Patriots notebook: Credit Washington with a save
Kelley Washington’s performance in the New England Patriots’ 21-12 AFC Championship Game victory over the San Diego Chargers at Gillette Stadium can be described in one word.
“Those are my touchdowns,” said the wide receiver, whose second-quarter play on a Chris Hanson punt led to a TD by another member of his team’s receiving corps, Jabar Gaffney. “That’s what I try to celebrate. I feel plays like that are game-changing plays. I was just glad and excited I was able to make a play like that.”
With his team clinging to a 7-6 lead, Washington, who hasn’t caught a pass all season, got down field in time to get under a Hanson punt, batting it away from the goal line before it hit the ground, to teammate Kyle Eckel who downed the ball at the San Diego 4.
Credit Hanson with a 36-yard punt on the play. Credit Washington with a “save.”
“It’s something me and Chris work on all the time in practice where he just tries to put the ball anywhere close to the goal line and I just do my best to get down there as fast as I can,” said Washington. “It worked out here in the game.
“He had a great punt. He put it real close to the goal line and I was able to maneuver my way down and able to elude a couple of their guys and make a play. I was just doing my job. We work on it all the time in practice. It was just a well-executed play by the whole punt team.”
A little more than 2-1/2 minutes later, cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted a Philip Rivers pass and returned it 10 yards to the Chargers’ 24.
A pair of 12-yard passes by Brady, the first to Kevin Faulk, the second the TD to Gaffney, gave the Pats a 14-6 lead.
“That’s gratifying to me to see that we changed field position, we come off with the interception, and the head coach comes and says, ‘Good job,’” said Washington. “That’s just jubilating to me. Again, that was a big play by the whole special teams, the whole punt team.”
Washington’s play was a key in a win that advances the Patriots to Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” said Washington. “It’s something you dream of as a kid and you think it would never happen to you. Playing in Cincinnati (for four seasons) and getting a chance to come here and play with this organization (after signing with the Patriots as a free agent during the offseason), this is what I came here to do. It’s just a great feeling. It’s a childhood dream.”
Six tackles for Cooper
Stephen Cooper, the Chargers’ inside linebacker from Wareham, accounted for six tackles in the game and was credited with half-a-sack and a quarterback hit on Brady.
Baby, it was cold outside
Sunday’s conditions - 23 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of nine degrees - made it the coldest Patriots game since the 2004 AFC Championship in Pittsburgh when it was 11 degrees with a wind chill of minus-1 at kickoff.
The Patriots won that game, 41-27.
Veteran wide receiver Troy Brown was among the Patriots’ inactives for the game.
Along with Brown, offensive tackle Wesley Britt, third quarterback Matt Gutierrez, wide receiver Chad Jackson, safety Mel Mitchell, defensive end Le Kevin Smith, cornerback Antwain Spann and guard Billy Yates were inactive for New England.
Tight end Scott Chandler, wide receiver Malcolm Floyd, cornerback Cletis Gordon, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, cornerback Paul Oliver, place-kicker Dave Rayner, linebacker Anthony Waters and third quarterback Charlie Whitehurst were inactive for the Chargers.
Bruschi turns 21
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi played in his 21st career playoff game, passing Brown (20 games) for the most played in Patriots history.
Former San Francisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders-Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jerry Rice holds the NFL record with 29 playoff appearances.
On the flip side
Former Patriots guard John Hannah, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1991), and former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett, one of 14 modern-era finalists for this year’s class, served as the team’s honorary captains for the game and accompanied this season’s captains to midfield for Sunday’s pregame coin toss.
The honorary captains were joined for the toss by Anna Grant of Stratham, N.H., the national girls’ age 14-15 division winner in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition who was roundly booed when introduced wearing a Patriots’ jersey at the previous Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game in Indianapolis.