coach Dick Vermeil concentrated on defense (what else?) during the bye week after the Kansas City offense revived by beating up Baltimore and Ray Lewis for its first win.

Houston (2-3) at Tennessee (2-3)

The Titans aren't out of it after thrashing Green Bay, although they have long way to go to catch Indy in the AFC South. They're two games behind and have a home loss to the Colts.

''We won a game that was very important to us and classified by many as a must win. Now you have to continue to get better in that process and have to correct the mistakes,'' coach Jeff Fisher says.

The third-year Texans are no pushover after rallying to push the Vikings into overtime. But they got riddled by Daunte Culpepper last week and now face a healthy Steve McNair.

Denver (4-1) at Oakland (2-3)

Mike Shanahan is 14-4 lifetime against the team he once coached, which is having problems with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Collins has thrown seven interceptions in the 2 1/2 games since taking over for Rich Gannon, and Jerry Rice is vocally unhappy at being phased out.

The Broncos still know how to plug in any running back. Reuben Droughns had just 127 yards rushing in four-plus NFL seasons, then got 193 last week against Carolina.

Washington (1-4) at Chicago (1-3)

Two good defenses, saddled by awful offenses (see Miami and Buffalo).

Washington gained just 107 yards against Baltimore last week and neither Clinton Portis nor Mark Brunell seems to fit Joe Gibbs' offense. Jonathan Quinn is the quarterback for the Bears, which is probably enough said.

Cincinnati (1-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

The Bengals expected to take a step back when they installed Carson Palmer at quarterback. They didn't expect the defense to be this leaky, allowing an NFL-worst 166 yards per game on the ground, definitely not the route to improvement.

Cleveland has been crippled by injury. But Jeff Garcia is at the bottom of the NFL in passer ratings and isn't the answer at quarterback, certainly not long-term.

By DAVE GOLDBERG

AP Football Writer

Until the final 11 minutes of the Rams-Seahawks game last week, Seattle's visit to New England this Sunday looked like one of those overhyped matchups labeled ''Super Bowl Preview!!!!'' or ''Streak-Ender!''

It still could be either, of course.

But now it looks like just another home challenge to the Patriots by a good team the type that during their record 19-game winning streak they've always found a way to win. Ask Indianapolis or Tennessee, which have lost to the Patriots a combined five times (twice in the playoffs) during the run.

Seattle is a much more dangerous opponent than the Dolphins, against whom the Patriots won their 19th straight, setting the record for consecutive victories that dates back to last September and includes playoffs.

In the first 232 minutes of their season, the Seahawks allowed opponents just 23 points and were on the verge of going 4-0, just like the Patriots. Then they allowed 17 to the Rams in the final eight minutes of regulation and three minutes of overtime, a loss all the more painful because it came against the only team that figures to challenge them for the NFC West title.

''It's great to be good, but you have to couple being talented with playing smart,'' said coach Mike Holmgren, who acknowledged he should have been able to run out the clock because the Rams had no timeouts left.

''We'll learn from this a painful, painful lesson and then keep going because this is a pretty good football team.''

That ''pretty good football team'' now has the challenge of trying to be a streak-breaker.

And a streak-ender, because it turns out there's another landmark to reach this week for New England: 17 straight regular-season victories, the only one the NFL officially recognizes. The Chicago Bears did it in 1933-34 (the same Bears who also won 18 in a row, including the postseason).

The game is a homecoming for Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a former ball boy for the Patriots who played at Boston College and whose father Don played tight end for New England from 1977-83.

''I was a Patriots fan until they traded my dad in 1983,'' he says. ''Then I became a Raiders fan, a Vikings fan, then a Giants fan. Then when we were done playing, I became a ball boy.''

That might make a win even sweeter. But in any case, the Patriots seem bound to lose soon. They really aren't playing that well and they are hurt at wide receiver, one reason Tom Brady was 7-of-19 for 76 yards last week. After the Seahawks, they welcome the Jets, then visit Pittsburgh and St. Louis, four teams who currently are 14-4.

If they get by all four, the 1972 Dolphins might have something to worry about.

Carolina (1-3) at Philadelphia (4-0)

If the Eagles aren't motivated by their loss to the Panthers in last season's NFC title game, this could be a trap. But the Panthers, who went without almost any serious injuries last season, are losing stars weekly. The latest is All-Pro defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Sometimes a bye week can stop a team's momentum, although the Eagles played indifferently in their last game, a 19-9 win in Chicago. Donovan McNabb should have things easier against a defense missing DTs Jenkins and Brentson Buckner than he did in the title game last season.

