Patriots searching for consistency before facing Dolphins

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Patriots searching for consistency before facing Dolphins

FOXBORO -- It's a word that seems to rule the Patriots universe: consistency. Players who want to play need to show it. It can be heard in the soundbites provided to the media. And the team fosters it as much as possible with its schedule.

Lately, it's eluded the Patriots on the field. In Week 14, they beat one of the best teams in the NFL when the Texans came to Gillette Stadium. They lost to the Niners the following week after spotting a second-year quarterback a huge lead and responding with a remarkable comeback that fell short. Then they beat the Jaguars, but without playing close to their best game.

When the Patriots play the Dolphins on Sunday, their hope is that they can rediscover the consistency that's eluded them.

"We try to do that every week," Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. "This week, every week, the early part of the season, end of the season, middle of the season. Yeah, its always about consistency. I think you can look at every team in the league and find good plays and players doing things really well. These are professional football players: theyre very talented, they can do a lot of things. The good teams, the good players, they do them more consistently. Its not about talent as much as it is consistent performance teams and individual players. Its all connected."

Tom Brady echoed those same thoughts yesterday.

"I think its about playing consistent football and I think weve got to do a better job of that," Brady said. "It hasnt been as consistent as we would have liked, but weve still got a chance to improve it. And really, if were consistent this week, which I hope we are, thats ultimately whats going to help us win this game, not really what happened in the previous month or two months. Our goals are ahead of us and thats where were looking and thats the direction were heading in."

The rest of the Patriots know what their coach and quarterback are looking for, and they're trying to find it in the most obvious of places first.

"I think it just gives us reason to want to get better to go out there and practice hard and do what we need to do to get better," Wes Welker said today. "I think it's constantly us just trying to push each other in the right direction."

Vince Wilfork said that sometimes finding consistency is as easy as getting on the right track early, and letting it find you from there.

"We have to do a better job of starting games," he said. "We can play with anybody, we can play for 60 minutes, but there's just so much up and down. Part of that is how we start. We gotta do a better job of starting fast. That's gonna be the motto here from here on out: Start fast and finish strong. It's a good week to start this week. last week of the season, being at home, division game, against a team that's not gonna come in here and lay down."

However it happens, if the Patriots can find some consistency before the end of the regular season, it would be an opportune time for order to be restored to their football universe.

Playoff football awaits.

Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

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Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final year of college eligibility.

The graduate transfer from Maryland caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Orange beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing skid.

Etta-Tawo scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).

It was his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.

"It goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches trusting me," Etta-Tawo said. "They trust that I'll make the plays and they keep on giving me opportunities to make the plays."

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.

"We had to do it," said Etta-Tawo. "We had to drive down the field and try to put the game out, and that's exactly what we did. Everybody dug in, dug a little deeper."

Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2). Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It took Syracuse just 51 seconds on its first drive and 92 seconds on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.

"I think he's already passed his previous career high as a collegian in the first four games with us, (more than) his whole entire career he had at the other school," coach Dino Babers said. "I think, if you asked him, I think he might have made a good choice (to transfer)."

The Huskies responded by scoring twice in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.

"We can't just go up 14-0, 17-0 in the beginning of the game and then put ourselves back in a dog fight," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who was in on 14 tackles. "Some of these games we've got to have it over by the beginning of the second quarter."

Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.

But Syracuse's defense held, and linebacker Franklin stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left. The Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away.

"Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the end zone," said Shirreffs, who threw a 24-yard touchdown to Davis with 33 seconds left to make the final score close. "I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn't."