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Pats balancing act set for encore performance

Team resembles that of 2003, 2004 Super Bowl teams in Week 1 with perfect passing, running blend and a tough defense.

Who would have thought that Stevan Ridley and the Patriots defense were the two best fantasy football plays on New England for Week 1?

Tom Brady threw the ball 31 times on Sunday, while New England ran it 35 times. That type of balance hasn't been seen around these parts for quite some time. New England has been a pass-all-the-time team since Corey Dillon was taking handoffs, but it looks as though they're going to keep teams guessing more.

"I think maintaining balance in any portion of the game is important and on offense, certainly," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said yesterday. "If you're able to do more than one thing well and able to move the ball in different ways, I think it just forces the defense to have to defend a lot of different things in your offense. You can't really settle into one thing and get comfortable with that."

Arizona doesn't come to mind when you think of great defenses, but the Cardinals are 8-2 over their last 10 games with John Skelton or Kevin Kolb at QB (Kolb will start Sunday) and haven't scored more than 23 points in any of them.

"They're a team that plays a lot of linebackers from their base defense," McDaniels said. "They give you a lot of different looks. They're a team that I would say has an extensive pressure package. They do a great job of trying to disrupt the passing game with pressure and also at the same time do a good job of affecting the running game, at the same time with those same pressures."

But perhaps their biggest non-offensive weapon is Patrick Peterson.

"Very dangerous on punt returns, that goes without saying," Bill Belichick said. "Big guy, has good length, good speed so [he's a] hard guy to throw over in the secondary; excellent ball skills."

 
 
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