SAN FRANCISCO — The first stop on the New England Patriots' tour of California was a smashing success, and now they're hoping a week in the Bay Area will put them in position to be a big hit in San Diego and beyond. The Patriots watched film and rested their aches at a Silicon Valley hotel Monday following their 30-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
The defending AFC champions elected to stay on the West Coast before Sunday's visit to the Chargers precisely because they could best keep to the rhythms of their weekly routine during a tough stretch of the schedule.
"I think the biggest thing for us is really here in the next 48 hours," coach Bill Belichick said. "Instead of getting on a plane and going back to the East Coast, and being tired, and dragging through Monday and yesterday, and trying to get it going today, we have an opportunity to rest up and get our work done here."
The Patriots have set up camp at San Jose State, which has a spiffy workout complex partially funded by a donation from Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia.
After taking the day off yesterday, they'll be hard at work in San Jose through Saturday, hopefully free of many day-to-day distractions that pop up in a normal week for such a high-profile team with heavy local media coverage and a frenzied fan base.
Safety Rodney Harrison eagerly jumped on board with Belichick's plan.
"To play such a physical game, and a long and grinding game, and then have to fly back six hours to the East Coast, try to get yourself reacclimated and get some rest, then practice a few days and then fly right back, I thought that was the dumbest thing we could possibly do," Harrison said. "It's really nice to be on a regular schedule. ... I'm 35 years old, so I need to feel as good as possible."
After what must have been an encouraging film session Monday, the Patriots were given yesterday off.
Several players, including former Raiders receiver Randy Moss, rented cars for the week, and some were planning to see the local sights — but mostly they spent yesterday enjoying the chance to avoid jet-lag at a key stage of their season.
"I kind of like it," receiver Wes Welker said. "It almost has that training camp aspect where everything (is about) football. All the film is right downstairs, and you're in your little confinement. For me, I don't have to worry about traffic with going back to Boston."
So far, Belichick's travel scheme is working just as well as his plan to beat the 49ers. The Patriots (3-1) thoroughly outplayed San Francisco in ways that didn't show up on the scoreboard, including more than 39 minutes of ball possession with a grind-it-out running game that repeatedly moved the chains, including New England's 8-for-17 mark on third downs.
Matt Cassel showed more signs of comfort in his third NFL start, going 22-of-32 for 259 yards with two forgivable interceptions and one breathtakingly perfect 66-yard touchdown pass to Moss, who caught it in stride behind San Francisco's top two defensive backs.
"To hit Randy down the field is something we practiced during the week," Cassel said. "I gave him the opportunity, he made a great catch, and he did what he does best."
Indeed, the Patriots obviously planned to threaten the 49ers with big plays early, since Cassel's first-quarter interception — which was caused by a hit as he threw — came on a play similar to the long pattern that eventually resulted in Moss' touchdown.
When New England showed a willingness to attempt big plays, the 49ers retreated into a cautious scheme with five defensive backs, which allowed the Patriots to run the ball for steady gains for the rest of the game.
New England's defense recovered from a shaky first quarter to play well in the final three periods. The defense only had to play about 13 minutes until the fourth quarter, but it held San Francisco without a first down in the second and third periods.
"When we came out and got down (14-7) early, there was some extra time to get on the sidelines and get some adjustments taken care of," Harrison said. "It gave us the ability to calm down, because we were all over the place."