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Nfl Week 7

Patriot games: 35-7 finishes two-nation blitz

October 26, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

LONDON — Few stadiums on this cheering planet hold their noise and fervor as majestically as the acoustic marvel Wembley, but by an NFL fourth quarter on a calm Sunday evening, the grand ground in northwest London finally went drowsy.

Forgive it. The 84,254 already had seen perfunctory NFL destruction, one uncommon NFL offense and the second installment in the most decisive two-game, two-continent pulverization in NFL history.

"Hopefully they enjoyed it; there were some good plays out there made by us," Tom Brady summarized politely after the NFL's third annual regular-season London foray became another New England Patriots art exhibit, a 35-7 win over winless Tampa Bay. That followed a 59-0 victory over Tennessee seven days prior for an eight-quarter, 94-7 demolition across six time zones.

As NFL jerseys suddenly dotted London train platforms for that one Sunday in October yet again, and cameras flashed through the stadium all Super Bowl-like, and the waving flags of the home-team Buccaneers made a vivid image, Brady looked pretty much like 2007, meaning that time before his knee gave way against Kansas City in 2008.

His six touchdown passes against Tennessee may have been pared to a middling three, and his 29-for-34 might have sagged so wretchedly to, well, 23-for-32, and he grabbed his helmet with both hands after his second interception of the second quarter, of which safety Ronde Barber joked optimistically, "We doubled his interception total to four."

Even with such -- cough -- calamity, Brady still looked delighted in one of his dazzling postgame suits, of which wide receiver Wes Welker said, "I think they sew them on him."

He has passed for 688 yards the last two weeks, and Welker has caught 21 for 257, and Brady's targets numbered nine against the Buccaneers after nine against the Titans. Receiver Sam Aiken's sixth catch of the year became a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and tight end Benjamin Watson's 15th catch became a 35-yard touchdown. If those things don't daunt the AFC -- and, heck, maybe even the NFC -- the Patriots also got to bond here.

Brady cited the rare chance to hang out with teammates for all of Thursday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday, adding up to a cohesive "10 meals," he said. Welker said of a Friday night restaurant, "They thought we were a boy band," which he found amusing given the presence of offensive linemen. Bill Belichick, being a football coach, relished a visit to Churchill's war bunkers and marveled at "how tight it was and everything they gave during that time to fight off London bombing and all of that."

Sunday came equipped with oddly sublime weather and the stirring national happening 170 miles to the northwest, where Liverpool's win brought the first of two-in-one-day defeats for the Glazer-family-owned Manchester United and the Buccaneers. The Patriots and a horde of Boston-accented fans made it to Wembley, where the noise did swell early and often and give soccer fan Welker a chance to "kind of feel that vibe and everything."

Barely had they donned their screw-on cleats when on the fifth play quarterback Josh Johnson, the former University of San Diego Torero making his fifth start for Tampa Bay, lofted a short third-down pass.

"They actually ran that play against Carolina last week," said Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, so when the ball seemed to stop and smile and invite him to come hug it, his 39-yard interception return provided a quick 7-0 lead.

That, for a team that clearly didn't need it, for a team with a Brady of whom Belichick said yet again, "I'm glad he's our quarterback."


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