Now they will try to do it without Tom Brady.
The 2007 NFL Most Valuable Player will miss the entire '08 season with a left knee injury that needs surgery, the team said yesterday. That leaves the Patriots without one of the game's greatest quarterbacks and severely damages their hopes of a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Coach Bill Belichick would not say what the injury is, but the play, Brady's reaction and the prognosis all point toward a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"As a team, we all just have to do our jobs. That really doesn't change," Belichick said, a day after Brady's knee collapsed under him when he was hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard in a 17-10 victory over Kansas City.
The Patriots issued a one-paragraph statement that the two-time Super Bowl MVP will have surgery and be placed on injured reserve. That leaves them in the hands of a backup who has barely been tested - in part because of Brady's 128-game starting streak that was the third longest for a quarterback in NFL history.
Matt Cassel, who guided New England to its 20th consecutive regular-season victory after Brady was hurt, will start Sunday at the New York Jets. It will be the first meaningful start since high school for Cassel, who backed up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at Southern California and spent the past three years behind Brady.
Packers 24, Vikings 19: : Aaron Rodgers passed his first test as Green Bay's new quarterback, throwing for 178 yards and a touchdown and scoring on a game-clinching sneak in the fourth quarter of a victory over visiting Minnesota. Rodgers finished 18-for-22 in his first regular-season start, which came in the wake of Brett Favre's offseason unretirement saga. "I'm happy we won and that he played well," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't really get caught up in all the other things."
Et cetera: : The Titans had to reschedule a magnetic resonance imaging on quarterback Vince Young's sprained left knee for today. ... Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle has a separated shoulder and Damon Huard will start against the Raiders. ... Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia sprained an ankle against the Saints and is questionable against the Falcons. ... Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson is out for the season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Bills.