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When in Doubt, the Patriots Turn to Vinatieri

September 23, 2002|From Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots won't dominate every opponent. That's when they turn to Adam Vinatieri.

The Super Bowl hero kicked a 35-yard field goal 4:40 into overtime Sunday, giving unbeaten New England a 41-38 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I go out there with the same mind-set," Vinatieri said, "if it is the first quarter of the game or if it is the last minute of the game."

And he usually succeeds. He is eight for eight this season and has converted his last 11 field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder that beat St. Louis in the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady was most valuable player in the Super Bowl, and he and Troy Brown were the MVPs on Sunday before Vinatieri connected. Brady completed 39 of 54 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns, all matching or establishing career highs.

Brown set a Patriot record with 16 catches, totaling 176 yards. But he watched the winning drive from the sideline because of a sore knee after he hit it on a helmet. He didn't think he was seriously hurt.

"It wasn't good for your heart, but I think it's good because it builds your team," he said of the wild finish. "It gets you ready for later in the season. We've got to learn how to win these games, how to close them out."

The Patriots, playing without injured linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer, gave up two touchdown runs to Priest Holmes in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Chiefs (1-2) tied the score as time expired on Holmes' one-yard run and Morten Andersen's extra point.

"You can't make it much closer," Chief Coach Dick Vermeil said. "We did enough things to win. We did enough bad things to lose."

The Patriots (3-0) won the coin toss in overtime and started at their 30-yard line.

Brady completed three of four passes, with a 22-yard play to David Patten giving New England a first down at the Kansas City 22. Three more plays gained five yards, then Vinatieri connected.

"[He's] got ice in his veins. He's done it for us forever," Patriot linebacker Ted Johnson said.

The Patriots didn't need dramatic finishes in their first two games, beating Pittsburgh, 30-14, and the New York Jets, 44-7.

And it seemed they wouldn't need one as Brady and Brown picked on the NFL's second-worst pass defense.

However, Kansas City got 180 yards rushing from Holmes, who also caught one of Trent Green's three touchdown passes.

The others went to Eddie Kennison.

"We proved something to ourselves and to the NFL," Holmes said. "Other teams can see how we were able to expose" the Patriot weaknesses.

New England, favored for the first time in six games, won its first three games for the fifth time in its history.

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