I am posting this so that if anyone has the same problem they will know what to do.
NIC: Intel 82574L Gigabit mobo network card
Issue: after the server has been up for a random amount of time, the network connection is lost. attaching a console and looking at ifconfig I see a large number of dropped packets and collisions.
to list the make manufacture of NIC and the device driver it is using.
In this case: Intel 82574L, e1000e
Look in var/log/messages to get the version of the driver, in this case 1.0.2
Download .gz file with source code, follow instructions to install newest driver (e1000e.ko), in my case version 1.2.10
This resolved the issue.