THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Givens grabs the spotlight

By Joe Burris
Globe Staff / September 20, 2004

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Patriots wide receiver David Givens entered yesterday's game with the Cardinals with zero 100-yard games in his three-year career. He didn't appear to be on his way to reaching that milestone yesterday when he had but one catch for 15 yards at halftime.

But starter Deion Branch suffered a leg injury on New England's last drive of the first half and did not return. Givens stepped in for Branch and stepped up in a big way, with five receptions for 103 yards in the second half.

His 27-yard reception on the Patriots first drive after intermission was his longest since he hauled in another 27-yarder in last year's regular-season finale against Buffalo.

It was only the third time in his career that Givens has caught at least six passes in a game.

"Deion was down, and whenever one of our starting guys goes down, the next guy has to step up," said Givens. "I did know that I was going to get more balls thrown to me, but at the same time I have confidence in my ability and I know when I'm out on the field I'm the best player out there. There is no [defensive back] who is going to outwork me."

Though he has started just five NFL games, Givens entered this season with 602 yards on 43 receptions and 7 touchdowns. Last season, he led the team with 6 touchdowns and tied Troy Brown for the team lead in postseason receptions with 17.

Before yesterday, the most yards he had in a game was 87 on three catches against Denver last season.

He has been a testament to making the most of an opportunity.

"I think all of our receivers have the ability to start anywhere in the league," he said. "If you watched film, you'd see that we all continue to get open every week. When a guy goes down, we have the ammunition to back him up. We have five guys who can play.

"Then it's up to Tom [Brady] to throw to whoever he wants," added Givens. "That's a good option for a quarterback and an offense."

Givens's 27-yard catch yesterday came on third and 9 from the New England 21 and the Patriots subsequently capped the drive with Adam Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal.

On the Patriots' second drive of the quarter, he hauled in a 20-yard reception from the New England 20. The Patriots finished that drive with another Vinatieri field goal, this time from 28 yards, with 12:02 left in the game.

A 25-yard Givens reception led to Vinatieri's last field goal, a 24-yarder with 6:22 left. In the third quarter alone, Givens had three of New England's four receptions, totaling 56 yards.

"David Givens comes out every week to play hard," said tight end Daniel Graham. "I know that a lot of [defensive backs] are going to have to respect him because he is a physical receiver."

So much so that Givens was able to get quality yards after the catch yesterday.

"My focus is really to play every play to the whistle [blows] and just to try to do as much as I can to help us win," he said. "Whenever I catch the ball, my philosophy is to catch it and get up field. I just try to catch it and get as many yards as I [can]."

His efforts were among the reasons the Patriots never appeared in jeopardy of losing their lead.

"Our team is used to playing close games, and that's what we take pride in -- winning close games," said Givens.

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