New England is 2nd in NFL in 4th-quarter points allowed

Updated: October 25, 2004, 6:17 PM ET
Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are unbeaten because of a simple approach -- score a lot early and keep the other team from scoring late.

They're third in the NFL with 40 points in the first quarter, trailing only Philadelphia and Kansas City, and second with 18 points allowed in the fourth quarter, behind Denver's 3.

"There's no doubt that that's the way you want to start," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "We have been more successful (doing that) this year than we have in other years."

The latest example came Sunday when New England scored on all three of its first-half possessions against the New York Jets and won 13-7 after neither team scored in the second half. The victory broke a tie for the AFC East lead, with the Patriots improving to 6-0 and the Jets dropping to 5-1.

The Patriots also set an NFL record with their 18th straight win and extended to 21 games their record winning streak, including playoffs.

But many of those victories were tough. Wins over Indianapolis, Buffalo, Seattle and New York weren't secured until late in the fourth quarter.

"We go through a lot of situational football (in practice) so when it is a critical moment, we don't panic," safety Rodney Harrison said. "Someone always steps up and makes a play."

All that practice paid off on New England's last drive of the first half that made the score 13-7 on Tom Brady's 7-yard scoring pass to David Patten.

The Patriots started at their 38-yard line with 1:49 left in the half after the kickoff following Chad Pennington's 1-yard touchdown run. They moved to a first down at the Jets' 14 with 35 seconds remaining.

"We practiced that exact situation," Belichick said of that possession.

An incomplete pass was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Dewayne Robertson that moved the ball to the 7. Kevin Faulk was stopped for no gain and New England called timeout with 11 seconds remaining.

Then Brady threw his touchdown pass to Patten to erase a 7-6 deficit.

"We try to prepare every week for every situation because we don't know what the end of the game's going to be," Belichick said. "Sometimes you hit those when you prepare and sometimes you don't."

The Patriots have one less day of preparation this week because Belichick gave his players off Monday in addition to the usual Tuesday off day. They return Wednesday to prepare for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are 5-1 and the NFL's most successful offensive team inside the red zone.

Belichick is worried more about rookie quarterback Ben Roethslisberger than enjoying the winning streak, which he didn't mention Monday.

"He's been a productive guy for them, and a lot of it comes at the end of a game," Belichick said.

The Steelers also have a strong running attack, the fifth most productive in the NFL, but the Patriots' run defense has improved since Indianapolis rushed for 202 yards against them in the opener.

"Other teams have tried to attack us using some of what Indianapolis tried," Belichick said. "We've tightened up our play a little bit."

Especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

The Jets had a first-and-10 at the New England 32 with 3:37 left. On fourth-and-8 from the New England 30, Pennington's pass toward Wayne Chrebet was broken up by Harrison with 2:14 left, and the Patriots ran out the clock.

"We had a lot of guys out there doing what they are supposed to be doing," safety Eugene Wilson said. "We are a team that will not let down."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press