Patriots One Win From Perfect Season

Monday, December 24th 2007, 7:48 am
By: News On 6

On to the Meadowlands for the last step in a perfect regular season for the New England Patriots.

Oddly, the only team that can stop the Patriots from going 16-0 might be resting many of its top players in preparing for the playoffs.

The New York Giants clinched the fifth seed in the NFC by beating Buffalo 38-21 Sunday. So when New England brings its record-tying string of 18 regular-season victories to Giants Stadium on Saturday night, only the Pats might be going all out.

``I'm not worried about that game,'' Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. ``I'm enjoying being 10-5. I'm looking forward to Christmas and looking forward to the playoffs.''

New England beat Miami 28-7 as Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, two to Randy Moss. Brady's 48 TD passes this season are one short of Peyton Manning's league record, and Moss' 21 scoring receptions are one behind Jerry Rice's single-season mark, albeit achieved in 12 games.

``When you look back at the end of your career, you'll be excited about individual records,'' Brady said, ``but winning's more important and I think that's really what everyone's concerned about.''

Jacksonville secured the fifth seed in the AFC with a 49-11 rout of Oakland. Tennessee put itself in control of the other conference wild-card berth when it beat the New York Jets 10-6 and Cleveland lost at Cincinnati 19-14.

Green Bay blew any shot at the NFC's top seed when it lost to Chicago 35-7. Dallas, which won 20-13 at Carolina on Saturday night to move to 13-2, owns the No. 1 spot and the Packers will be No. 2.

San Francisco defeated Tampa Bay 21-19, meaning the Buccaneers will be the NFC's fourth seed. Seattle earned the third seed by beating Baltimore 27-6.

Washington climbed into a tie with Minnesota for the final NFC wild-card spot with a 32-21 victory. Should the Redskins (8-7) beat the Cowboys next Sunday, they will go to the playoffs.

Also, it was Indianapolis 38, Houston 15; Philadelphia 38, New Orleans 23; Arizona 30, Atlanta 27 in overtime; and Detroit 25, Kansas City 20.

On Monday night, Denver is at AFC West champion San Diego.

The weekend began with Pittsburgh beating St. Louis 41-24 on Thursday night.

Patriots 28, Dolphins 7

The Patriots are the first team to go 15-0 in a regular season. The old mark: Miami's 14-0 in 1972 when the season lasted just 14 games.

Today's disjointed Dolphins (1-14) couldn't protect the record of their dominant predecessors. But those Dolphins finished 17-0 and won the Super Bowl, so New England still has plenty to shoot for.

The host Patriots tied their NFL record of 18 consecutive regular-season wins set in 2003-04. They also broke the league mark of 70 touchdowns in one season by the 1984 Dolphins, reaching 71.

Giants 38, Bills 21

A Bills team inspired by Kevin Everett's return to the field where he was injured could not overcome its mistakes and inability to stop the run.

Brandon Jacobs scored twice and Ahmad Bradshaw had an 88-yard TD run in sloppy conditions as the Giants (10-5, 7-1 on the road) assured themselves a trip to Tampa in the first round of the postseason. Kawika Mitchell's 20-yard interception return produced the go-ahead points and sparked a three-touchdown fourth-quarter rally.

The Giants, who reached the playoffs for a third straight season, fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, as the Bills (7-8) came out fired up after Everett addressed the team before the game. It was the tight end's first appearance in Buffalo since he sustained a serious spinal cord injury in the Bills' season opener Sept. 9.

Everett, who is now walking on his own, watched the ugly and sloppy game from a suite near midfield.

Jaguars 49, Raiders 11

At Jacksonville, Fla., Fred Taylor's 62-yard touchdown run on the opening play set the tone. Taylor finished with 111 yards as the Jaguars (11-4) won for the sixth time in seven games.

``We won this game like we needed to,'' Taylor said. ``But I don't think anybody's overly excited. We're excited about making it, but you don't see anybody jumping for joy or any champagne being popped in here. It's just another game that we're guaranteed to play.''

