Defense Carries Patriots

From Associated Press

Between a pregame cold shoulder and a postgame lukewarm hug, Bill Belichick showed his old boss how defense is played.

The New England Patriots won the much-hyped meeting of masterminds with Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys, a 12-0 victory over the NFL's stingiest team Sunday night.

Sticking to their game plan of playing down their relationship, neither coach stressed it after the Patriots had three interceptions and outplayed the Cowboys' top-ranked defense.

"Bill congratulated me on the win, and I told him I thought he had a good football team," Belichick said of their midfield embrace. "I wished him luck and I do."

Although they stayed at opposite ends of the field during warmups, Parcells shot down the idea that he dislikes Belichick, who resigned as New York Jet coach on Jan. 4, 2000, one day after succeeding Parcells.

"I'm about tired of talking about that kind of thing. The guy did a hell of a job for me for a long time," Parcells said. "People in the media can try and drive a stake between us if they want to, but that's not going to happen on my point."

But Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi thought this confrontation had special meaning for Belichick, who spent 12 years as an assistant to Parcells with the Patriots and the New York Giants and Jets.

"I think it was a big win for him," Bruschi said. "If I worked for a coach at one time or was on that staff I'd want to beat him too. It's just common sense."

The Patriots, helped by two long passes by a mostly ineffective Tom Brady and 10 penalties against the Cowboys, had enough offense to win their sixth straight game and give Belichick a 3-2 career record over Parcells.

New England (8-2) maintained its two-game lead over Miami in the AFC East. Dallas, 7-3 after three 5-11 seasons, dropped into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NFC East as Parcells, whose Cowboys beat two of his former teams -- the Giants and Jets -- in his first season with Dallas failed to make it a sweep.

Adam Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter, and Antowain Smith scored on a two-yard run in the second.

Then the Patriots' defense dominated with three interceptions in the second half, and Vinatieri finished it with a 26-yard field goal with 1 minute 56 seconds remaining.

The shutout was New England's first in 130 games.

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