Pats sizzle in Monday night fizzle

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2000

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Drew Bledsoe and the New England Patriots won't soon forget one of the season's least meaningful Monday night matchups.

They got a rare victory, beating the Kansas City Chiefs, another team going nowhere, 30-24. Bledsoe threw for a season-high 282 yards and Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals in New England's highest-scoring game of the year.

For a change, the Patriots held on at the end after the Chiefs cut the lead to 30-24 on Elvis Grbac's 19-yard pass to Kevin Lockett with 3:58 left.

Kansas City drove down to the Patriots' 12-yard line but had no timeouts and time expired when Tony Gonzalez was tackled by Tebucky Jones in the middle of the field after a 5-yard completion.

''That was not the play that I wanted,'' Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham said. ''He didn't see anyone open, but the ball should have been thrown into the end zone.''

In their other Monday night game this season, the Patriots (4-9) gave up two touchdowns in the last 6:25 and lost to the New York Jets 20-19 in Week 2.

''We were able to build a big enough cushion to sustain it, but overall, that's not what we want,'' New England coach Bill Belichick said.

Two of the previous six Monday night games were decided on last-play field goals, but the Chiefs (5-8) fell short of ending a four-game losing streak with a last-play touchdown.

They gave up two fumbles after losing just four all season and wasted Grbac's 81-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Alexander, who has three scoring catches of over 80 yards in his career plus an 82-yard TD run.

And it came eight days after they suffered the indignity of becoming San Diego's first and only victim of the season. Grbac missed that game with an injured right index finger.

The Patriots treated a chilly crowd -- missing 9,964 no-shows -- to their best offensive display of a season in which they often faltered in the waning moments of games. They also entered the game with a 7-18 Monday night record, the worst in the AFC.

The win was some consolation after their 34-9 loss in Detroit on national television on Thanksgiving Day

''After the last game, we were really faced with a challenge,'' Bledsoe said. ''Which way were we going to go? Were we going to mail it in the last four games, or come out and compete?''

Bledsoe, who had thrown just two touchdown passes in his previous six games, threw two on Monday -- a 17-yarder to Troy Brown and a 1-yarder to tight end Jermaine Wiggins, signed seven days earlier after being cut by the Jets.

Bledsoe overcame a sore thumb he's played with for four games by completing 33 of 48 passes, including all seven on the drive to Wiggins' touchdown that made it 27-10 with 7:09 left in the third quarter. The completions were the third most of Bledsoe's career and the most since 1995.

''It's still a little sore'' Bledsoe said. ''It doesn't have a profound effect.''

The Chiefs marched back, reaching the New England 27, but Otis Smith intercepted Grbac's pass at the 4 and returned it 56 yards. The Patriots couldn't capitalize, as Vinatieri's 37-yard field-goal attempt went wide, ending his streak of 16 successful kicks.

Grbac then threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Gonzalez, cutting the lead to 27-17 with 13:43 left. But Sylvester Morris' fumble on the Chiefs' next possession was recovered by Tony George and led to Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal with 7:37 remaining.

Vinatieri had given New England a 20-10 lead on the last play of the half with a 53-yard field goal, the second longest of his career. He also hit a 48-yarder on the first series of the game before Todd Peterson tied it with a 42-yard field goal.

The Patriots, who had just two touchdowns in their previous three games, scored two in the first half. Kevin Faulk's 1-yard dive gave New England a 10-3 lead and Bledsoe's pass to Brown made it 17-10.

In between those scores, the Chiefs tied it on Grbac's pass to Alexander. It was Alexander's fourth touchdown of more than 80 yards in two seasons.

HEAD:'Skins' Snyder fires Turner

CREDIT:AP Photo/Elise Amendola

CAPTION:Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins is taken down by Chiefs safety Jerome Woods in Foxboro, Mass., Monday.

BYLINE1:By JOSEPH WHITE

BYLINE2:AP Sports Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Dan Snyder didn't have much time nor many options.

The Washington Redskins owner knew he wanted coach Norv Turner out. The problem was replacing him with three games left in the regular season.

After watching the most expensive team in NFL history fail to live up to his Super Bowl expectations, Snyder fired Turner on Monday and promoted passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie to try to salvage the season.

''It's all about winning,'' Snyder said. ''We assembled the best team we could put together. At this point we just really needed to make a change, driven with what I call some serious leadership.''

The owner pulled an all-nighter in making his decision, hours after the Redskins lost to the New York Giants at home Sunday and severely hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

Snyder and his brain trust examined the available names from the pro and college ranks. At about 12:30 a.m., they realized the obvious: With three games to go in the season, they would have to hire in-house.

By 2:30 a.m., Snyder had chosen Robiskie. At 11 a.m., Snyder fired Turner, who managed to produce only a 7-6 record this season with a $100 million roster.

''I've obviously been put in a good position to have an opportunity to win,'' said Turner, at times fighting back tears. ''This team has a chance to be 10-6. That's a disappointment to me. There's part of me that would like to be a part of it. There's part of me that understands why it's necessary to make a change right now.''

Turner, in his seventh season with the team, left with a 49-59-1 record and one trip to the playoffs.

Robiskie, 46, is a former offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders and was one of Turner's first hires in Washington. He is known for a tough-love coaching style from his dealings with temperamental Redskins receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.

In his first meeting with the team, Robiskie made an impassioned speech and received a standing ovation.

''Terry is blunt and to the point,'' defensive end Kenard Lang said. ''He's like a stick of dynamite. He's going to make something happen.''

It was stark contrast to Turner, an Xs and Os strategist who never came across as an effective communicator or motivator.

''Norv did not threaten players,'' guard Keith Sims said. ''Some guys took advantage of him. Terry -- you're not going to take advantage of him.''

Snyder said defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, the former head coach at Philadelphia and Green Bay, was not interested in the job.

To make the playoffs, the Redskins probably need to win their last three games -- in Dallas and Pittsburgh, and home for Arizona.

''I believe to get anyone to believe in you, trust you, you've got to motivate, and that's my coaching style,'' Robiskie said.

Robiskie's first move was to fire special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel, whose coverage and kicking units struggled much of the season. Tight ends coach Pat Flaherty will coach special teams as well as tight ends.

The search for a coach for the 2001 season will be headed by former college coach Pepper Rodgers, who was hired Monday to the newly created position of vice president of football operations.

Turner, hired as a first-time head coach by late owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1994, was third in seniority with one team behind Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher and Minnesota's Dennis Green.

But Turner needed six years to get the Redskins to the playoffs. That came last season, when Washington won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and defeated Detroit in the first round of the postseason before losing 14-13 at Tampa Bay.

The 48-year-old coach earned a reputation as a master strategist with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl teams in the early 1990s. Some of his game plans in Washington were truly masterful, but his inability to keep players focused and motivated led to his downfall.

''We saw where the traction was being lost,'' co-owner Fred Drasner said. ''We were like a 4-wheel drive in the mud. Either you keep spinning the wheels, or you go get the winch. I think we chose to get the winch, and the winch was Terry.''

The stakes became higher this season when Snyder spent millions on players, including Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, and draft picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, also brought in Rhodes to handle the defense.

But injuries, unforced errors and an erratic kicking game took their toll. In three games this season, missed field goals contributed to losses, and Turner used four placekickers. On Sunday, 44-year-old Eddie Murray was short on a 49-yard field goal attempt in the final minute.

Snyder acknowledged the injury problem -- three offensive starters have been lost for the season -- but he said it was no excuse.

''We've had some injuries this year,'' Snyder said. ''But championship teams overcome the injuries.''



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