FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – “Fonzie” takes the field with 81 seconds left and the game tied. “Robin Hood” follows with 5 seconds left and kicks the winning field goal.

Better known as Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri, the combination manages to stay calm and produce under pressure time after time.

Josh Miller, the New England Patriots’ talented punter and punster, marvels so much at their clutch performances that he came up with those nicknames. Brady is “Fonzie,” the epitome of cool from the television show “Happy Days.” Vinatieri is “Robin Hood,” who helps those in need.

But what about Miller?

“Josh is a funny guy,” Brady said Wednesday with a grin.

There are plenty of smiles in the Patriots’ locker room this week after Vinatieri’s 43-yard field goal with 1 second left gave them a 23-20 win at Pittsburgh last Sunday. Brady set it up by completing all three of his passes on the drive for 37 yards as part of his 12-for-12 fourth quarter.

It was Vinatieri’s 18th winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime. Two of them came in Super Bowls. It also was the 18th drive in Brady’s five seasons as a starter that ended with the Patriots taking the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Last Sunday, they started at their 38-yard line with 1:21 left and the score tied at 20.

“All you can do is put yourself in that situation. What would you do?” Miller said, “but you’re watching this guy who’s just like Fonzie. It’s awesome. … He’s just a cool cat. He doesn’t get rattled.”

Neither does Vinatieri, who depends on Miller to take the snap from Lonie Paxton and hold the ball properly.

“We have Robin Hood who just comes in, does his thing and leaves. He’s cool,” Miller said.

The analogy isn’t precise because Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. Winning three Super Bowls in four years doesn’t qualify the Patriots as needy, but in individual games they sometimes find themselves behind and in need of a rescuer.

Vinatieri never heard Miller use the Robin Hood comparison and prefers to focus on the basics without embellishment. He simply takes his position, watches where the ball is spotted and tries to use the same form every time – whether it’s an extra point or a field goal, an exhibition game or the Super Bowl.

“It’s fun being on this team because it just seems like we always have a chance to win,” Vinatieri said. “Whenever he’s got the ball and a minute left, I feel pretty confident that Tom and the fellas can move it down the field.”

They did it in the Super Bowl that capped the 2001 season. With the score tied at 17, the Patriots started at their 17-yard line with 1:21 to go and no timeouts left. Brady completed five of eight passes – including two spikes to stop the clock – and Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 win over St. Louis.

Two years later, the score was tied at 29 with 1:08 left. Brady completed his last four passes to set up Vinatieri’s 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left that have New England a 32-29 win over Carolina.

Brady and Vinatieri also excel at deflecting praise, a trait encouraged by coach Bill Belichick, who emphasizes team success over individual glory.

“There are a lot of guys out there doing a great job,” Brady said. “I think I’m in the right place at the right time and part of a great football team and happy to be the quarterback.”

“Josh does a great job” holding the ball, Vinatieri said, “and Lonie makes it easy for all of us with as good a snapper as he is. So there’s a lot of things that go into a successful field goal or extra point.”

But without Fonzie and Robin Hood, last-minute victories would be much tougher.

“It’s great watching Brady do his thing under pressure, what we would see as pressure,” Miller said. “The clock’s ticking, no timeouts, this is what we’re going to do. It’s cool. We’re fine. (He) does the plays, works out fine (and) immediately after the game what does he do? Gives credit to everybody else on the planet Earth. It’s unbelievable.”

And Vinatieri?

“It’s the same routine, same everything. It’s an extra point. It’s this. It doesn’t matter what part of the game,” Miller said. “Yeah, he’s cool.”

AP-ES-09-28-05 1758EDT


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