The Raiders (4-11), who took their worst loss of the season, finally turned things over to No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Russell was 7-for-23 for 83 yards with a touchdown _ a 2-yard pass to Zach Miller with 6 seconds remaining _ three interceptions and a fumble.

Titans 10, Jets 6

Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch had three of Tennessee's six sacks and Chris Brown ran for a touchdown. The Titans survived a sloppy game in which Vince Young was sacked three times and made two turnovers. LenDale White finished with 103 yards for his first 1,000-yard rushing season in his second year.

The Titans (9-6) must win at the Colts next Sunday night to get the sixth seed in the AFC. If they lose, Cleveland goes to the playoffs regardless of what it does next weekend.

The visiting Jets (3-12) started Tennessee native Chad Pennington for the first time since Oct. 28. He finished with 264 yards passing, and New York outgained Tennessee 296-273 on offense. But he was picked off twice, including once in the end zone by linebacker Keith Bulluck.

Bengals 19, Browns 14

At Cincinnati, Derek Anderson's consecutive interceptions set up a pair of rapid-fire touchdowns late in the first half, and he threw four in all in a loss that left the Browns scrambling for a playoff spot.

Cleveland (9-6) could have clinched with a victory over the down-and-out Bengals (6-9), but the Browns acted more like the team playing it out: dropped passes, a botched field-goal attempt, coming up short on fourth-and-short. Ultimately, they couldn't overcome a bad game by Anderson, who tied his career high with the four interceptions.

With Cleveland's loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the AFC North title.

One of the NFL's worst defenses allowed Kenny Watson to run for 130 yards and a touchdown for Cincinnati.

Redskins 32, Vikings 21

At Minneapolis, the Redskins shut down Adrian Peterson and set up two early touchdowns with interceptions to take control of their playoff fate.

Todd Collins was 22-for-29 for 254 yards and two touchdowns and Clinton Portis had 124 total yards, threw a TD pass and ran for another score for the Redskins (8-7), who can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Dallas next week.

Peterson had nowhere to go all night, gaining just 27 yards on nine carries. Tarvaris Jackson's rebound from a difficult start came too late for the Vikings (8-7), who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.

Bears 35, Packers 7

At Chicago, Brian Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown for the first time in his career, going 85 yards, and Adrian Peterson ran for 102 yards on a frigid afternoon.

Brett Favre was at his worst on a bone-chilling, windy and at times snowy afternoon, and the Packers (12-3) took their second loss at the hands of their archrivals. He passed for just 9 yards in the first half and 153 overall, giving him 4,058 this season and putting him over the 4,000-yard mark for the fifth time.

The Bears (6-9) blocked two punts by Jon Ryan, who also dropped a snap and booted a 9-yarder.

The Packers had gone 12 years and 929 punts without a block before Darrell McClover knocked one down in the second quarter. More damaging was Charles Tillman's block midway through the third quarter. Corey Graham recovered at the 7 and ran it in for a 28-7 lead.

Cowboys 20. Panthers 13

On Saturday night, Tony Romo threw for 257 yards and a touchdown to Terrell Owens, who then went out with a sprained ankle at Carolina (6-9).

Owens will have three weeks until Jan. 12 or 13 to heal the left ankle injury sustained in the second quarter. X-rays showed no break and he left the stadium on crutches, but smiling and wearing a Santa hat. He vowed to be ready for the playoffs, and an MRI taken Sunday showed no further damage, confirming the original diagnosis of a high ankle sprain.

49ers 21, Buccaneers 19

At San Francisco, Shaun Hill passed for three touchdowns to remain unbeaten as an NFL starter, and Michael Clayton landed out of bounds with his catch on a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:20 left for Tampa Bay (9-6).