Pittsburgh (4-1) at Dallas (2-2)

This will not be anything like the great Super Bowl battles these two had more than a quarter-century ago.

But it probably will be the most difficult task faced so far by Ben Roethlisberger, who has won his first three starts for the Steelers. Bill Parcells has been trashing himself and his team for mistakes in the loss to the Giants last week and an inspired Parcells defense is not normally friendly to rookie quarterbacks.

Green Bay (1-4) at Detroit (3-1)

The records are reversed from what they've been recently in this rivalry, although the Lions have won four of the last six games in Detroit, including a 22-14 victory last season. The two losses were by a total of eight points in Marty Mornhinweg's two disastrous seasons.

The Packers are three games under .500 for the first time since 1992, Brett Favre's first year in Green Bay. ''Obviously, I am shocked,'' coach Mike Sherman says. ''These are tough times. They are tough times for me, tough times for the team, tough times for our fans.''

Tampa (1-4) at St. Louis (3-2) (Monday night)

That rally in Seattle saved the Rams' chances of winning the division. Had they lost, they would have been three games back with a loss to the only rival that matters.

The Bucs won in QB Chris Simms' first start, but Simms went out and Brian Griese was sharp as his replacement. Griese starts this week, but his history has been mediocrity or worse after the occasional good game.

Minnesota (3-1) at New Orleans (2-3)

Daunte Culpepper has been brilliant for the Vikings 396 yards and five TDs in Houston last week. But that was almost a loss and this one could be dangerous against what is probably the NFL's most unpredictable team.

''We need a win obviously for our morale, for the organization, the city, fans, we need a W,'' says Deuce McAllister, who returned from a sprained ankle earlier than expected and ran for 102 yards against Tampa Bay, but had a fumble returned for a touchdown.

San Diego (3-2) at Atlanta (4-1)

Two of the more pleasant surprises in the NFL and an interesting convergence.

When the Chargers traded the draft rights to Michael Vick to Atlanta in 2001, they chose Drew Brees with the first pick of the second round. Brees currently is fifth in the league in passer rating at 100; Vick is 25th at 77.7.

The player San Diego took in the first round that year, LaDainian Tomlinson, has become one of the league's most valuable performers.

Miami (0-5) at Buffalo (0-4)

The NFL's only winless teams. But three of Buffalo's four losses are by a total of eight points, and in the fourth, the Bills were 17 yards away from tying New England when the Patriots forced a turnover for the clinching TD.

Thanks to Ricky Williams, the Dolphins have no running game, and both QBs, Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley are banged up. So this could be the first NFL start for third-stringer Sage Rosenfels. Or maybe Wes Welker, the return man/kicker, can play there.

San Francisco (1-4) at New York Jets (4-0)

The last time the Jets started 4-0 was under Al Groh in 2000, but they ended up 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

The 49ers haven't started this badly since 1979, Joe Montana's rookie year. Their one win came last week, when they had to come from 16 points down late to beat Arizona, whose history is as dismal as the Niners' is glorious.

Kansas City (1-3) at Jacksonville (3-2)

Are these teams moving up and down to the levels at which they were expected to play?

The Jaguars, who started with three close wins, have now lost two straight and allowed 176 yards rushing to San Diego, 103 of them by Jesse Chatman, who is not Tomlinson. Before that, opponents had averaged less than 110 against them.

Coach Dick Vermeil concentrated on defense (what else?) during the bye week after the Kansas City offense revived by beating up Baltimore and Ray Lewis for its first win.

Houston (2-3) at Tennessee (2-3)

The Titans aren't out of it after thrashing Green Bay, although they have long way to go to catch Indy in the AFC South. They're two games behind and have a home loss to the Colts.

''We won a game that was very important to us and classified by many as a must win. Now you have to continue to get better in that process and have to correct the mistakes,'' coach Jeff Fisher says.

The third-year Texans are no pushover after rallying to push the Vikings into overtime. But they got riddled by Daunte Culpepper last week and now face a healthy Steve McNair.

Denver (4-1) at Oakland (2-3)

Mike Shanahan is 14-4 lifetime against the team he once coached, which is having problems with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Collins has thrown seven interceptions in the 2 1/2 games since taking over for Rich Gannon, and Jerry Rice is vocally unhappy at being phased out.

