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Final game notes

Posted by Mike Reiss, Globe Staff October 26, 2008 07:18 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Game notes from the Patriots' 23-16 win over the Rams, courtesy of the team's media relations staff (for complete notes, click on full entry):

PATRIOTS TURN IN FRANCHISE’S FIRST PENALTY-FREE PERFORMANCE
The Patriots were not flagged for any accepted penalties against St. Louis (a holding penalty was declined), marking the first penalty-free game in the franchise’s 731-game history. The Patriots have been called for just one penalty in a game on 13 occasions, most recently on Sept. 10, 2006 against Buffalo. New England’s penalty-free performance was the first in the NFL this season and the first for an NFL team since Seattle was not flagged for any accepted infractions against Baltimore on Dec. 23, 2007. The Patriots’ penalty-free game was the 50th such performance by an NFL team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

PATRIOTS ARE 5-2 OR BETTER THROUGH SEVEN GAMES FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR
The Patriots have begun the 2008 season tied for first place in their division with a 5-2 record and are the only AFC team to start each of the last three seasons by winning at least five of their first seven games. New England joins the New York Giants as the only two NFL teams to achieve the feat in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Patriots have begun the season with at least five wins in their first seven games for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

FAULK’S GAME-WINNING TD CATCH
Kevin Faulk hauled in the game-winning touchdown catch, a 15-yard reception from Matt Cassel with 3:13 remaining in the game, breaking a 16-16 tie and providing the winning 23-16 margin. Faulk had four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown to go along with 13 rushes for 60 yards, good for 108 total yards from scrimmage on 17 total touches (6.4 avg.). Faulk’s touchdown was his third of the season and his first via reception (the other two were scored rushing).

MOSS RECORDS 800th CAREER RECEPTION; FIFTH-FASTEST TO 800 IN NFL HISTORY
Randy Moss recorded his 800th career reception on his first catch of the day, a 10-yard grab in the 1st quarter. Moss became the 19th player in NFL history to break the 800-reception mark, and did it in the fifth-fewest number of games in league history. Moss, playing in his 161st career game today, trails only Marvin Harrison (131), Torry Holt (142), Jerry Rice (154) and Terrell Owens (158) on the NFL’s list of fastest to reach 800 receptions.


100-YARD GAME FOR MOSS
Randy Moss had 102 yards on seven rushes, marking his third 100-yard receiving game of the season, his 12th 100-yard receiving game as a Patriot and the 58th 100-yard receiving game of his career. Moss’s 58 100-yard receiving games rank third in NFL history, trailing only Jerry Rice (76) and Marvin Harrison (59).

CASSEL LEADS FIRST CAREER FOURTH-QUARTER COMEBACK
Matt Cassel led his first career fourth-quarter comeback, helping to rally the Patriots to a 23-16 win after facing a 16-13 fourth-quarter deficit. After the Rams took the lead, 16-13, on a 25-yard field goal with 12:25 left, Cassel directed a 6-play, 28-yard drive that led the Patriots into field goal range as Stephen Gostkowski tied the score at 16 on a 41-yard boot. After a three-and-out by the New England defense, Cassel and the Patriots offense drove 53 yards on seven plays to take a 23-16 lead on a 15-yard scoring strike from Cassel to Kevin Faulk. A Deltha O’Neal interception ended the Rams’ next drive, and by the time St. Louis got the ball back with five seconds left in the game, the New England defense only needed one more stop to preserve the win.

CASSEL SETS CAREER HIGH FOR PASSING YARDS
Matt Cassel recorded 267 yards on 33-for-21 (63.6 percent) passing, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Kevin Faulk with 3:13 remaining in the game. Cassel’s 267 yards were a career high, topping his 259 yards against San Francisco on Oct. 5. Cassel’s career-high yardage and game-winning touchdown pass against St. Louis came on the heels of an Oct. 20 performance against Denver that saw him garner AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after compiling a career-best 136.3 passer rating (the 10th highest in Patriots history).

