Final

Panthers 10

(5-8, 2-5 away)

Patriots 20

(8-5, 7-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 13, 2009

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 7 0 0 310
NE 0 7 7 620

Top Performers

Passing: M. Moore (CAR) - 197 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: L. Maroney (NE) - 22 CAR, 94 YDS

Receiving: W. Welker (NE) - 10 REC, 105 YDS

Patriots rally after shaky first half to protect one-game lead in AFC East

Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have needed a second-half spark most of the season. On Sunday, Wes Welker gave it to them.

Welker caught five passes on their tiebreaking series in the third quarter and the Patriots ended their worst slide in seven seasons with a 20-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.

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"We'd been flat pretty much the whole game and we needed a big drive there," Welker said. "That's when you have to step up."

Welker finished with 10 catches for 105 yards, his fifth 100-yard performance of the season. He has an NFL-high 105 receptions and joined Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice and Herman Moore as the only receivers with at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons.

"It seems like whenever we've got to make a critical play in a game, he's the guy that making the play," Tom Brady said. "Wes was the key ingredient as he always seems to be."

Four days after coach Bill Belichick told four players to leave when they were late for a team meeting, the Patriots shook off a poor first half and went ahead with 1:06 left in the third quarter on Brady's 5-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson.

Fast Facts

• The Patriots racked up 185 yards on the ground, their second-highest total of the season, and avoided their first three-game losing streak since 2002.

• Wes Welker has three straight 100-reception seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Herman Moore, and Marvin Harrison as the only players to accomplish that feat in NFL history.

• New England improved to 7-0 at home this season, but is just 1-5 on the road.

• Welker now has 105 receptions on the season, the most receptions in a player's first 11 games of a season.

• Bloggers' wrapups

• Rapid reaction

-- ESPN Stats & Information

The Patriots (8-5), who had lost three of their previous four games, their worst stretch since 2002, snapped a two-game losing streak and maintained their one-game lead in the AFC East. The Panthers (5-8) lost for the third time in four games.

Going into the game, there were significant differences in the Patriots performances in the halves. In the first, they had scored 220 points, Brady had thrown for 13 touchdowns and Welker had caught 51 passes. Those numbers dropped in the second half to 108 points, nine touchdowns and 44 catches.

Belichick stressed changing that.

Century Mark

Wes Welker has become a reception machine in New England. He went over 100 receptions for the third straight year Sunday and set a record.

Through first 11 games
Player Team Year Rec
Wes Welker NE 2009 105
Marvin Harrison IND 2002 100
Lionel Taylor DEN 1960 88
Cris Carter MIN 1994 88
Torry Holt STL 2005 85

"All week Bill talked about finishing," running back Kevin Faulk said, "focusing, playing hard and finishing games."

The Patriots improved to 7-0 at home but lost two fumbles and an interception before Brady's pass to Watson broke a 7-7 tie and Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 48 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter. They didn't score their first touchdown until 1:08 remained in the first half when Faulk ran in from 3 yards.

The Panthers had taken a 7-0 lead on Matt Moore's 41-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith with 2:43 left in the first quarter. But all they could manage after that was John Kasay's 36-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Moore played for the second straight week in place of Jake Delhomme, who has a broken finger.

"It was really frustrating," Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble said. "I feel like we played a really great first half. They came out the second half [and] they moved the ball."

The victory capped an eventful week for the Patriots, starting with a 22-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins on a field goal with 1:07 left. After that game, Brady said his teammates sometimes don't seem to fight as hard as they should.

On Tuesday, Brady's wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gave birth to their son. The new father was at work on a snowy Wednesday morning, but wide receiver Randy Moss and linebackers Adalius Thomas, Gary Guyton and Derrick Burgess were sent home after arriving late for an 8 a.m. meeting.

Thomas, who questioned Belichick's decision at length, was inactive Sunday despite being healthy.

"On every NFL team you have times during the season or weeks like that where it's a little more difficult," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "We found a way to put all that in our rearview mirror."

Moss had just one catch for 16 yards and has only 11 receptions in his last four games.

The Patriots gained 74 yards on their first series of the third quarter before Sammy Morris lost a fumble. On their second possession, they moved 96 yards to the go-ahead touchdown with Welker gaining 64 of them on his five catches.

"Just watching him play gives you a spark," center Dan Koppen said.

Brady, who missed two days of practice with rib, finger and shoulder injuries, completed 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards. Moore went 15 for 30 for 197 yards.

"When you give Tom Brady time, he's going to find a way to get the job done," Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis said.

Neither team did much offensively in the first half and benefited from good breaks to score their touchdowns.

"Our defense gave us three turnovers," Carolina fullback Brad Hoover said. "We were able to move the ball but at times it felt lethargic."

Two plays after Gamble intercepted Brady's pass to Moss, Moore hit Smith in the end zone. Four plays after the Patriots moved to the Panthers 21-yard line on a 30-yard pass interference call against Dan Connor, Faulk scored.

The game matched the teams that met in the Super Bowl after the 2003 season, won by the Patriots 32-29 on Adam Vinatieri's field goal with 4 seconds left.

Game notes


The Patriots won their 15th straight home game against an NFC team. ... Carolina's DeAngelo Williams entered the game as the NFL's sixth-leading rusher and ran for 82 yards on 13 carries after missing the previous game with an ankle injury. ... Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork left the game twice with a foot injury.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CAR
NE
1st Downs1426
Passing 1st downs
810
Rushing 1st downs
611
1st downs from Penalties
05
3rd down efficiency
3-133-11
4th down efficiency
0-11-2
Total Plays5672
Total Yards305377
Yards per play5.45.2
Total Drives1212
Passing179192
Comp - Att
15-3019-32
Yards per pass
6.06.0
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks - Yards Lost
2-180-0
Rushing126185
Rushing Attempts
2440
Yards per rush
5.34.6
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-12-3
Penalties9-924-25
Turnovers03
Fumbles lost
02
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession25:4534:15

Passing Leaders

CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Moore15/301976.6102-18
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady19/321926.0110-0

Rushing Leaders

CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Williams13826.3026
Stewart7294.108
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Maroney22944.3017
Faulk10585.8119

Receiving Leaders

CARRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Smith28341.51416
Muhammad3299.70167
NERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Welker1010510.502314
Watson33712.31183

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCARNE
carTD02:43Steve Smith 41 Yd Pass From Matt Moore (John Kasay Kick) 70
SECOND QUARTERCARNE
neTD01:08Kevin Faulk 3 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 77
THIRD QUARTERCARNE
neTD01:06Benjamin Watson 5 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 714
FOURTH QUARTERCARNE
carFG12:14John Kasay 36 Yd 1014
neFG07:20Stephen Gostkowski 48 Yd 1017
neFG03:56Stephen Gostkowski 47 Yd 1020