The Broncos still know how to plug in any running back. Reuben Droughns had just 127 yards rushing in four-plus NFL seasons, then got 193 last week against Carolina.

Washington (1-4) at Chicago (1-3)

Two good defenses, saddled by awful offenses (see Miami and Buffalo).

Washington gained just 107 yards against Baltimore last week and neither Clinton Portis nor Mark Brunell seems to fit Joe Gibbs' offense. Jonathan Quinn is the quarterback for the Bears, which is probably enough said.

Cincinnati (1-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

The Bengals expected to take a step back when they installed Carson Palmer at quarterback. They didn't expect the defense to be this leaky, allowing an NFL-worst 166 yards per game on the ground, definitely not the route to improvement.

Cleveland has been crippled by injury. But Jeff Garcia is at the bottom of the NFL in passer ratings and isn't the answer at quarterback, certainly not long-term.

Patriots face a tough test against Seahawks

By DAVE GOLDBERG

AP Football Writer

Until the final 11 minutes of the Rams-Seahawks game last week, Seattle's visit to New England this Sunday looked like one of those overhyped matchups labeled ''Super Bowl Preview!!!!'' or ''Streak-Ender!''

It still could be either, of course.

But now it looks like just another home challenge to the Patriots by a good team the type that during their record 19-game winning streak they've always found a way to win. Ask Indianapolis or Tennessee, which have lost to the Patriots a combined five times (twice in the playoffs) during the run.

Seattle is a much more dangerous opponent than the Dolphins, against whom the Patriots won their 19th straight, setting the record for consecutive victories that dates back to last September and includes playoffs.

In the first 232 minutes of their season, the Seahawks allowed opponents just 23 points and were on the verge of going 4-0, just like the Patriots. Then they allowed 17 to the Rams in the final eight minutes of regulation and three minutes of overtime, a loss all the more painful because it came against the only team that figures to challenge them for the NFC West title.

''It's great to be good, but you have to couple being talented with playing smart,'' said coach Mike Holmgren, who acknowledged he should have been able to run out the clock because the Rams had no timeouts left.

''We'll learn from this a painful, painful lesson and then keep going because this is a pretty good football team.''

That ''pretty good football team'' now has the challenge of trying to be a streak-breaker.

And a streak-ender, because it turns out there's another landmark to reach this week for New England: 17 straight regular-season victories, the only one the NFL officially recognizes. The Chicago Bears did it in 1933-34 (the same Bears who also won 18 in a row, including the postseason).

The game is a homecoming for Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a former ball boy for the Patriots who played at Boston College and whose father Don played tight end for New England from 1977-83.

''I was a Patriots fan until they traded my dad in 1983,'' he says. ''Then I became a Raiders fan, a Vikings fan, then a Giants fan. Then when we were done playing, I became a ball boy.''

That might make a win even sweeter. But in any case, the Patriots seem bound to lose soon. They really aren't playing that well and they are hurt at wide receiver, one reason Tom Brady was 7-of-19 for 76 yards last week. After the Seahawks, they welcome the Jets, then visit Pittsburgh and St. Louis, four teams who currently are 14-4.

If they get by all four, the 1972 Dolphins might have something to worry about.

Carolina (1-3) at Philadelphia (4-0)

If the Eagles aren't motivated by their loss to the Panthers in last season's NFC title game, this could be a trap. But the Panthers, who went without almost any serious injuries last season, are losing stars weekly. The latest is All-Pro defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Sometimes a bye week can stop a team's momentum, although the Eagles played indifferently in their last game, a 19-9 win in Chicago. Donovan McNabb should have things easier against a defense missing DTs Jenkins and Brentson Buckner than he did in the title game last season.

Pittsburgh (4-1) at Dallas (2-2)

This will not be anything like the great Super Bowl battles these two had more than a quarter-century ago.

But it probably will be the most difficult task faced so far by Ben Roethlisberger, who has won his first three starts for the Steelers. Bill Parcells has been trashing himself and his team for mistakes in the loss to the Giants last week and an inspired Parcells defense is not normally friendly to rookie quarterbacks.

Green Bay (1-4) at Detroit (3-1)

The records are reversed from what they've been recently in this rivalry, although the Lions have won four of the last six games in Detroit, including a 22-14 victory last season. The two losses were by a total of eight points in Marty Mornhinweg's two disastrous seasons.

