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Proud Patriots push forward after easy victory

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Proud Patriots push forward after easy victory

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Patriots insist that their rout of the Texans was not a ``statement'' game to show they could excel against the team with the NFL's best record.

They made one - loud and clear - nevertheless.

Tom Brady and company let the dwindling group of doubters know that they can dominate even their best opponents and are still improving as they head toward the playoffs.

``It needs to come together now,'' Brady said after throwing four touchdown passes in New England's 42-14 win over Houston on Monday night. ``This is the perfect time for it. We can't wait any longer.''

There was plenty of pregame focus on the Texans' big playmakers - J.J. Watt with an AFC-high 16 1/2 sacks, Arian Foster with an NFL-leading 15 touchdowns, Andre Johnson with 74 receptions. And Houston was the only NFL team with a perfect road record at 6-0.

Not anymore.

The Patriots (10-3) took command quickly, scoring on passes in their first three possessions. Whether or not they wanted to deliver a message that the hype about Houston (11-2) was overblown, it couldn't be missed.

``Any competitive person is going to use whatever motivation best motivates himself,'' defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday. ``In the end, our motivation is going to be to go out there to try to play the best we can, get better and do our job to the best of our ability.''

But ``statement'' game?

``Not at all,'' defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. ``I'm not big on that.''

That's the real message coach Bill Belichick tries to deliver - treat every game as a difficult challenge, no matter how well or poorly the opponent has been playing. That emphasis has helped them win their past seven games.

``We don't really worry too much about records around here,'' he said.

Just as he professes not to think much about making a statement with a lopsided victory over an opponent that had won six consecutive games.

``I don't think we put a whole lot of relevance or spend any time talking about that type of thing,'' Belichick said. ``We talk more about what we need to do to win each week.''

Still, the Patriots often contribute to the hype. They make each opponent sound like a huge obstacle, no matter how poorly it's been playing.

The New York Jets had lost five of seven games, but Brady still called them ``a very good team'' before a Thanksgiving night matchup. Then the Patriots went out and rolled to a 35-0 lead in the second quarter and a 49-19 victory.

But when the lavish praise of an opponent comes from the media and other outsiders, the Patriots say they try not to listen. Sometimes, though, all the chatter comes through. And that gives some players extra incentive - like when plenty of pre-game talk centered around Watt and the Texans defense.

``Obviously, we came into this game with a chip on our shoulders, everyone talking about the Houston Texans,'' Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. ``We always talk about ignoring the noise, but you hear it. You hear it walking down the street. It was a little bit of a motivational factor, for me at least. I'm sure the rest of the guys felt the same way.''

Early in the season, the defense was giving up big plays.

Now, it's making them.

Devin McCourty intercepted Matt Schaub's pass into the end zone on the Texans' second series. The Patriots sacked him on the third. They forced a three-and-out on the fourth. And they made fourth-down stops on the Texans' fifth and sixth possessions.

New England's defense was outstanding. Houston's was overwhelmed.

``What everyone says (is) what everyone's got to say,'' McCourty said. ``We know we're a good defense here. We know we've played really well the last couple of weeks and the biggest focus for us is just trying to build on that.''

The Patriots have clinched the AFC East and, with three games left, have a chance for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. They still must overtake Houston and finish with at least the same record as the Denver Broncos (10-3).

But all that can wait.

Now the Patriots are concentrating on their second straight highly touted opponent, the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) on Sunday night.

Only this time, most of the attention could focus on how dominant the Patriots are, especially after the way they handled the Texans.

Might the 49ers use that as motivation as they head into a stadium where the Patriots have won their last 20 games in December?

``We're just getting ready to play them,'' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. ``Extra this or that, I'm not sure that anybody needs it this time of the year. We're all fighting to win each and every game that we can.''

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Pete Carroll has ‘nothing but great thoughts’ about former Seahawk safety Earl Thomas

Pete Carroll has ‘nothing but great thoughts’ about former Seahawk safety Earl Thomas

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he doesn’t harbor any negative thoughts or feelings about Earl Thomas. More specifically, about how Thomas' tenure ended in Seattle.

In a Wednesday conference call, Carroll said he loved coaching Thomas and hopes nothing but the best for him in Baltimore.

“I know that when we were together, we did everything we could to be great,” Carroll said. “Earl was an incredible competitor and I loved coaching him. And I like watching him play now. It’ll be fun playing against him.”

