Curran: Patriots building toward familiar territory

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Curran: Patriots building toward familiar territory

FOXBORO There was a full quarter remaining Monday night when the Texans said, Let us up, weve had enough.

Getting the ball back with 14:15 left in the game after the Patriots scored to make it 35-7, Houston ran the ball four times and punted.

The white flag was up. The Texans tapped out of what theyd called the biggest game in team history.

Are they really paper tigers or was this just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night under the bright lights in Foxboro? Well find out over the next month or so.

But there is nothing ambiguous about what the Patriots set out to do Monday night and then accomplished. This was one of those games they were itching to play because so much of the advance talk centered around what a daunting team the Texans were and how hard theyd be to deal with.

Obviously, we always talk about ignoring the noise, but you hear it, admitted linebacker Jerod Mayo. You hear it walking down the street. It was a little bit of a motivational factor for me, at least. Im sure the rest of the guys felt the same way.

The rest of the guys were gentle to the dispatched Texans. There was no grave-dancing done.

Logan Mankins, who can often be counted on for some straight-shooting and a subtle jab was taciturn.

We have our hands full every week, he said. We have a chip every week. We go out there and try to do our best and win the game every week. It doesnt matter the other teams record.

Pressed a little, Mankins did add that, Of course its rewarding to beat a team thats getting a lot of pregame buildup.

Anytime you play someone where its said, Youre gonna have trouble with this team all night and then to win the way we did tonight its always good feeling. We didnt want it to come down to a kick.

It didnt. The only kicking was administered to the Texans hindquarters, a point they were more than willing to concede.

We got our tails kicked, said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.

"They just gave gave us a good ass-whooping, said wide receiver Andre Johnson.

"I think we put too much focus on this game as just a huge game, and not doing our approach as far as just going 1-0, explained Texans linebacker Bradie James. Sometimes guys get a little tight, things get a little out of hand. But the Patriots played lights out in the first half. That's what it takes. I think they showed us what it takes to be a champion.

Which is part of the process. The Texans are a good team this year. They were last year as well. The Patriots have been a great team for more than a decade. This game that Andre Johnson called the biggest in franchise history? The Patriots play in games of this magnitude several times a season.

Give credit to the Texans, theyre not going anywhere, said Patriots wide receiver Donte' Stallworth. Theyre gonna be around.

What the Patriots are doing this year is what they did last year. They are building to a crescendo. They seem to spend the first five or six weeks of the season tinkering in the lab on both sides of the ball. The stuff that works, they keep. The stuff that doesnt they throw out.

If they need something they dont have like a solid cover corner they go out and try to get one, which they did this year with Aqib Talib. If they need to move a guy like Devin McCourty to make everyone else better, they do it. If they need to de-emphasize a players role as they did with Brandon Lloyd they do that as well.

They put players in positions to succeed and, generally, dont try to force square pegs into round holes.

The ignore the noise mantra to which they subscribe doesnt just apply to not hearing the praise, but also shutting out the criticism. And there was a lot of it early this year, much of it deserved, some of it the aimless braying of donkeys with either four hours or column inches to fill.

Inevitably, as the season moves along, the Patriots fix whats broken or succeed in covering it up. At least well enough to emerge as one of the best teams in a 32-team league by the time the Christmas lights go up.

And the braying wanes until the laments are reduced to worrying about which starters are playing too long when the games are already decided.

This morning, the Patriots wake up and find themselves anointed as the favorites to go to New Orleans for their sixth Super Bowl appearance in 12 seasons.

Less than two months ago, the Patriots were 3-3 after a loss to Seattle. Misery. After an overtime win over the Jets the following week, panic and disgust over how flawed the Patriots were hit its annual high-water mark.

Six wins later, there is no team in the NFL playing better. The December coronation is coming. The Patriots are used to this.

One of the big things that Bill has always preached for years, even before I was here in 07 is, Dont buy into the hype and ignore the outside noise. Come in and prepare and dont worry about what the media is saying about the game . . . thats one of the things that has driven this organization to be so successful over the past however many years its been.

There is a methodical method to the madness of Bill Belichick. Plod, plod, plod to excellence every year. Let the other teams win the offseason, September and October. November and December belong to New England. And, quite often, January and February do too.

It takes a while to develop that patience. They dont hand out the lettermans jackets until after the season.

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.