The Packers are three games under .500 for the first time since 1992, Brett Favre's first year in Green Bay. ''Obviously, I am shocked,'' coach Mike Sherman says. ''These are tough times. They are tough times for me, tough times for the team, tough times for our fans.''

Tampa (1-4) at St. Louis (3-2) (Monday night)

That rally in Seattle saved the Rams' chances of winning the division. Had they lost, they would have been three games back with a loss to the only rival that matters.

The Bucs won in QB Chris Simms' first start, but Simms went out and Brian Griese was sharp as his replacement. Griese starts this week, but his history has been mediocrity or worse after the occasional good game.

Minnesota (3-1) at New Orleans (2-3)

Daunte Culpepper has been brilliant for the Vikings 396 yards and five TDs in Houston last week. But that was almost a loss and this one could be dangerous against what is probably the NFL's most unpredictable team.

''We need a win obviously for our morale, for the organization, the city, fans, we need a W,'' says Deuce McAllister, who returned from a sprained ankle earlier than expected and ran for 102 yards against Tampa Bay, but had a fumble returned for a touchdown.

San Diego (3-2) at Atlanta (4-1)

Two of the more pleasant surprises in the NFL and an interesting convergence.

When the Chargers traded the draft rights to Michael Vick to Atlanta in 2001, they chose Drew Brees with the first pick of the second round. Brees currently is fifth in the league in passer rating at 100; Vick is 25th at 77.7.

The player San Diego took in the first round that year, LaDainian Tomlinson, has become one of the league's most valuable performers.

Miami (0-5) at Buffalo (0-4)

The NFL's only winless teams. But three of Buffalo's four losses are by a total of eight points, and in the fourth, the Bills were 17 yards away from tying New England when the Patriots forced a turnover for the clinching TD.

Thanks to Ricky Williams, the Dolphins have no running game, and both QBs, Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley are banged up. So this could be the first NFL start for third-stringer Sage Rosenfels. Or maybe Wes Welker, the return man/kicker, can play there.

San Francisco (1-4) at New York Jets (4-0)

The last time the Jets started 4-0 was under Al Groh in 2000, but they ended up 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

The 49ers haven't started this badly since 1979, Joe Montana's rookie year. Their one win came last week, when they had to come from 16 points down late to beat Arizona, whose history is as dismal as the Niners' is glorious.

Kansas City (1-3) at Jacksonville (3-2)

Are these teams moving up and down to the levels at which they were expected to play?

The Jaguars, who started with three close wins, have now lost two straight and allowed 176 yards rushing to San Diego, 103 of them by Jesse Chatman, who is not Tomlinson. Before that, opponents had averaged less than 110 against them.

Coach Dick Vermeil concentrated on defense (what else?) during the bye week after the Kansas City offense revived by beating up Baltimore and Ray Lewis for its first win.

Houston (2-3) at Tennessee (2-3)

The Titans aren't out of it after thrashing Green Bay, although they have long way to go to catch Indy in the AFC South. They're two games behind and have a home loss to the Colts.

''We won a game that was very important to us and classified by many as a must win. Now you have to continue to get better in that process and have to correct the mistakes,'' coach Jeff Fisher says.

The third-year Texans are no pushover after rallying to push the Vikings into overtime. But they got riddled by Daunte Culpepper last week and now face a healthy Steve McNair.

Denver (4-1) at Oakland (2-3)

Mike Shanahan is 14-4 lifetime against the team he once coached, which is having problems with Kerry Collins at quarterback. Collins has thrown seven interceptions in the 2 1/2 games since taking over for Rich Gannon, and Jerry Rice is vocally unhappy at being phased out.

The Broncos still know how to plug in any running back. Reuben Droughns had just 127 yards rushing in four-plus NFL seasons, then got 193 last week against Carolina.

Washington (1-4) at Chicago (1-3)

Two good defenses, saddled by awful offenses (see Miami and Buffalo).

Washington gained just 107 yards against Baltimore last week and neither Clinton Portis nor Mark Brunell seems to fit Joe Gibbs' offense. Jonathan Quinn is the quarterback for the Bears, which is probably enough said.

Cincinnati (1-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

The Bengals expected to take a step back when they installed Carson Palmer at quarterback. They didn't expect the defense to be this leaky, allowing an NFL-worst 166 yards per game on the ground, definitely not the route to improvement.

Cleveland has been crippled by injury. But Jeff Garcia is at the bottom of the NFL in passer ratings and isn't the answer at quarterback, certainly not long-term.



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