Friday, November 23, 2012

It was a very happy homecoming for Steve Gregory -

It was a very happy homecoming for Steve Gregory -


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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For millions of people, Thanksgiving is an
opportunity to go home and have fun with family and friends.

STEVE GREGORY won't soon forget his 2012 holiday homecoming. The
safety and New York native -- Brooklyn-bred, schooled in Staten Island
-- had the game of his life in the Patriots' 49-19 victory over the
Jets at MetLife Stadium.

Gregory stuffed the stat sheet, scoring a touchdown on a 32-yard
fumble return, forcing a fumble, recovering another, and intercepting
a pass thrown by MARK SANCHEZ. For someone proud of his Empire State
roots, he came up roses on Thursday night in the Garden State.

"It was a good one for me today," Gregory said.

His teammates noticed.

"He made some big plays," fellow safety DEVIN MCCOURTY said. "That's
a dream game. I told him I just want a turkey leg."

Gregory was honored with a postgame feast on the field, along with
TOM BRADY and VINCE WILFORK. It was the Patriots' defensive lineman
who sensed a big game from Gregory was coming.

"You know what? Last week before we played the Colts, he had three
interceptions in practice. So I said, 'Man, he's going to get three
interceptions in a game, three turnovers in a game,' " Wilfork said.
"It didn't happen against Indianapolis. But he came out today and made
some big plays for us."

Missing ingredient

The Patriots knew all week they'd be without three key starters --
tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI, defensive end CHANDLER JONES, and guard
LOGAN MANKINS. Turns out they'd be missing starting right tackle

Vollmer, who has been listed on every injury report this season with
back and knee issues, missed his first game of the season, designated
by the team as one of its seven inactive players in the Patriots'
49-19 win over the Jets. Vollmer, who missed 10 games last year with
injuries, was replaced by MARCUS CANNON, who had appeared in the first
10 games, all in a reserve role.

DONALD THOMAS filled in for Mankins at left guard for the fourth
time in five games.

In an expected move made more important because of Gronkowski's
absence, the Patriots welcomed back AARON HERNANDEZ. The 23-year-old
tight end was active for the first time since Oct. 21, also against
the Jets. He'd missed three straight games with a lingering ankle
injury, which he suffered in the home opener, and finished with two
catches for 36 yards. A touchdown catch was nullified when Hernandez
was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Safety PATRICK CHUNG returned as well, after missing four games with
shoulder and hamstring injuries. He didn't start -- Gregory and
McCourty earned the first snap -- but Chung came in on the second
play. He had one tackle for loss, part of his two-tackle night.

In addition to Gronkowski (forearm), Jones (ankle), Mankins (ankle),
and Vollmer, the other inactives were defensive end JAKE BEQUETTE,
cornerback MARQUICE COLE, and offensive lineman MARKUS ZUSEVICS.

DAN CONNOLLY made the start at right guard, after sitting out
Sunday's game with a back injury.

Before the game, Zusevics was added to the 53-man roster, with the
team releasing receiver GREG SALAS.

Part of the tradition

The victory was the 200th in BILL BELICHICK'S career. He's the eighth
coach in NFL history to reach that victory total, and is 200-107.

"I didn't make a block, didn't make a tackle, didn't throw a pass,
didn't kick a ball," Belichick said. "The players win them, but it's
an honor to coach the group of players who really go out there and
make the plays to win those games."

Thursday night marked the eighth Thanksgiving game Belichick has
participated in since joining the NFL coaching ranks in 1975. He is
now 5-3, including 3-1 as a head coach with the Patriots.

Halftime adjustment

The Patriots have won 19 straight games in the second half of the
season. Their last loss from the back half of the schedule came in the
2009 regular-season finale, 34-27 at Houston . . . JULIAN EDELMAN, who
scored one second-quarter touchdown on a fumble return and another on
a 56-yard reception, left the game in the third quarter after taking a
helmet-to-helmet hit from a Jets defender. He did not return . . .
With his team playing nearby in prime time, Patriots owner ROBERT
KRAFT was caught by NBC cameras in the morning getting a front-row
seat at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade . . . Gronkowski, Mankins,
and linebacker JEROD MAYO were the leading vote-getters at their
positions in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl .. . . With 111 points
through the first 11 games, kicker STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI was on pace for
161, which would be 5 points shy of the NFL record for a season, set
by San Francisco's DAVID AKERS last year. The Patriots' record for
points in a season is 155 by GINO CAPPELLETTI in 1964 . . . Patriots
players will be off until Monday, when they'll return to Gillette
Stadium and begin preparations for the Dec. 2 game against the Dolphis
in Miami. (c) Copyright 2012 Globe Newspaper Company.
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