Unbeaten Patriots play third straight night game Print
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Thursday, 29 November 2007 13:53
NFL Headline News

 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Ty Warren starred under the ``Friday Night Lights'' as a high school player in football-crazy Texas.
With the prime-time Patriots, the defensive end is playing in the glow of Sunday night lights, Monday night lights and even Saturday night lights.
An outstanding team with brilliant, photogenic quarterback Tom Brady and acrobatic, sometimes controversial receiver Randy Moss makes for great ratings. So the networks piled on and, on Monday at Baltimore, New England will play its third straight night game - one of its six this regular season.
Warren also did his best work after the sun went down at Bryan High School.
``That was just high school,'' he said Thursday. ``It was so long ago. But for now, it's just something that comes with the territory. Right now, I think the New England Patriots and whoever the opponent is, people want to see (them) play.''
The unbeaten Patriots aren't as thrilled.
``We're so excited about that,'' coach Bill Belichick said, abandoning his bland delivery for a shot of sarcasm.
``It's fun to play on Monday night,'' Brady conceded, ``but I think most guys would love to play Sunday at 1, every single week.''
With three of the last six Super Bowl championships and nine blowout wins in 11 games this season, the Patriots facing any team sure beats a yawner between non-contenders. That can send football junkies to bed at halftime or before after a full Sunday of watching afternoon games.
On the original schedule, the Patriots had five night games.
Under the flex system by which a popular game can be switched to Sunday night, a sixth was added on Nov. 18 at Buffalo. They won that 56-10, tying their record for most points in a game. They followed it last Sunday with a 31-28 win over the Philadelphia Eagles that was the highest-rated Sunday night telecast in NFL history.
For Kevin Faulk, a night game is just another part of his routine.
``It's work. It doesn't matter,'' the running back said. ``If they tell you (that) you have to go interview somebody at 6 o'clock in the morning, you would be there, right?''
At least one reporter questioned that assumption, but ``that's your job,'' Faulk persisted. ``You have to go do it.''
So far, New England has beaten San Diego, Buffalo and Philadelphia on Sunday nights and Cincinnati on Monday night. After the Monday night game with the Ravens, the Patriots' remaining prime-time appearance will be in the season finale at the New York Giants on a Saturday night.
Before the flex schedule was instituted last season, teams could play a maximum of four night games a season. That increased to six in 2006 and only three teams are allowed to play that many in the same season.
Last year, Denver and Dallas were the only teams to play six night games. Three of them were in succession and the Broncos went 0-3, then lost their next game, while the Cowboys were 1-2 and also lost the following week. Both finished at 9-7.
This year, only New England and Dallas have six night games. The Patriots are the only team with three in a row.
``You play when they tell you to play,'' Brady said. ``The fun part about Monday night is just before the game at 8 o'clock when you're ready to go out there, and the bad part is about 11:30 as soon as the game is over.''
That makes for a busy work week - and less time to rest bruised bodies - before the next game. The Patriots play at home the following Sunday against Pittsburgh. That original starting time of 1 p.m. was pushed back to 4:15 p.m., which means most of that game also will be played in the pre-winter darkness.
Including playoffs, the Patriots played 21 night games in the past five seasons after winning the 2002 Super Bowl. In the 32 seasons before that since Monday night football began in 1970, they played just 47 night games in the regular season and playoffs.
Several Patriots said night games aren't a major adjustment. It gives them a few extra hours to watch tape or study their playbooks.
``Most of these guys all went to bigtime colleges, are used to playing college football at night,'' fullback Heath Evans said. ``Since we've been in the pros, we've played night games, so it's really no big deal either way.''
The Patriots had just one regular-season night game in 2001. But in the next five seasons, they played four night games in three of those years and three night games in two of them.
But six?
``I'd rather be watched than not be watched, so it's a good thing,'' Warren said.
The Ravens have four night games this season, two of them back-to-back against New England and Indianapolis.
Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas had three seasons of four night games in the past seven seasons with the Ravens.
``You don't have to worry about energy on Monday night, Sunday night,'' he said. ``It's a national stage.''
He made sure, though, to avoid any game-day meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner - containing a Baltimore specialty.
``I'm allergic to shellfish,'' he said. ``As far as night games, I'm not allergic to them. If so, I'd have hives all over.''
 

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