No Huddle: Patriots-49ers postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-49ers postgame sound

FOXBORO -- Well, that was a wild one.

I don't know about you, but New England's 41-34 loss (complete with 28-point comeback!) to the Niners raised some questions for me.

Among them: What, if anything, does this game say about the league's conferences in light of last week's dismantling of Houston, the AFC's top team? Was the steady rain a factor on both sides? Is Alex Smith the saddest man in America?

The post-game sound from both locker rooms provided a few answers.

Let's get to it.

Head coach Bill Belichick on San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's performance:

BB: "They won, give them credit. Im more worried about our team. Talk to Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh about his team. We just didnt do a good enough job."

Needless to say, Belichick was not happy. But someone should talk about Kaepernick.

The second-year quarterback completed 14 of 25 passes for 216 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed twice -- one scramble for 19 yards, the other run for 10 -- on the touchdown drive right before halftime. Though he fumbled four times (yes, four; we'll get to that in a second) he lost none of them.

Fumbling is part of why I was wondering about the rain.

At least two, if not all four, of Kaepernick's fumbles appeared to come on the snap. When it happened on San Francisco's first drive of the third quarter (which started at the New England 3 after the Patriots fumbled), it looked like Kaepernick was trying to pitch the ball right to running back Frank Gore. Whatever the design, the fumble got flipped enough in Gore's direction that he recovered and took the ball in for a touchdown.

Was the weather an issue? Ask the man, himself.

Kaepernick on fumbling a few snaps:

CK: "It was just a wet ball mishandling it. It was a hundred percent my fault."
Ok, then.

On whether or not putting on a glove helped:

CK: "Yes."

Good to know. One of his teammates didn't share the same view of the elements, however.

Niners tight end Vernon Davis on the wet conditions:

VD: I dont think the weather did anything to me. My own challenges were keeping up with Colin Kaepernick, because Alex Smith has always been around, I guess we got to get used to one another.

Interesting.

With the way San Francisco hung on to beat New England on the road in December (the Patriots previously held a 43-5 record in the month since 2001) all but blew up any remaining quarterback controversy for the Niners.

As a seven-year veteran of the Bay Area, Davis has dealt with Smith -- with San Fran for eight seasons -- in some capacity each year. That capacity has greatly diminished in the last six weeks.

Smith suffered a concussion against the Rams on November 11. He was medically cleared to play just 12 days later, but head coach John Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick. San Francisco has gone 4-1 behind their new starting quarterback. In light of that record, it might be easy for some to forget the transition for the 49ers offense; Davis' quote should be a reminder that it's still a work in progress.

That said.

On feeling confident with Kaepernick as quarterback:

VD: I feel very confident with Colin being Quarterback, and Im sure everyone else is as well.

Swell.

Cornerback Aqib Talib on if the Patriots made a lot of sideline adjustments:

AT: We made adjustments and we made a good job of making adjustments. We just didnt do a good job of executing. We made adjustments and we just didnt execute. We let too many balls get deep on us.

The Patriots defense has allowed the most completions of plus-20 yards, with 68. I hesitate to attempt math, but after 14 games, we're looking at 4.9 long passes surrendered per game. Sunday night's effort against San Francisco saw more of the same as Kaepernick had five big ones: 38 yards to Michael Crabtree, 34 yards to Delanie Walker, 27 more to Crabtree, 26 to Gore, and 24 and a touchdown to former Patriot Randy Moss.

Four of those were good for touchdowns.

Speak of the devil....

Moss on the game:

Cricket

I include this so you know he wasn't forgotten, he just didn't speak.

After the game Moss got dressed at his locker while reporters crowded around behind him. Properly garbed, he put on his headphones, ducked past reporters, and left Gillette Stadium with his team.

His attitude was businesslike from the start.

Moss didn't come out on his own during warmups to meet any former Patriots teammates and slap backs at the 50-yard line. He came out in a big group of 49ers and immediately fell into receiving drills. The only exchanges I saw before kickoff were handshakes with Matthew Slater and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

No; no bear hug with Tom Brady.

