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Patriots seem willing and able to make perfect run

Of all the Patriots remaining opponents –- and anyone can scan the schedule and size them up -- the toughest, by far, are … the elements.

Until the Patriots lose, every opposing stadium will turn into a sound machine, with fans hoping to be a part of the history they want their team to make.

Every team will deliver its best shot, spurred on by the idea that it is not just playing for a simple win, but a slice of history.

During the week, the number of reporters in Foxboro, Ma., will grow in direct proportion to the length of New England's winning streak, until the media members at the team's training complex eventually dwarf the number of Patriot employees.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be asked, repeatedly, not how certain players are playing but whether they are playing at all.

With each win, the pressure will build. The glare will grow. The intensity will increase. The pursuit of perfection, as others already have learned, is a beast of burden.

Just think back to that Monday night in December 1985, when the only thing thicker than the humidity in Miami's air was the anticipation. The Dolphins offense delivered big plays that the Bears defense was unaccustomed to surrendering. In the first half alone, Miami and its quarterback Dan Marino, converted on third and 18, third and 19 and third and 13, helping produce 14 points in a 40-second span –- more points than the Bears had allowed in their past six games.

When the next unbeaten fell in 1998, it came in a game that defied the odds. For starters, the Broncos were 13-0, going against a 5-8 Giants team. Denver won the turnover battle, held the ball for 34:27 compared to the Giants' 25:23, but lost it when New York's journeyman quarterback, Kent Graham, threw the most memorable pass of his career, a perfect touchdown to Amani Toomer that ended Denver's perfect season and snapped its 18-game winning streak.

The most recent unbeaten streak to fall was Indianapolis' in 2005, when the Chargers beat the Colts behind the combination of short Drew Brees throws, a long Michael Turner touchdown run and constant pressure from Shawne Merriman.

Studying all three games, the only common thread that linked them was the pressure on the quarterback that the underdog got. The Dolphins sacked the Bears quarterbacks six times, the Giants constantly pressured John Elway and San Diego got to Peyton Manning four times, two from Shawne Merriman.

New England could be vulnerable to pressure too, especially against a Pittsburgh team that fields the NFL's No. 1-rated defense and has a defensive coordinator in Dick LeBeau that knows exotic blitzes.

But if Tom Brady doesn't throw an interception, Laurence Maroney doesn't fumble, if this team stays relatively healthy, they are going to step on every team in its way and step right into NFL history books.

Anyone who doubts it only needs to think back a few years. From 2003 into 2004, the Patriots put together, including playoffs, a 21-game winning streak.

So if those Patriots teams won 21 straight, why can't this year's team win 19 straight?

Let the countdown to 16-0, history, and the 1972 Miami Dolphins begin.

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