Patriots notebook

Steeler guarantees a victory

Smith: Perfect season will end

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 6, 2007

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The Patriots' perfect season will end Sunday, according to Pittsburgh defensive back Anthony Smith. The safety yesterday guaranteed the Steelers would defeat the Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"People keep asking me if we're ready for the Patriots. They should be asking if they're ready for us," said Smith, a second-year player from Syracuse.

"We're going to win," added Smith. "Yeah, I guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."

Not exactly Joe Namath, but a bold proclamation nonetheless.

The Patriots have beaten the Steelers five of the last six meetings, including playoffs. But the Pittsburgh win, a 34-20 triumph at Heinz Field in 2004, snapped New England's record 18-game regular-season winning streak (21 straight, including playoffs).

Smith wasn't on the team then, but he was acting like he was yesterday. Here are a few more pearls of wisdom.

On the Patriots' 27-24 win over the Ravens Monday night: "They say they played their toughest game last week against Baltimore, but I think we play harder. They're going to be in for it again this week. They're going to have a tough week in front of them."

On the Patriots' receiving corps: "They've got [Wes] Welker and [Randy ] Moss, but they're not like Cincinnati."

The Steelers clamped down on the Bengals' passing attack in a 24-10 victory last Sunday. Smith better hope they can do the same to the Patriots or he's going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Time for a change

Playing three straight night games finally caught up to the Patriots, forcing them to alter their preparations for the Steelers.

Wednesday is usually a practice day, but coach Bill Belichick instead elected to put the team through a walkthrough yesterday.

"We got back late Monday night, so we're going to change the schedule a little bit this week and get back into our normal deal [today]," said Belichick.

Belichick said that the change wasn't because of player fatigue, something Moss had alluded to in Baltimore, but the fact the coaching staff needed more time to turn around preparations for Pittsburgh.

"It's for the coaches to be ready for the players when they come in here," said Belichick. "As I said, Pittsburgh is a hard team to prepare for. What I don't think you want to do is give your team a game plan and then you do more work on the team [and] find out, well, this isn't quite what we want here and we need to change this and we need to change that.

"We felt it was just better to take a little more time ourselves from a coaching standpoint, a staff standpoint, to make sure that with the extra time we had [yesterday] morning that we could get things as close to exactly the way we want them, so when we do give [the plans] to the players that we don't have to go back and change them."

On WEEI Tuesday, Belichick acknowledged, "We're a tired team right now. We have to find a way to get some energy back."

No playing tag

The win over the Ravens ensured that the Patriots will not be able to use the franchise tag on cornerback Asante Samuel following the season. Samuel, who was franchised last season, signed an amended $7.79 million franchise tender that prohibited the Patriots from franchising him again if they won 12 games this season or he played 60 percent of the defensive snaps.

Samuel figures to be a hot commodity if he reaches free agency. He is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, and is also second in the AFC in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl, trailing Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Fan voting, which counts for a third of the selection process, closes Tuesday.

Money player

With his four catches for 34 yards against the Ravens, Moss made $350,000. As first reported by the NFL Network, Moss has clauses in his contract that give him bonuses for reaching 45, 55, 65, 75, and 85 catches. A league source confirmed the bonuses to the Globe. Moss has 75 catches for 1,129 yards and 17 touchdowns. So far, Moss has banked $1.4 million in bonuses.

He earns another $250,000 if he is voted to the Pro Bowl. Moss's odds look good. He is leading all receivers with 606,238 votes. That's the fourth-highest overall total. Brett Favre (842,167) is the leader and Tom Brady (776,475) is second.

Get the ice ready

Steelers running back Willie Parker expects a hard-hitting game Sunday. "Every time we play them, it's no walk in the park," he said. "It's going to be a physical game and after this game, the next day you're going to need some ice. We know that they have a great defense and we've got to come out there and bring our A game."

Who's out, who's in

According to the report the Steelers released, running back Najeh Davenport (foot) and wide receiver Hines Ward (coach's decision) did not practice yesterday.

Safety Troy Polamalu (knee), left tackle Marvel Smith (back), and receiver Santonio Holmes (ankle) practiced after missing the last two games.

Must-see TV

The Patriots-Ravens game, broadcast on ESPN's "Monday Night Football," attracted the largest household audience in cable television history and broke the record for most viewers. The game did a 13 rating and averaged 12,529,000 homes, breaking the record set last year when ESPN averaged 11,807,000 for a Giants-Cowboys game. The Patriots-Ravens game was seen by an average of 17,522,000 viewers. In Boston, the game delivered a 28.3 rating on ESPN and an 8.3 rating on Channel 5 . . . The Patriots' home game against the Jets Dec. 16 will remain at 1 p.m. The team's Dec. 23 home game against the Dolphins is scheduled for 1 p.m. but could still be moved to 4:15 . . . Rodney Harrison will appear live via satellite on tonight's NFL Network halftime show during the Bears-Redskins game.

Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report, and material from the Associated Press was used.

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