Now, this isn't his first time back at Gillette since trading Moss in 2010. And he might have gotten a coffee with Brady before the game for all anybody knows. But it was clear Sunday night Moss didn't want to make a big deal out of his return to Foxboro.

I think it's a show of respect to both his old team, and the new.

Niners safety Dashon Goldson on the fake punt:

DG: They showed us that side of the football field and the coach put it in my hands and made the call. I just took advantage of it. We ran it some in practice and I took a look and saw the look that I had seen in practice and took it and it worked. I was hoping they would show us that look so we could run it and they did. When we called it then it came out successful.

San Francisco ran this play in the first quarter. The score was 7-0 Niners and there was a little less than five minutes to play in the frame. Kapernick's third-and-10 attempt to Crabtree fell incomplete and the team got into its punt formation. That's when Goldson got the fourth down ball and ran for 31 yards. The Patriots were stunned.

Why bring this up?

I wrote a story Saturday about the importance of New England's scout team to its weekly preparation. You'd think I wouldn't be surprised to hear a player, regardless of who he plays for, say, 'Oh, that fake punt on fourth-and-10? We practiced it a bunch. Hoped it might come up and it did. How 'bout that!' But that's what happened.

Did San Fran know its opponent better than the Patriots? Looked like it on that play.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich on the outcome of the game:

RN: I think this is a good lesson for us. Id rather take it now than down the road. Obviously, they are a good team. You have to give them credit. You cant take anything away from what they have done on the field. They came in, they had the turnovers, they made the plays that they needed to make. So that one is on us."

Don't think him flip for seemingly finding a silver lining. To Ninkovich's point, there isn't much road left to travel. Better to lose and learn something in Week 15 than lose in the playoffs and have a whole offseason to think about where things went wrong, right?

It depends on your point of view.

Another way to think is, maybe the Patriots aren't as good (and the Texans not as bad) as we saw last Monday night. Maybe the NFC is the stronger conference, by however much. Maybe, considering how we keep seeing teams topple just as they reach some kind of pinnacle, there just isn't one truly dominant team in the NFL this year.

All of that combined is making a large part of the playoff race stretch to the very end of the regular season.

Did the Patriots lose the No. 2 seed with the loss to San Francisco? Not necessarily. If Denver doesn't win out (by losing to the Chiefs and Browns? Ehhh.) , New England still has a chance to avoid wild-card weekend.

But it sounds like Ninkovich and his teammates don't much care. The Patriots won't stress do-or-die until they get to the postseason.

His attitude in the postgame was just slightly different from receiver Wes Welker.

Welker on if there were positives to take after facing the Niners:

WW: Not really. We still lost the game

It's nice when Patriots players wrap stories up so neatly for me.

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: The Top 2

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: The Top 2

We're down to the Top 2. 

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 2

THE YEAR: 2014

THE GAME: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

THE PLAY: Malcolm Butler picks off Russell Wilson at goal line to save Super Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Is it the biggest defensive play in NFL history? You’d have a tough time making a case for any play to be ranked ahead of it. The play itself – Malcolm Butler sniffing out a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette on second-and-goal from the 1 with 26 seconds left – was a singularly great football play. The historical importance of it to the Patriots franchise in delivering a fourth Super Bowl title and preventing a third straight Super Bowl loss is even more far-reaching. It’s a play that symbolized a lot of things the Patriots under Bill Belichick have been about. It symbolized that it doesn’t matter how you got to the Patriots, it mattered what you did when you got there. Butler, an undrafted rookie who made the team in a tryout the previous spring, was on the field because another undrafted player, Kyle Arrington was getting lit up. A bold move but one that had to be made. It symbolized preparation and attention to detail. During the week of practice leading up to the game, Butler arrived late when the Patriots scout team offense ran the play and Jimmy Garoppolo beat Butler with a throw to Josh Boyce. The play needed to be sniffed out – it was by Butler and Brandon Browner – then executed with a great jam by Browner and an unhesitating break by Butler. It symbolized maintaining poise, which the Patriots had to do after the ridiculous juggling catch by Jermaine Kearse put Seattle on the brink of victory. It symbolized a measure of risk-taking and coaching by feel, as Bill Belichick eschewed a timeout and let the Seahawks run the play. That the coaches locking brains at the point – Belichick and his predecessor in New England, Pete Carroll – added another chapter to the backstory. You could write a book about this play.  

