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New England is peaking in time for the postseason, whipping Arizona 47-7 with a blizzard of points on a snow-covered field Sunday.
It won't keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs. And it might not be enough to get the Patriots in.
"We have no one to be frustrated with but ourselves," Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. "We lost five games."
Miami, tied with the Patriots at 10-5 but with the tiebreaker edge, would win the AFC East with a victory over the New York Jets next Sunday. Baltimore would get the AFC's one available wild-card spot by beating Jacksonville, leaving New England out for the first time in six years.
But on Sunday, the Patriots showed total superiority to the struggling champions of the weak NFC West. They pressured Kurt Warner into one of his worst games in 11 pro seasons as he threw for just 30 yards.
The Cardinals' defense was more miserable than the weather, allowing the Patriots to score on nine of their 10 possessions before Matt Cassel got the rest of the game off.
New England held a huge margin of 514 to 186 yards over the NFL's second-highest scoring team.
"Right now, we aren't what we were," Warner said. "If we're happy with winning the division, than that's all we'll do."
The Cardinals (8-7) didn't blame their fourth loss in five games on the snowy conditions that they never see in Arizona.
"It's not about excuses. It's all about execution," free safety Antrel Rolle said, "It's embarrassing. It's nothing we can brush off our shoulder."
The Patriots are 10-0 in home games in which snow has fallen during the game and, unlike the Cardinals, practiced in it last week.
"I don't know if they're built for these conditions," Mankins said. "They're a passing team, they don't really run the ball. They're not used to the snow, maybe a sandstorm or something."
Cassel completed 20 of 36 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns a week after throwing for four touchdowns in a 49-26 win at Oakland as the Patriots seized control early for the second straight game.
"I've never played in the snow before," said Cassel, who barely played at all the past seven seasons at Southern California and New England. "It was a lot of fun."
Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who kept Cassel on the bench for his last two college seasons after Carson Palmer did it for his first two, replaced Warner with 3:27 left in the third quarter. He went 6-of-14 for 138 yards with an interception, a fumble and a 78-yard touchdown on which Larry Fitzgerald ran most of the way to cut the lead to 47-7 with 6:17 left.
New England clinched a better record than Arizona, which is 2-6 against winning teams, but could become the second team to miss the postseason with an 11-5 record since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978.
"That's not really anything that we have any control over," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We're not in the NFC."
Warner, with receiver Anquan Boldin out with a shoulder injury, went 6-of-18 for 30 yards, the fewest in any game in which he started and threw at least 10 passes. His previous low was 105 yards in a loss at Seattle on Sept. 25, 2005.
"In conditions like this, we had to establish the run," Warner said. The Cardinals ran eight times on their first nine plays without a first down.
The snow began falling steadily four hours before the game and tapered off about the time Randy Moss scored on a 76-yard pass play, the longest of Cassel's career, on the first snap of the third quarter. Cassel faked a handoff, then turned and threw to Moss on the left near the line of scrimmage.
He accelerated up the sideline and slowed to a trot as he approached the end zone with his longest gain in two seasons with the Patriots.
That gave them a 38-0 lead before Stephen Gostkowski kicked three of his four field goals.
LaMont Jordan scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards on the Patriots' first two possessions. They punted on their next series, then scored on their next four on Cassel's passes of 15 yards to Kevin Faulk and 11 yards to Wes Welker, Gostkowski's 38-yard field goal and Moss' touchdown.
"I can't understand it or explain it," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We may need to grow up, to show that we can play through adversity."
The most trouble the Patriots seemed to have with the snow came when Welker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for making a snow angel just beyond the end line after his touchdown as the Patriots jumped into a 28-0 lead with 1:52 left in the half.
"I just got a little bit too excited there," Welker said. "I really didn't think it would be a penalty. I wouldn't have done it if I thought it was."
This program aired on December 22, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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