Pats D coming up aces

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

At the mammoth Foxwoods casino 50 kilometres down the road in Connecticut, most card dealers wear New England Patriots jerseys on NFL game days.

Yesterday on a cool, misty day here at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots dealt themselves and their fans a blackjack.

A fiercely fought 13-7 win over the New York Jets allowed New England to run its win streak to the casino game's lucky number -- 21.

This time, in a much-anticipated battle of NFL unbeatens, it was the defence that came up aces, forcing the Jets to gamble away their chance at an upset.

Facing fourth and eight on the Patriots' 30-yard line with 2:18 remaining, the Jets decided to go for broke.

A flustered Jets quarterback Chad Pennington then threw a questionable pass into triple coverage that bounced harmlessly off the back of Patriots safety Rodney Harrison.

All New England had to do was run out the clock in front of their delirious sellout crowd and the Jets were busted.

Jets coach Herman Edwards may have had regrets about the lame, game-ending throw, but not the gutsy call.

"We came here to win a football game, we were going for it," said Edwards, whose team fell to 5-1. "You are not going to get lucky and beat the champions. You can't just hope they are going to fall down."

As they chase a third Super Bowl in four seasons, these Patriots show no signs of slipping, let alone falling.

Yesterday's victory set an NFL record for consecutive regular-season wins at 18. Add the three from this past winter's Super Bowl run and it's up to 21, though the league does not recognize post-season play in calculating streaks.

Unlike New England's beloved Boston Red Sox, the Patriots generally don't get things done with the long ball.

There was an occasional downfield throw -- like a 42-yard Tom Brady heave to David Givens to set up a first-half field goal and a 24-yarder up the middle to Kevin Faulk to set up New England's only touchdown on the final play of the first half.

They don't blow out opponents, either. For the 17th time in those 21 wins, the Pats teased an opponent by letting them within a touchdown in the fourth quarter before slamming the door.

"Three points, 14 points, two points ... it doesn't matter to us," Patriots cornerback Ty Law said. "We've been doing this for so long, we've come to expect it.

NOT ALWAYS PRETTY

"It's not always pretty, but when it's a close game and it comes down to a big play at the end, we expect to win."

The Patriots have unjustly been accused of playing down to their competition. More accurately, they play to them.

In a scoreless second half dominated by both defences, for example, the Pats called for No. 28. Corey Dillon responded by rushing for 115 yards on 22 carries, none more crucial than three rushes in the final two minutes to grind out a clock-killing first down.

PASSES FOR 230 YARDS

"It's so hard to win each week," said Brady, who completed 20 of 29 attempts for 230 yards. "What we did this week against the Jets is going to be different than what we do against the Steelers next week."

As good as the Jets played to keep things interesting, they made enough costly blunders at the worst possible times.

There was a Jerald Sowell fumble in the red zone. And a crazy too-many-men penalty that turned a Patriots punt into an eventual field goal. And after taking a 7-6 lead with 1:55 left in the first half, the Jets allowed Brady to march downfield and complete a seven-yard touchdown pass to Givens as the clock ran out.

"A lot of teams have had chances against them," Edwards said. "But nobody has found a way to get it done."

For 21 games, dating back to Sept. 28, 2003, it hasn't been in the cards.


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