Thomas was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro in Seattle under Carroll’s watch, but the relationship soured toward the end of Thomas’s time in Seattle. After a holdout last season, Thomas broke his leg in the team’s fourth game of the season. While being carted off, he flipped off the Seahawks sideline in his last time in the uniform. 

He signed a four-year, 55 million dollar deal in the offseason to play with the Ravens, officially ending his nine-year stint as a Seahawk. 

Carroll, however, said he has no issues with how the relationship ended.

“Not really, I wish he could’ve played with us and we could’ve stayed together forever,” Carroll said. “That was kind of always the thought. But it didn’t work out that way and guys have got to go on their way and they do their business and do their stuff. Earl was a great Seahawk, he was a blast to coach, we had a great time here doing the things we did.”

As for whether the two could reconnect on Sunday, both Thomas and Carroll said they won’t plan anything. Instead, they’ll let it happen organically.

“I have nothing but great thoughts about Earl,” Carroll said. “I have great respect for him. If I get a chance to visit with him, I’ll visit with him like I always do.”

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Earl Thomas isn’t fazed, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

Earl Thomas isn’t fazed, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time Earl Thomas was in a Seattle Seahawks uniform, he sat on a medical cart with his broken left leg in a cast and his right middle finger extended toward the Seahawks bench. 

The ugly finish to Thomas' tenure as a Seahawk last September ended a nine year stint as one of the league's best safeties, in the league's best secondaries. Now a Raven, Thomas will return to Seattle on Sunday to face the Seahawks for the first time as an opponent. 

He’s mostly downplayed the situation, but Sunday will undoubtedly be an emotional game for both Thomas and the Seahawks organization. 

“It doesn’t matter who I’m playing for, I’m going out there and trying to win,” Thomas said. “Maybe when I get to the visiting locker room and see how that feels, it’ll add something to that. But other than that, it’s business as usual. I’m going out there to compete and make plays.”

Thomas spent the entirety of his eventual Hall of Fame career in Seattle as a member of the ‘Legion of Boom,’ one of the most famous defensive units in league history.

But his time in Seattle eventually soured as the years rolled on and Kam Chancellor retired, Richard Sherman left town and the unit slowly faded into history. 

That’s before things took a turn with Thomas’ contract and future with the team. After a holdout, he played in four games last season, totaling three interceptions, before breaking his leg and ending his excellent tenure as a Seahawk against the Cardinals. 

“I feel like they’re were trying to phase me out, they were thinking more linebacker-ish,” Thomas said. “They’ve got the three-headed monster with K.J. (Wright), Bobby (Wagner) and (Mychal) Kendricks, obviously coach (Ken) Norton is the D-Coordinator. He’s a linebacker at heart. I understood what was going on.”

As for what reception he thinks he’ll get from the Seattle fans, he’s unsure, but hopeful.

“Hopefully they respect what I’ve done, get a couple of cheers and not too many boos,” Thomas said. “But whatever happens, happens. Hopefully it’s love.”

Thomas has made a big impression on the Ravens just six games into his four-year contract, especially when a player of his stature signs with the Ravens. 

But the way his tenure ended in Seattle is still on the minds of everyone, including a few of his teammates.

“Since Earl’s been here he’s definitely been a pretty calm-mannered guy,” Marlon Humphrey said. “He’s been there for a long time. The thing that flashes, to me, is the middle finger thing. I think there will definitely be a little tension there.”

Thomas said hasn’t planned to talk with anyone pregame and instead he’ll wait for it to happen naturally instead. 

But he did say that various members of the Seahawks organization have kept up with him throughout the course of the season.

“Especially guys on defense, some of my old coaches, some of the strength and conditioning staff,” Thomas said. “I’m sure during pregame, or warmups, if I see some guys and we start a conversation, I’m not going to go out there and not talk to anybody.”

Good memories are much easier to come by for Thomas. He was a three-time First Team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Second Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion in Seattle. He paired with Chancellor on the back-end to create one of the most dominant safety pairings in NFL history as the duo helped lead Seattle to the postseason five times. 

The ugly way Thomas' tenure ended is still on the minds of everyone, but was closure, in a way. And Sunday represents the official closing of the book of his story in Seattle.

“I won so many games there, I grew up as a young man there, started when I was 20 years old,” Thomas said. “I’m always going to respect that organization and I’m always going to be a part of it.”

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