Nate Clements' 62-yard interception return set up Frank Gore's TD catch with 14:11 left for the 49ers (5-10), who beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season. Darrell Jackson and Vernon Davis also caught touchdown passes for San Francisco.

Jeff Garcia passed for 196 yards and a touchdown against his former team before coach Jon Gruden removed him and most of the Buccaneers' playmakers late in the first half.

Tampa Bay hasn't won in San Francisco in 27 years.

Seahawks 27, Ravens 6

At Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck shook off two interceptions to throw two touchdown passes and Shaun Alexander had his biggest rushing day since Week 4.

Hasselbeck's scores gave him a career-high 27 TD throws this season. One went to Alexander, on a screen pass of 14 yards that gave Seattle (10-5) a 21-0 lead late in the first half. Alexander finished with 73 yards rushing on 13 carries.

The Ravens (4-11), with 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completing 16 of 33 passes in his first NFL start, extended their franchise-record losing streak to nine games. It took Smith's 79-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason with 4:41 left for Baltimore to avoid its first shutout since Sept. 15, 2002.

Colts 38, Texans 15

At Indianapolis, Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes, Joseph Addai and Clifton Dawson ran for TDs, and the Colts (13-2) scored on six of their first eight possessions.

Manning & Co. finished with 458 yards, scored 38 straight points and won their sixth in a row. The Super Bowl MVP was 28-for-35 for 311 yards with a rating of 132.3 before leaving late in the third quarter.

Dallas Clark broke the single-season franchise records for receptions and touchdown catches by a tight end. Clark caught six passes for 60 yards and two TDs, giving him 57 receptions for 661 yards and 11 TDs this season. Hall of Famer John Mackey held the previous records of 55 receptions and nine TDs.

Bob Sanders, Matt Giordano and Melvin Bullitt all had interceptions. Houston (7-8) was trying to win a franchise record eighth game.

Eagles 38, Saints 23

At New Orleans, Donovan McNabb passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns. McNabb no longer showed any effects of his rehabilitation from knee surgery last year or an ankle sprain in midseason. His 40-yard scramble on the third play led to a bizarre touchdown after his fumble was recovered in the end zone by Kevin Curtis.

Drew Brees threw for 289 yards and an interception, and lost his best receiver when Marques Colston left the game in the first half with a chest contusion. Still, the Saints (7-8) were in position to tie at 21 on the opening drive of the second half when David Patten nearly scored on a short first-down pass.

Saints coach Sean Payton thought Patten crossed the goal line and challenged, but the call was upheld. The Eagles then stuffed New Orleans on three straight running plays, taking possession at their 2.

Philadelphia (7-8) followed with a 15-play, 98-yard, 7-minute scoring drive that McNabb capped with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis. McNabb also had touchdown passes of 31 yards to Reggie Brown and 7 yards to Curtis.

Cardinals 30, Falcons 27, OT

Neil Rackers kicked a 29-yard field goal to force overtime, then booted one from 31 yards on the first possession of the extra session for Arizona (7-8). Rackers celebrated by sliding on his knees across the grass. He had missed what would have been a game-winning 32-yarder against San Francisco earlier this season.

The visiting Falcons (3-12), who rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead, lost their sixth in a row in a season that has included the loss of star quarterback Michael Vick in a dogfighting scandal and the abrupt departure of coach Bobby Petrino.

Kurt Warner completed 36 of 53 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, two to Anquan Boldin, who caught 13 for 162 yards. Boldin became the fastest to reach 400 career catches in NFL history.

Lions 25, Chiefs 20

At Detroit, the Lions (7-8) snapped a six-game losing streak and surpassed the most victories they've had in any of seven seasons under team president Matt Millen. Detroit also guaranteed it won't be the first team in the league to finish 6-10 after winning six of its first eight games.

T.J. Duckett ran for a season-high 102 yards and a touchdown.

Kansas City (4-11) has dropped eight straight, the franchise's worst skid since losing nine in a row in 1987.