|Patriots try to stay on course for perfect season against only franchise to do it|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 15:09|
With a win over Miami, one more victory the following weekend would give New England the first perfect regular season since the Dolphins did it 35 years ago.
Football fans everywhere are talking about the Patriots' chances of matching that accomplishment. Their players are in no mood to listen.
``If someone mentions something about our undefeated season, I hang up the phone,'' safety Rodney Harrison said. ``That's the way I maintain my focus. And I keep it off of channel 5, 2, 7, ESPN and all these other crazy shows.''
Tom Brady said the players don't even talk among themselves about being undefeated. But it's only human nature to do that, isn't it?
``Maybe,'' Brady said, ``we're not human.''
The Patriots, who visit the New York Giants in the final regular-season game, would rather listen to their coach overstate the challenge the Dolphins pose.
Late in the 2004 season, Miami was 2-11, but beat the Patriots, who had been 12-1. This year, New England is 14-0 and Miami was 0-13 until it beat Baltimore in overtime last Sunday. Six of the Dolphins' losses have been by three points.
``They lost some tough ones, but this really is a team that I don't think is reflective of their record,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ``They've been in a lot of competitive games.''
The Dolphins beat the Ravens 22-16, Baltimore's eighth straight loss, on Cleo Lemon's touchdown pass to Greg Camarillo in overtime. Two weeks earlier, the Patriots also faced the Ravens and needed a touchdown with 44 seconds left in the game to win 27-24.
Since then, New England beat Pittsburgh 34-13 and then the New York Jets 20-10 in rain and wind. Moderate temperatures with more rain are forecast for the Patriots' third straight home game Sunday.
The Dolphins outlook is brighter now.
They took a big step toward rebuilding by hiring former Patriots coach Bill Parcells as their executive vice president of football operations on Thursday.
Their first win improved their mood and they can provide a memorable accomplishment in a forgettable season - ruining the Patriots chance to become the only team other than the 1972 Dolphins to go undefeated through the regular season and playoffs.
``Oh, man, it would mean so much to everybody in South Florida,'' Lemon said. ``There's a lot of die-hard fans here. They love the Dolphins. There's a lot of history here and we know we're a part of that history. We want to uphold that history.
``If we can go out and get a win for the '72 team, that would be great. That would be really great, because those guys are legends.''
Many of them attended last Sunday's win. Would the team bring some of them to Sunday's game?
``If we felt like that'd make the difference, you're dang right we would,'' coach Cam Cameron said.
They wouldn't be able to stop Brady or Randy Moss. Brady needs five touchdown passes to break Peyton Manning's record of 49 in a season. Moss needs four scoring catches to break Jerry Rice's mark of 22 in a season.
For the first time this season. Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass last Sunday.
``We've made plenty of mistakes. Especially the last month of football, I don't think it's been our best,'' Brady said. ``It should be a challenge this week with Miami. We always struggle with them.''
The Patriots are 3-3 in their last three games against the Dolphins, but improved to 7-0 this season with a 49-28 win in Miami in which they led 42-7.
That comeback showed the Dolphins they could compete with the Patriots, even if it was for a short time in a lopsided loss.
``They're pretty much the smartest defense in the league,'' Lemon said. ``Those guys play well together; they play as unit. They communicate throughout the whole game and it's going to be tough.''
But now that they've won a game, the pressure is off. They no longer have to worry about being the first team to go 0-16. And the hype of an unbeaten team facing a winless team has disappeared.
`` We didn't want to make history, but I guess you could say that's out of the picture now,'' defensive end Jason Taylor said, `` but we have nothing to lose at all. There is no reason at all to be cautious about anything.''
He missed practice for the second straight day with a foot injury on Thursday, but Cameron said Taylor was optimistic he would play in his 129th straight game, which would break the team record held by Hall of Fame center Jim Langer.
Optimism was in rare abundance after the Dolphins' first win. So what would another victory do for them, especially against a team with a perfect record?
``Oh, man,'' Lemon said. ``You couldn't even imagine.''
But, Cameron noted, ``Everyone has done everything they can to knock them off and (it) hasn't happened yet.''
The Patriots have much bigger games ahead. Beating the Dolphins and Giants would be satisfying and they already have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But they know the competition gets tougher in January.
``Our goal wasn't to be, `Let's be 14-0 this year,' `` Brady said. ``This year's been a special year in that we are undefeated to this point. Believe me, if we go 16-1 this year, no one's going to be happy about that.''