Hansen just keeps working [6:41 AM]
D and C reports: '"You won't find a more down-to-earth, honest, hard-working guy than Phil Hansen. He's a credit to any team. He's from the old school."'
Mental grind surprises Brady [6:40 AM]
D and C reports: '"There is a lot of stuff going on right now, needless to say," Brady said. "I mean it's easy to get distracted, but everyone owes it to the team and their teammates to prepare as best as possible."'
Smith needed a change of scenery [6:38 AM]
Olean Times Herald reports: 'Sometimes the only way a professional athlete is going to salvage his career is by moving on. And Smith is a perfect example.'
Will Bills eat crow? [6:37 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: '"It was hard because I felt things were being blamed on me that I felt weren't my fault," Smith said. "This league is a business and it's all about what you have done for me lately. If you're not performing, teams give up on you."'
Comic relief: Silence [6:34 AM]
Boston Globe reports: 'For the first time in some time, there was no controversy, only comic relief at Foxboro Stadium.'
Tactics are proof positive [6:33 AM]
Boston Globe reports: 'Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the night Ty Law had ecstacy pills seized by US Customs in Niagara Falls, N.Y., following the Patriots' 13-10 overtime victory in Buffalo. Law and receivers Terry Glenn and Troy Brown skipped the team flight, which was delayed by snow, and spent the rest of the night at a strip club in Canada.'
Footage gives Pats leg up [6:31 AM]
Boston Herald reports: 'The Pats have come a long way, and Belichick deserves much of the credit for getting them there. A key part of his style has been the use of motivational tools.'
Patriots newcomers give team an edge [6:30 AM]
Providence Journal reports: 'One of the other big reasons why the Pats are appreciably better than a year ago is they are tougher. A case can be made that virtually everyone Bill Belichick brought in has contributed to a degree of intensity that simply wasn't there last year.'
Road to AFC East title goes through Buffalo [6:29 AM]
Quincy Patriot Ledger reports: 'The Bills face all three contenders for the division title, starting Sunday against the New England Patriots, who are 11/2 games behind the division-leading Miami Dolphins.'
Patriots' Antowain Smith Succeeding in Second Chance as Starter [6:29 AM]
Bloomberg reports: '"It'll be kind of strange coming back in a different uniform, but at the same time, I look forward to the challenge," Smith said. "I always knew I could do it. It was just a matter of getting with a team that has faith in me."'
Hey sport! [4:21 PM]
Blue Dog Press reports: 'The bottom line in all of this? Sports fans in the region are getting royally screwed by owners who raise ticket prices, but fail to put winners on the ice and on the field. It's time for Ralph Wilson (the Bills) and John Rigas (the Sabres) to put their mouths where their money is. Fans deserve more than the smell of victory, they need to see it.'
Patriots poised to exploit Buffalo's problems [4:18 PM]
Niagara Falls Reporter reports: 'Things couldn't have changed much more over the past year for the Buffalo Bills or the New England Patriots. Almost a year to the day after their last visit to Orchard Park, the Patriots come into Sunday's renewal of a rivalry that dates to 1960 as one of the National Football League's hottest teams. The Bills, meanwhile, are just trying to salvage something, anything from one of the worst seasons in franchise history (and if you count last week's crawl-back against equally pitiful Carolina as 'something,' may you find a "Best of Joe Dufek" videotape under your tree). Last year, Buffalo hosted New England just one week removed from playoff contention, while the Patriots were hoping to tack their fifth win on to a season nearly as dreadful as this one has turned out for the Bills. That game turned into the Snow Globe Bowl, a 13-10 New England win in overtime played under conditions better suited for an Antarctic expedition. Coming into this year, few predicted the speed and angle of Buffalo's demise. Even fewer expected New England to compete for anything higher than fourth place in the AFC East. And that was before Drew Bledsoe got hurt.'
Smerlas Ceremony Moved [11:30 AM]
Bills Daily reports: The Bills have changed their minds and have decided to move the Fred Smerlas ceremony to halftime instead of before the game. The Marv Levy and Jim Kelly ceremonies earlier this year were also at halftime.
Irvin handles adversity [8:56 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'A starter since 1998, Irvin has made a sudden and stunning drop on the Bills' depth chart.'
Pat Williams dealing with sitting out [8:55 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'He will miss his first game in three years Sunday when the Bills host the New England Patriots.'
ESPN's Take: Patriots won't look past Buffalo [8:26 AM]
ESPN reports: Simply, if the Patriots lose one game, they could miss out on the playoffs. The Patriots need to secure a playoff spot, something Bill Belichick will emphasize. The Bills will not roll over for the Patriots. Alex Van Pelt has upgraded the Bills' offense. He brings a Jim Kelly attitude and toughness to the team. He is pushing the ball down the field.