PLAY NUMBER: 1

THE YEAR: 2001

THE GAME: Jets, Patriots

THE PLAY: Mo Lewis changes course of NFL history with sideline hit on Drew Bledsoe

WHY IT’S HERE: While the Butler interception at No. 2 cemented legacies and places in history, the play at the top of this list was the one that started it all. If you paid attention to what Tom Brady was doing in training camp practices and preseason games (30-for-51 for 390 yards) and contrasted it with Bledsoe’s performances (so underwhelming he played the bulk of the fourth preseason game and went 14-for-22), you could see the gap between $100 million franchise quarterback and sixth-round afterthought was closing. But even with the Patriots losing at Cincy to open the season and Bledsoe playing  poorly against the Jets, it was still going to be very difficult for Bill Belichick to press the eject button on Bledsoe. The team was building a new stadium and Bledsoe was the hood ornament for the franchise. With ownership trying to sell luxury suites and sponsorships, benching the only marketable player for the worst team in the league might not be prudent. Then Mo Lewis intervened. With 5:19 remaining and the Patriots trailing 10-3, Bledsoe was flushed to the right on a third-and-10 from the Patriots 19. As he neared the sticks, Bledsoe saw Lewis coming and slowed to go out of bounds, then seemed to remember it was third down and he needed to push forward. Lewis had all the momentum and his devastating hit sheared an artery in Bledsoe’s chest and gave him a concussion. It was a terrible injury that caused internal bleeding and put Bledsoe in some touchy moments in the hospital. And that’s what sucked. Here was a solid person of good character with a young family who’d given a lot for the franchise (albeit for a handsome paycheck) and now he was seriously hurt. But what happened in Bledsoe’s absence only confirmed what many suspected. He was an impediment to winning. It was that simple. I don’t doubt for a moment Brady would have eventually taken Bledsoe’s job even if the injury hadn’t occurred. It might have been that week anyway Bledsoe was so ineffective against the Jets. But the course of the 2001 season wouldn’t have been the same and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended with Bledsoe hoisting a Lombardi in the Superdome on Feb. 3, 2002.

 

NFL: 'No credible evidence' Manning used PEDs

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NFL: 'No credible evidence' Manning used PEDs

The NFL released a statement on Monday saying that after a seven-month investigation into allegations made in a documentary produced by Al-Jazeera America, it found "no credible evidence" that Peyton Manning used HGH or any other performance-enhancing drugs. 

In its documentary, released in December, Al-Jazeera used former British sprinter Liam Collins to go undercover to try to expose PED use by athletes. Collins spoke at length with a supplement salesman named Charlie Sly, who claimed he worked with Manning at the Guyer Institute, an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis following Manning's 2011 neck surgery, and that the Guyer Institute sent HGH to Manning's wife, Ashley.

Manning, who retired about a month after his Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50,  vehemently denied the allegations. Meanwhile, Sly -- who was recorded by Collins without consent -- later recanted his claims.

The NFL did not release all the details of its investigation, but it explained in its statement that both Mannings were "fully cooperative" with the investigation. They agreed to interviews and provided access "to all records sought by investigators," the NFL said.

The league did say that its investigation was led by the NFL's security and legal teams with "support from expert consultants and other professionals." 

"The investigation involved witness interviews," the NFL said, "a review of relevant records and other materials, online research, and laboratory analysis and review."

Al-Jazeera's documentary implicated several other NFL players, including Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. The league said that its separate investigations into those claims are ongoing.