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PATRIOTS MIDWEEK REPORT

Goal line, bottom line don't meet

Bill Belichick would prefer that goal-line cameras be used in NFL games to enhance instant replay and give coaches clearer evidence on close calls. Who would argue with that?

In fact, the Patriots made a presentation to the Competition Committee last March, saying that goal-line cameras are essential for instant replay success because that's where points are scored -- or prevented. If there's a camera on the uprights, why wouldn't there be a camera on the goal line?

All valid points.

But there's a reason there aren't goal-line cameras.

Atlanta Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the Competition Committee, says discussions on the topic have made it clear that utilizing such cameras would not be cost-effective.

''The cost would be overwhelming," McKay said. ''You'd have to have a second production of the game to pull it off. All of the feeds right now are generated from television. To capture the shots and get them produced to a monitor to the officials on the field, it would just be extremely expensive.

''It was an issue that was brought up during our initial discussions on instant replay. It's a legitimate issue and it's a legitimate concern."

McKay said some of the early discussions on instant replay centered around the challenging of only goal-line plays, but they didn't proceed in that direction. McKay said another problem is that stadiums are configured differently and the angles may not be true.

Colts president Bill Polian, the other co-chairman of the committee, said on the surface it sounds like a plausible idea, but ''once you start to discuss the logistics of how it all would work, it's much more complicated. I don't think we have any answers to those questions yet. You're talking about production and cables and cameras and how it would mesh with high-definition -- all sorts of things that require a lot of manpower -- and the fact that all the stadiums are configured a little bit differently."

So is there a solution?

One idea would be for the TV networks that spend hundreds of millions of dollars for broadcast rights to pay for the cameras and use the shots in games. That, of course, would have to be negotiated.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who is on the Broadcast Committee, said such talks haven't taken place, but he agrees that having goal-line cameras would be beneficial.

''I think it's inevitable," Lurie said. ''My understanding is it's being studied further from a technical viewpoint because I think when we do it, we want it do be done right. We want to find the most foolproof and efficient way to get it done.

''I think it would be great to have that view, a clear view, a high-definition view, but we have to figure out the technology involved."

Belichick decided not to challenge Sunday's 1-yard touchdown run by Stephen Davis, claiming there wasn't enough evidence to do so. Several of his players, though, thought Davis didn't get in, and replays seemed to show that Davis had been stopped short. Presumably, those same shots were available to the Patriots coaches in the press box.

The NFL's head of officials, Mike Pereira, declined to be interviewed about this topic, but he told AFC spokesman Steve Alic that he was aware of Belichick's comments.

This is a subject that clearly is important to Belichick, which is why Patriots executive director of legal affairs Jack Mula presented the concept of goal-line cameras on behalf of the Patriots at the league meeting.

Ben has been big

The Patriots continue to terrorize quarterbacks, as they did last season. Through two games, they have allowed only a 44.6 percent completion rate -- the best in the league. In fact, the Patriots are the only defense holding opposing QBs under 50 percent.

Now comes Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers phenom who is 15-0 in the regular season, 17-1 overall, with his only loss coming to the Patriots in last year's AFC Championship game. He has a 153.6 rating (perfect is 158.3) after two games, completing 23 of 32 passes for 472 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.

In that championship game, the Patriots stopped the Pittsburgh running attack and left it to Roethlisberger to beat them. He couldn't. The Patriots confused the young quarterback all day. Will the philosophy be that simple again, or can Roethlisberger, with more seasoning, be more successful this time?

''I think he's more relaxed and shows a little more poise than he did at the end of last year," said an AFC defensive coordinator. ''I think any quarterback can be rattled into a bad play, but this kid is pretty together.

''He's big and strong and moves around the pocket pretty well. He's a little banged up, so it probably limits him a little bit, but I think the approach of stopping the run and making Roethlisberger beat you is a little bit of wishful thinking. He can make plays with his arm and his receivers are big-play guys.

''The Patriots definitely created problems for him in the AFC Championship game, but he's got a big arm. If you flush him out of the pocket and he's on the move, he can throw the ball across the field if he has to and make a play. I'm sure that's one thing that will be emphasized this week."

But another AFC coordinator had this take: ''The Jets and the Patriots played him the best last year. You basically play him the opposite of the way you'd play Peyton Manning.

''What I mean is, Manning is excellent at executing the play that's called, so you want to try and disrupt that by rushing him up the middle and making him do things he's not comfortable with.

''With Roethlisberger, you want him to execute the play that's called because that requires him to have to make a throw in tight zone coverage, which means he has to be pretty accurate.

''The reason teams stopped blitzing him is he's so big he can see the field really well, and one thing he does is he gets the ball off. He's got a quick release and he's strong, so you're not going to intimidate him. He'll make plays if he drops back, pats the ball a couple of times, and either scrambles or rolls out and guys are running around like a schoolyard-football-type play."

The Patriots often used a three-man rush with eight men back against Roethlisberger, and they usually had a linebacker as a ''spy." A lot of that was successful in the AFC Championship game because of Tedy Bruschi's fine work that day.

Also, Roethlisberger has a knee injury that might slow him down. He has been referring to it as a left knee injury but has been icing the right one.

Reverse psychology

The folks at Scouts Inc. have an interesting take on the Patriots' running woes and what they can do to solve them against an extremely tough Pittsburgh front seven. They believe the Patriots will use misdirections, counters, draws, and possibly reverses to loosen up the Steeler defense. This makes sense. When he was offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis would throw in a reverse or two against an especially stingy defense just to get them thinking and back on their heels a tad. That type of creativity was missing in the Carolina game. Scouts Inc. writes, ''[Corey] Dillon also has the vision to recognize when defenders are out of position. Even if Pittsburgh's defenders just hesitate a moment longer than normal to diagnose the play, it will make it easier for New England's blockers to get into position." The second thing would be to run out of multiple-receiver sets. ''Dillon is a perfect fit for a spread scheme because he is a powerful runner that rarely goes down with his first hit, so he doesn't always need a lead blocker." It's a good thing Dillon doesn't have yardage incentives in his contract this year.

Help around corner?

With cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay injured, will it be long before we see Troy Brown playing defense again? Chad Scott might return this week against his former teammates, which could keep Brown on offense . . . The Patriots worked out several players on yesterday's off day, according to the NFL's internal personnel wire. The biggest name was former Eagles Pro Bowl corner Bobby Taylor, 31, who played 10 games for Seattle last season and was a salary-cap cut June 2. Taylor missed nine games with a foot injury in '03 when he was with the Eagles and had knee problems with the Seahawks last season. The Patriots also have been looking at plenty of linebackers/special team type guys, trying out former Notre Dame linebacker Michael Goolsby and former Jet James Kinney yesterday. Last week they took a peek at Terry Pierce, James Hardy, and Corey Jenkins. Also in for a look yesterday were former Giants center Wayne Lucier and former Titans tackle Todd Williams. This all reflects the Patriots' concerns about special teams, the offensive line, and the defensive backfield.

Have no fear

An AFC coach accounted for Carolina coach John Fox's success against the Patriots this way: ''He's not afraid of them." . . . Tom Brady has a career regular-season record of 49-15 (.766), and if he beats the Steelers, he will reach 50 wins in 65 starts, the second-fewest since 1970. Ken Stabler is tops with 50 wins in 62 starts, followed by Dallas's Danny White with 69.

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