No Huddle: Patriots-Jets postgame sound

No Huddle: Patriots-Jets postgame sound
October 22, 2012, 4:12 am
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FOXBORO -- There's no better way to start this round of No Huddle than with a Rob Gronkowski quote from New England's 29-26 overtime victory over the Jets.
"You can win some ugly and you can win some pretty, and it just doesn't matter."
Sunday, the Patriots win hit every branch of the Ugly Tree before finally falling to earth. It wasn't a huge effort from the offense that propelled them. A dogged defensive effort didn't shut the Jets out. There were successes and mistakes in every phase of the game from both teams.
It was as though one side just beat itself less, if that makes sense.
So what do you end up hearing in the locker rooms afterward? One group of guys that knows how close it was to losing but didn't, and another group that knows how close it came to winning and didn't.
Let's dive into the sound.
Defensive back Devin McCourty on his personal highs and lows Sunday night:
DM: "My teammates saved my life today. A bad mistake in the fourth quarter. I just have to do a better job of holding the ball. This was just a total team win. We just kept fighting. Things didn't go our way the whole game. Today we made enough plays when we needed to for the win."
McCourty almost had a great night. The cornerback -- we'll say because starting safeties Pat Chung and Steve Gregory were sidelined by injury -- was moved to the back of the secondary. With all the play unfolding in front of him, McCourty was left to cleanup duty and he did it well. Oh, and there was that huge 104-yard kickoff he returned for the touchdown in answer to New York's first scoring drive.
But he fumbled.
The score was knotted at 23 and there were two minutes left to play in the game. If the Patriots could execute enough of a drive to at least get in field goal range, a win was as good as theirs. McCourty caught the 65-yard boot, ran 15 yards, and lost the ball after getting tackled. If New England lost it would have been as though he never scored that touchdown. McCourty won't be getting a statue erected in his honor in this lifetime anyway, but still.
Gronkowski on his feelings about McCourty's performance:
RG: "He's a great player. We love having him on our team. He's a great leader and he just works hard every week and it's awesome having him on the team. That's all you can say about him. He's a good player."
This quote is included for its context. You know how McCourty is viewed by critics; something you don't hear nearly as often is the confidence he gets from his teammates on the offensive side of the ball. Gronkowski almost looked insulted at the suggestion that McCourty has struggled. His face read clearly: I don't care what you think; he's my teammate and I'm sticking up for him.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington on giving up several passing plays of over 20 yards:
KA: "No comment. We'll go back and see what we can improve. It's all about getting better from here."
Arrington had to stand up on his own. And for the entire secondary, at that. The group has gotten consistently chastised for surrendering downfield completions and the commentary won't stop after this weekend. The Patriots gave up six passes of 20 or more yards (note: there are two passes of 19 yards toeing the line in there as well) to the Jets. They've allowed 39 total after seven games and after every contest, someone from the secondary says they need to improve.
Still waiting.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on if he gets upset, as a defensive captain, when the team gives up 20-plus yard plays:
VW: "You know what? We really don't pay attention to be honest with you. For the most part, I think our guys came to work. They understood. We got a lot of holding penalties, but what that tells me is they were getting their hands on the receivers; they were trying to be physical with the receivers. You can always look at the film and play better technique, but I was proud to actually see these guys get their hands on balls, get their hands on the receivers, make a few plays in critical situations."
Though Wilfork isn't exactly wrong to say it's an improvement that the defensive backs are actually making plays on the ball, he might not really be happy with the penalties. Cornerback Ras-I Dowling alone was flagged for three holding calls. On his first penalty, it really was tempting to say, 'At least he turned to face the ball.' Improvement not perfection? Doesn't sound like the Patriot Way.
Receiver Wes Welker on if quarterback Tom Brady put criticism of his late-game work to rest by closing out against the Jets:
WW: "I think Tom put it to rest a long time ago. Nothing's really changed he's still Tom. I don't think anybody needs to waver on whether he's going to be there or not."
Nobody is doubting Brady's NFL journey will end in Canton. But it's because he's an elite quarterback that he's expected to come through in do-or-die situations.
In the fourth quarter Sunday night, the Patriots lead was cut to 23-20 and there was less than six minutes left on the game clock. New England needed to score. Instead, the team went three-and-out. Does the entire drive rest on Brady's shoulders alone? No; the offensive coordinator needs to call the correct plays and the entire offense needs to execute them. Still, Brady is the one driving the machine. If he hadn't kicked things into high gear for the final two drives that tied and won the game, we'd be talking about something else entirely.
Brady on his choice to throw a back shoulder ball to Aaron Hernandez on third-down in overtime:
TB: "You know, we talk about what we want to do in certain situations and Aaron happened to be in that position. At some point, it's going to be tight coverage and you've got to make a tough play, and they're close, and we've got to hit it. I think that's what it comes down to. I mean, it's not like guys are going to be open by five yards with that kind of time left on the clock, that important part of the game. It's close. They either make it or they don't -- or we either make it or we don't. And we didn't."
Sometimes when a quarterback throws an incomplete in one spot, there's a wide-open guy screaming for the ball in a different spot. On the third down in question, it didn't appear that Brady's targeting of Hernandez was at the expense of missing a better option somewhere else. The quarterback's point -- that, at times, the only throw is a tough throw and he just has to make it -- can be appreciated for its simple honesty.
Brady finished 26-of-42 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. It was just the third time in seven chances he's thrown for fewer than 300 yards.
Jets quarterback Tim Tebow on his limited playing time:
TT: "I try and be ready for anything. Obviously, I get excited when my number is called down there and I want to produce. I am not paid enough to make those decisions. I just listen to what I am told and just try to do the best I can with the opportunities."
Tebow played just four offensive snaps on Sunday. He had four carries for 12 yards. Funny how, when it came down to actually playing football, he was practically forgotten. Even on a third-and-2 situation where Tebow was practically a sure thing for the first down, New York elected to leave him on the bench.
Tebow can't help the hype. Especially when, and precisely because, it's so fascinating to see how it all plays out.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan on the ups and downs of starting quarterback Mark Sanchez:
RR: "I think you have to give your opponent credit when those things happen. I thought we played a good football game against an excellent opponent, but obviously overall, at the end of the day they out-executed us. That's all I can say about it."
Ryan was practically Patriots-like in his avoidance of the question. The Jets coach managed to respond without actually mentioning Sanchez directly or even indirectly.
For the record, Sanchez completed 28 of 41 passes for 328 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The offensive output is his highest yardage total of the season. And at times -- like on his first drive, when he hit Jeremy Kerley for passes of 24 and 26 yards -- he looked like a competent quarterback.
But the pick he threw in the second quarter -- a 35-yard pass that seemed to hang in the air long enough for its own halftime -- was as unimpressive as ever. Typical enough that you wonder what Ryan can even say anymore.