Faulk a lone bright spot
He delivers the goods once again
FOXBOROUGH - The 134th regular-season game of Kevin Faulk's career isn't one he'll remember fondly.
True, he was one of the few bright spots on a downright dismal day, but the Patriots' five turnovers and the team's 33-10 loss to the Steelers were what were on Faulk's mind yesterday.
"You can't have turnovers against a team like the Steelers," Faulk said. "But the good thing about what we do is we get to come out the next week and try to prove we're a better team than the way we played the week before."
The Patriots, who fell to 7-5 and into a second-place tie with the Dolphins in the AFC East, were shut out in the second half and managed just 267 total yards against Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense. Faulk accounted for almost half of them with 73 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards, both team highs.
It was the second straight week Faulk put up more than 100 scrimmage yards. He totaled 105 in last week's win in Miami. His rushing total was the most by a running back against Pittsburgh's No. 1 rush defense this season. The Ravens' Le'Ron McClain and the Eagles' Correll Buckhalter, each with 62 yards, previously held the honor.
Faulk had seven catches and claimed fourth place on the Patriots' all-time receptions list with 364. He moved into 25th place on the franchise's games played list and, now in his 10th season in New England, continues to be a key part of the Patriots' offense.
He's made his mark as a change-of-pace back, but Faulk has had increased responsibilities at times this season because of injuries (Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan) to a once-deep backfield and leads the Patriots in rushing. His 73 carries and 445 yards are his most since rushing for 638 yards on 178 carries in 2003. He's led the team in rushing in four games this year.
A favorite target of quarterback Matt Cassel, Faulk ranks third on the team in receptions (43) and receiving yards (363). Last week against the Dolphins, Faulk became one of only six players this decade with at least 2,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards.
Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Michael Pittman are the others.
He has at least one reception in every game in 2008 and has caught a pass in 42 straight regular-season games.
"When you put him in there on first and second down and in the spread offense, there's not a better back in the game," Patriots fullback Heath Evans said.
Faulk ripped off a 41-yard run late in the second quarter - it was the third-longest run of his career and the longest run allowed by the Steelers' stingy defense this season - to push the Patriots deep in to Pittsburgh territory with a chance to break a 10-10 tie before halftime. The drive ended, though, with three incomplete passes and a missed 27-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski.
The Patriots gained 80 yards on the ground in the first half - 46 for Faulk, 34 for Morris - a pretty respectable number against a defense that allows a league-low 102 a game. Morris scored the Patriots' only touchdown, from 2 yards, less than three minutes into the game following a Mike Vrabel interception.
"The first half we did what we had to do to stay in the game," Faulk said, "but the second half really told the tale."
Three lost fumbles and two interceptions did not make for a happy ending.
"It's always frustrating when you turn the ball over," said Faulk, who has not committed a turnover this year. "When you finish the game with a loss, that's the most frustrating thing you can do. We know we played bad in the second half. We just have to bounce back. The season's not over yet. We've got to watch the film, fix our mistakes, and be ready for next week."