John Clayton Report Card - Bills: D [8:06 AM]
ESPN reports: It's scary to think that Alex Van Pelt has done better running the West Coast offense than injured Johnson. Worse, the Bills didn't answer the question that RJ is the right QB for the franchise. In other words, because of the salary cap and questions about RJ, it has been a wasted year. The Bills are five games worse than a year ago at 2-10. The defense underwent a dramatic transition and is surrendering 43 yards more per game. Some players are grumbling about the offensive scheme. It has been a tough year for first-year coach Gregg Williams.
Smith finds new life with revived Patriots [5:35 AM]
D and C reports: 'He was a good-looking first-round draft pick in 1997, a 1,000-yard rusher in 1998. Then he hit a wall. Splat.'
No introductions are needed [5:34 AM]
Boston Globe reports: 'You don't see the individual dances and gyrations of players as you would from opposing players during introductions. That's the way the Patriots want it.'
Phifer vs. Centers [5:33 AM]
Boston Globe reports: 'Roman Phifer is considered the Patriots' best cover linebacker, and he'll have his hands full against Larry Centers, one of the best receiving running backs ever.'
When call came, Van Pelt was ready [5:32 AM]
Boston Globe reports: '''I think the biggest thing from '97, when I got three starts that year, is the offense we are running,'' he said. ''The `West Coast' is something I was very familiar with from college and I really enjoy running, and I think that's helped a lot in our success.'''
Switch turns on Patriots' D-line [5:31 AM]
Boston Herald reports: 'Because of a rash of injuries to the linebacker corps, coach Bill Belichick switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment a month ago. After seeing the results, he's not likely to switch out of it anytime soon.'
Ex-Bill braces for a reunion [5:31 AM]
Boston Herald reports: 'So why didn't Buffalo, under new coach Gregg Williams, try to keep Smith? ''I don't know,'' he said. ``The last two years there I was getting weeded out a little bit. I wasn't really getting the chance to go out there and help the team. So I think the best thing for both of us was just to part ways and move on.'''
Vrabel an outside influence [5:30 AM]
Boston Herald reports: '``Mike is a smart guy,'' said coach Bill Belichick, who scouted Vrabel out of Ohio State five years ago and kept tabs on him during his days in Pittsburgh. ``He is a hard-working guy. He trains well, he's in top condition and football is really important to him."'
Patriots' quiet man makes presence felt [5:29 AM]
Providence Journal reports: 'Both on and off the field, Mike Vrabel is the Patriots' quiet linebacker.'
Belichick's view: Focus on finish line [5:28 AM]
Providence Journal reports: '"The only thing that matters," the coach told his players, "is when they cross the finish line . . . Sometimes you are ahead and get further ahead, sometimes you are behind and you catch up. That is what it is about. It is about where we finish, not where we are in the middle of December. Right now, it is Buffalo. That's it. 9-5. That's all we can do anything about. There's where we want to be."'
Compton is the glue on Pats' offensive line [5:27 AM]
Worcester Telegram and Gazette reports: 'The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Compton is New England's starting left guard. It's his first year in Foxboro, but his ninth in the NFL. So, while he's a new guy on the block, he has brought stability to an unstable situation.'
Outside linebackers solid [5:26 AM]
Springfield Union News reports: 'With inside linebackers Bryan Cox and Ted Johnson hurting in recent weeks, the Patriots have played more 4-3 defensive fronts. Vrabel and Phifer have manned the outside spots with Tedy Bruschi, who is playing superbly of late, in the middle.'
Holiday time to take break [5:26 AM]
Springfield Union News reports: 'How does Belichick know when to push and when to pull back? "I think one thing I would gauge it on is that if I'm feeling (tired)," he said, "then everyone else is probably feeling worse."'
An intersting tidbit from TMQ [2:04 PM]
Slate reports: Hidden Indicator Player: The Bills are cover-your-eyes awful now, but this time last season they were 7-4 and pounding Tampa on the road. Then the above-cited Sam Cowart, who some purists felt was having the best season of any NFL defender last year, including Ray Lewis, went down for the count with a knee. Buffalo honked its lead in Tampa and spiraled toward the water for the remainder of 2000. In this season's opener, Buffalo was pounding New Orleans, holding the Saints to one first down in the first half. Then Cowart was lost for the season to another injury; the Bills again honked and spiraled toward the water. Since Cowart joined Buffalo, the team is 28-17 when he plays, 3-14 when he does not.
We're All Professionals Here: Warming up on the sidelines, Buffalo punter Brian Moorman missed the kick-catch net.
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