January 1, 2007


Winning note: In Nashville, it's a sound victory for the Patriots (Mike Reiss, January 1, 2007, Boston Globe)

Emotions were high on both sides, which resulted in Ed Hochuli's officiating crew calling nine assessed penalties on the Patriots (for 129 yards) and 10 on the Titans (for 119 yards). On one third-quarter Titans drive, the Patriots' defense was called for three 15-yard penalties -- roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness, and a personal foul. Also, veteran receiver Brown, who is considered one of the classiest players in the game, was called for unnecessary roughness.

"We got into a little pushing and shoving match that we didn't want to get into," said New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "We understood what was going on, and after that, we regrouped and came back out and finished things off."

The Patriots did finish with a bang, answering in the final 15 minutes after the Titans closed to 26-23 late in the third quarter. The Patriots scored the game's final 14 points and cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted two fourth-quarter passes, giving him 10 on the season, to seal the victory.

With the Patriots already having clinched a playoff spot and only able to move up to the No. 3 seed, there was some question as to how long several players would go, and starting quarterback Tom Brady was pulled with 11:05 left and the Patriots leading, 26-23. Brady finished 15 of 24 for 225 yards and one touchdown. His favorite target was receiver Reche Caldwell, who finished with a team-high four catches for 134 yards, which included a season-long 62-yard scoring bomb in the third quarter.

The Patriots enjoyed a big day on the ground, totaling 171 yards on 31 carries, with rookie Laurence Maroney (73 yards, 13 carries, TD) and 10-year veteran Corey Dillon (67 yards, 12 carries, 2 TDs) leading the way.

On both sides of the ball, the team rotated players at several positions, although the majority of starters went the distance, which was somewhat of a surprise.

If we take as our base assumption that a playoff run requires a good defense and a quarterback who's playing well, there would seem to be five teams with a good shot at winning the Super Bowl: San Diego, Baltimore, New England, New Orleans and Chicago. If we believe that the experience and past performance of that QB and of the head coach ought to be taken into consideration then we narrow the field to two favorites: the Ravens and the Pats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2007 8:43 AM

Chicago has a quarterback who's playing well?

If you give Chicago a quarterback, you might as well give Indianapolis a defense, and if you include the Saints you might as well include the Jets.

Posted by: pj at January 1, 2007 10:26 AM

The Bears mailed it in yesterday in a meaningless game, but Grossman had played well in December.

Posted by: oj at January 1, 2007 11:32 AM

The Bears? They will lose easily. Grossman played OK in two games after stinking it up in October and November.

Baltimore or New England should win, probably beating Philadelphia in the big game. Nobody else from the NFC should even be in the playoffs (although the Niners played well enough in beating Denver). Seattle can be good, but they have missed their stars for most of the year.

This has been a strange season, with teams streaking for 4 or 5 five weeks, looking unbeatable, and then suddenly falling apart. Only San Diego played well for the entire year. But they looked bad yesterday, and I don't think they can beat the Ravens in a tough game. The upset special is the Jets over the Pats.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 1, 2007 4:27 PM