WELKER CATCHES SIX OR MORE PASSES FOR SEVENTH STRAIGHT GAME
With seven catches today, Wes Welker became the fourth player in NFL history to have six or more receptions in each of the first seven games of a season. Welker joins Mike Ditka (1964), Jimmy Smith (2001) and Hines Ward (2004) as the only players to achieve the feat in a season’s first seven games. Dating back to last season, Welker has caught at least six passes in 11 straight games, including playoffs. Welker tied for the NFL lead with 112 catches last year (a franchise record and an NFL record for most receptions by a player in his first season with a new team). Through seven games this season, Welker leads the Patriots with 49 receptions.

DELTHA O’NEAL RECORDS SECOND PICK OF THE SEASON
Deltha O’Neal intercepted a Marc Bulger pass at the Patriots’ 16-yard line with 1:26 left in the game to halt a potential game-tying drive by St. Louis and preserve the Patriots’ victory. The interception was O’Neal’s second of the season, placing him second on the team behind Brandon Meriweather (3). The pick was the 33rd of O’Neal’s nine-year NFL career. He had 14 interceptions with Denver from 2000-03 and 16 picks with Cincinnati from 2004-07. O’Neal was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on Sept. 1, 2008.

GREEN-ELLIS EARNS START; HITS END ZONE
Rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis started for the Patriots at running back today - marking his first career start in just his third career game - and scored on a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead. The touchdown was the second of his career and his second in as many weeks. Last week, while seeing his first extensive action at running back in the second half of the Patriots’ victory over the Broncos, Green-Ellis had 65 yards on 13 carries (5.0 avg.) and a touchdown. Green-Ellis, originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent this past offseason out of the University of Mississippi, was signed to the active roster from the practice squad on Oct. 11.

SACK ATTACK

  • Adalius Thomas sacked Marc Bulger twice in the second quarter, each time for a 13-yard loss. The pair of sacks marked Thomas’s fifth career regular-season game with two or more sacks (he also had two sacks in Super Bowl XLII). Thomas’s five sacks so far this season lead the team.
  • Richard Seymour sacked Bulger for a 2-yard loss on third down in the second quarter, forcing a Rams punt on the next play. The sack was Seymour’s fourth of the season.
  • Ty Warren sacked Bulger for a 5-yard loss in the fourth quarter, recording his first sack of the season.

    THREE KICKS FOR GOSTKOWSKI
    Stephen Gostkowski hit all three of his field goal attempts, connecting from 30 and 27 yards in the second quarter and from 41 yards in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 16 with 8:22 left. Gostkowski is now 16-for-17 (94.1 percent) this season and has made 23 of his last 24 kicks dating back to 2007. His 41-yard kick in the fourth quarter raised his career points total to 302 points, making him the seventh player in team history to score 300 or more points for the Patriots. Gostkowski’s fourth-quarter extra point raised his career total to 303 points, moving him past Ben Coates (302) for sixth place on the Patriots’ all-time scoring list. Gostkowski was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

    FOXBOROUGH SELLOUT STREAK EXTENDED
    Today’s game was the 155th consecutive home sellout for the Patriots, a streak that dates back to the 1994 regular-season opener and includes every preseason, regular-season and playoff game since then. The streak, now in its 15th season, began with a Sept. 11, 1994 game against the Buffalo Bills at Foxboro Stadium - Robert Kraft’s first regular-season game as Patriots owner.

    PATRIOTS WIN 13th STRAIGHT AGAINST NFC
    The Patriots won their 13th straight regular-season game over an NFC team, extending a streak that dates back to 2005. New England is 2-0 against the NFC this season, having also defeated the San Francisco 49ers 30-21 on Oct. 5.

    FIRST-TIME VISITORS
    The Rams made their first visit to Gillette Stadium today, and the Patriots improved to 24-4 against first-time visitors to the venue. The Patriots have won 20 of their last 21 games against teams making their first visit. Following today’s game, the only teams the Patriots have not played at Gillette Stadium are Arizona, Atlanta and Carolina.

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