More than perfect

Unbeaten Patriots piling up records

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 25, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots stand on the precipice of perfection, the first 16-0 regular season in the history of the NFL, which switched to a 16-game slate in 1978. It would be a record to remember, or at least to add to the collection.

Like an over-decorated Christmas tree, the 15-0 Patriots keep ornamenting their historic season with shiny new league and team records. According to a count taken from the team's media relations booklet, the Patriots have set or tied 36 NFL records and authored or matched 24 franchise records this season.

Added to New England's menagerie of marks in Sunday's 28-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins were most consecutive wins to start a regular season (15), most consecutive wins within a regular season (15), and most touchdowns scored in a season (71), surpassing the 1984 Dolphins, who scored 70.

But when the Patriots face the New York Giants Saturday night at Giants Stadium, there will be several more major milestones that could fall at the feet of a team that has a feat fetish:

With 48 touchdown passes, quarterback Tom Brady needs just two more to eclipse Peyton Manning's season mark of 49, set in 2004. Wide receiver Randy Moss has 21 touchdown receptions, two shy of topping Jerry Rice's record of 22, set in 12 games in 1987.

On the club-record front, wide receiver Wes Welker, who tied Troy Brown for receptions in a season (101) against the Dolphins, needs one catch to grab the team record for himself. With 99 receiving yards, Moss, who has 1,393, would break Stanley Morgan's record of 1,491, set in 1986. Brady, who has passed for a career-high 4,450 yards, needs 106 to supplant Drew Bledsoe's total of 4,555 in 1994.

Always focused on putting team play before any individual, the Patriots are just 7 points short of setting a standard for most in a season. The record is 556 points, set by the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, whom Moss played for as a rookie. If a Patriot who has not scored a touchdown yet this season picks Saturday night to do so, New England would set an NFL record for most players to score a TD in a season, breaking the mark of 21.

"I think it's exciting for the team," said Brady. "A lot of those team records are really fun, the most points scored and touchdowns and so forth, those are pretty cool records, considering the history of the NFL and the incredible teams that have played - the incredible offensive football teams - and to think that we've been up there with the best of them is exciting.

"Hopefully, we can continue to play well going forward, but winning is most important and I think that's really what everyone's concerned with."

Well, with a win the Patriots would break their own NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories - 18, set between the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Is there a record for most NFL and/or team records a team has set or tied in a season? Not according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"There are an infinite number of records, so there is no way we can tell if they've broken the most records," said Elias statistician Frank Labombarda. "I'm sure two years from now we'll stumble across another."

The Patriots remain adamant that they're not focused on records.

"It's just something we can talk about when we're older and retired," said safety Rodney Harrison. "It has no bearing on what we have to do for preparation for [this] week. We need to stay focused."

"I think it would be something we can look back at it," said Welker, when asked about Brady passing Manning's milestone. "I know it's nothing that Tom worries about and it's nothing that we worry about. We're just out there trying to execute and run our plays, and if it happens along the way, then great."

That didn't appear to be the case Sunday after the Patriots took a 28-0 lead and Brady and Moss connected for two touchdowns, pulling them within reach of the records they're chasing.

Brady, who completed just 4 of 15 passes and threw two interceptions in the second half, seemed determined to get Moss a third touchdown. Miami's Jason Allen intercepted Brady in the end zone on the Patriots' first drive of the third quarter, and the quarterback was picked off again going to Moss when linebacker Derrick Pope made a diving catch of a short pass that deflected off Moss and defensive back Will Allen. Brady also threw deep to Moss several times in coverage.

After the game, Moss, taking a cue from coach Bill Belichick, said he didn't give a hoot about the record.

"There's no individual play here, and that's how Coach prepares us week in and week out," said Moss. "He wants his team to go out there and do whatever we can to win the game.

"Like I said, if the touchdown record for wide receivers is broken, it's broken. If it's not, it's not, as long as we keep doing what we're doing and keep winning."

It's winning on Saturday night that will give the Patriots the most cherished record of all - just ask the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Even over at Elias, which bases its business on unearthing obscure sports stats, 16-0 looms over everything.

"It's nice to say you've broken records, but I'm sure those St. Louis Rams teams broke a lot of records, too," said Labombarda. "To see a team go 16-0, no one has ever done that, end of story."

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