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Monday, December 14, 2009

Wes Welker is no Randy Moss, which is a good thing

For the last month as the Patriots have been in their worst tailspin in years (losing three out of four), it's become clear that for whatever reason Randy Moss is bailing on this team.

Things reached a boiling point on Wednesday when he showed up late for a meeting, along with Derrick Burgess, Gary Guyton and Adalius Thomas. Bill Belichik sent all four home for the day and Thomas wasn't active yesterday.

Burgess (3 tackles, sack) and Guyton (1 tackle) actually played decent in yesterday's 20-10 win over the Panthers at Gillette Stadium but Moss (1 catch, 16 yards, fumble) had his worst game in a Patriots uniform.

It doesn't help Moss that Wes Welker is a teammate; Welker represents everything Moss is not known for: hard work, toughness, going over the middle, a good attitude. On a day when Tom Brady struggled again (19 for 32, 192 yards, TD, INT), Welker was the passing game. He finished with 10 catches for 105 yards.

New England (8-5) had to win this game and while they played rather poorly and were fortunate to be facing a team going nowhere (with a backup quarterback), it's still a win. The Jets and Dolphins both won to remain one game behind New England in the AFC East.

The Patriots survived two fumbles and the interception by Brady. The good news was the defense looked good (save for a few breakdowns) and the running game was very productive on a rainy, messy afternoon.

Laurence Maroney had one of the best games in his career with 94 yards on 22 carries. Kevin Faulk added 58 yards rushing and a touchdown while Sammy Morris had 35 yards rushing (although he was stuffed on a predictable fourth down call and also fumbled).

Steve Smith gave Carolina (5-8) a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a 41-yard touchdown catch from Matt Moore. Shawn Springs was left alone in coverage after Brandon Meriweather went to cover another Panthers receiver and Springs will never stop Smith by himself.

Faulk tied it up in the second quarter with a 3-yard run 1:08 before halftime.

Ben Watson (3 catches, 37 yards) capped off New England's longest drive of the season (13 plays, 96 yards) with a 5-yard touchdown catch from Brady. Watson is known for his Braylon Edwards-esque stone hands but give him credit as he held on after being drilled by a Carolina defender.

John Kasay's 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter made it 14-10 New England but Stephen Gostkowski sealed it with two long kicks of his own (48 yards and 47 yards).

For reasons unknown, DeAngelo Williams (13 carries, 82 yards) didn't get the ball much even though it was obvious that Moore (15 for 30, 197 yards, TD) couldn't make the easiest of throws.

Burgess and Jarvis Green both recorded sacks on the final Carolina drive as New England showed some semblance of a pass rush for once. Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork both left the game with injuries so hopefully they'll be back next weekend. The Pats can't afford to have their two outstanding defensive lineman out for any time.

There are three games left in the regular season and the Patriots look for their first true road win next Sunday in Buffalo. Odds are there will be three feet of snow on the ground.

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