<
>

Vinatieri throws for TD, kicks four FGs in win

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Vinatieri beat the St. Louis Rams with his
leg in the 2002 Super Bowl. This time, he used his leg and his arm.

New England's placekicker hit a season-best four field goals,
then threw his first career touchdown pass on a fake to Troy Brown
to help the Patriots bounce back from their only loss with a 40-22
victory Sunday.

"You kind of hope to get these guys sleeping a little bit, and
we did," Vinatieri said. "Troy kind of hid out on the side and we
snapped the ball before they noticed him."

Corey Dillon returned after a one-week absence with 112 yards
rushing on 25 carries and a touchdown for the Patriots, whose
21-game winning streak ended in a loss to Pittsburgh last week.
They had won an NFL-record 18 straight in the regular season.

"I'm just here to do my part and help the team win," Dillon
said. "Everybody stepped up after last week."

The Patriots (7-1) compensated for an injury-ravaged secondary
by sacking Marc Bulger five times, forcing a fumble and
intercepting a tipped ball. Bulger said the Patriots' strategy was
to jam the receivers at the line and then pass them on to the
safeties. As a result, he had to wait longer to make throws.

"There's different reasons for it, schemes and all of that,"
Bulger said. "I probably held onto the ball too long sometimes,
and things happen, but I don't think we can throw blame around
quite this soon."

New England was without both starting cornerbacks, then lost one
of the fill-ins, Asante Samuel, with an arm injury in the first
quarter. That forced them to use Brown in the secondary.

"We moved guys around from different positions, but they just
hung in there and kept fighting," coach Bill Belichick said.
"Those players really stepped up and played like we all know they
can play."

The Patriots' secondary makeup, which had Randall Gay and
Earthwind Moreland at the cornerbacks after Samuel went out, made
little difference because Bulger seldom had enough time to throw.
Moreland was signed on Saturday.

Bulger was 23-for-33 for 285 yards and two touchdowns and
Leonard Little recovered a fumble by Tom Brady in the end zone for
St. Louis (4-4).

The Rams have lost twice at home. They had a 15-game
regular-season home winning streak before losing in overtime to the
Saints in September, but now have dropped two of the last three.

St. Louis had been 4-0 after the bye week under coach Mike
Martz, but did not benefit from an extra day of practice in the
game week. This was their worst loss at home in his five seasons
and it was the first time they'd allowed 40 points since a 49-10
loss at Kansas City on Dec. 8, 2002.

In the previous 18 games at home, counting the postseason, the
Rams had lost twice -- both times in overtime.

"It's really hard to come in here and win," Belichick said.
"It was probably as complete a victory as I've ever been around."

Vinatieri's best play was his touchdown pass, a perfect spiral
to a wide-open Brown. Martz was trying to get a timeout.

"I don't think that was the trickiest thing in the world,"
Martz said. "I mean, where was he going, to the john? We've got to
pay more attention than that."

Reminiscent of his automatic 48-yarder that provided the margin
of victory in a 20-17 Super Bowl victory in 2002, there was no
doubt on any of his field goal attempts from 43, 31, 45 and 36
yards -- all in the first half.

Brady was 18-for-31 for 234 yards and the first of his two
touchdown passes also was an oddity with linebacker Mike Vrabel on
the receiving end of a 2-yard play in the second quarter. Vrabel
has three career touchdown receptions, one of them in the Super
Bowl last February.

Dillon, out with a thigh injury last week, scored on a 5-yard
run to give the Patriots a 33-14 lead with 3:36 to go in the third
period. David Givens had five catches for 100 yards.

Bulger's 16-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt with 14:13 to go
and Marshall Faulk's conversion run cut the gap to 11.

Game notes
Rams CB Travis Fisher cracked two teeth in the third
quarter and did not return. ... Givens' 50-yard reception in the
second quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for the Patriots
this season. ... Faulk had 66 yards on 12 carries and six catches
for 22 yards and has 18,256 career yards, passing Barry Sanders
(18,190) for fourth on the career list. ... Both Brady and Bulger
were sixth-round picks in 2000.