No Huddle: Patriots-Jets postgame sound

848215.jpg

No Huddle: Patriots-Jets postgame sound

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- This week's No Huddle has a distinctly different flavor. Why? After New England slapped down the Jets, 49-19, on Thanksgiving night, one thing was clear: New York's locker room would be more interesting.

The team is a mess.

Thursday night's game was as much about the Jets imploding in on themselves as New England playing well. Hence why the home team's locker room sound told a better story.

But we'll start with a couple Patriots bytes. For tradition's sake.

Quarterback Tom Brady on the team's third-down efficiency today:

"I thought we did a real good job on third down. This is a team that's very good on third-down defense. They challenge you in a lot of ways with their blitz schemes, but if you make a lot of conversions, you can beat schemes."

Brady was being kind. That is all. The Jets entered this Week 12 game at the bottom of the NFL's third-down 'D' barrel. As of Friday morning, the bottom is where they remain, surrendering 46-percent of opponent attempts.

New England did even better. Behind Brady, the Patriots converted 11 of 15 third down opportunities. Perhaps that's what the "beating schemes" addendum was all about.

Head coach Bill Belichick on if he's ever experienced three touchdowns so quickly in a game:

"Well, unfortunately, I was on the other end of that at the Pro Bowl a couple years ago and it was 42-0 in the middle of the second quarter on the same kind of plays, touchdowns, interception returns, fumble returns, and things like that."

Two things stand out to me here.

1. Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since 1975. To say that he can empathize with the Jet crash that involved New England putting up 21 points in 52 seconds (Patriots offensive touchdown; Jets fumble and Patriots recover for a TD; Jets fumble ensuing kickoff and Patriots recover for TD) only in a Pro Bowl? Some dictionary sticklers might not consider that real empathy.

2. It might really be empathy and not a dig when you consider the source. This is Belichick; it's entirely possible he treated that Pro Bowl, played in January of 2010, like a real game. His AFC squad was in trouble, if so -- Atlanta's Mike Smith had the NFC up 42-7 at halftime. At least the 55-41 final score depicts a more competitive game. Better still, for Belichick that nobody cares about the Pro Bowl.

I digress.

Jets coach Rex Ryan on if the big losses are discouraging:

RR: "Of course I'm discouraged. I'll put it to you this way: We're about as wounded as we can possibly be, but we're not dead. I can tell you this: We will give everything we have, every ounce of energy we have, to get this thing going That's from a coaching standpoint as well as the players. If not, then we'll make adjustments."

Rex's 4-7 Jets now have the most losses in the AFC East. Of course he's discouraged.

I think the "wounded but not dead" characterization is interesting. Depends on what you're talking about. If the season ended today, the Jets wouldn't be in the playoff picture. That's pretty dead by football standards.

Yet we've got five games to go.

New York's schedule isn't awful: Arizona and San Diego at home; Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Buffalo on the road. There are some winnable games there. But even if they used the Patriots loss as do-or-die motivation instead of the start of some drain-circling (as it appears), the best the Jets can do is 9-7.

You know what? Why even go there?

Ryan on what happened when quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into his own teammate and fumbled:

"My understanding is, I thought he reversed out the wrong way. That's what happened. It was a mental mistake and then he just tried to slide. When he did, he actually ran into Brandon."

What actually happened was, Sanchez ran face-first into offensive lineman Brandon Moore's butt and fell down. But it's good to understand the play from an X's and O's point of view, too. I guess.

Moore on if the turnovers were a sign of the team not being prepared:

BM: "This was totally unexpected. We don't expect to turn the ball over like that. It's something that we preach coming into the game as far as self-inflicted wounds and protecting the football. It was a big point of emphasis. It was unexpected."

Moore is exactly right about the surprise factor. No team expects to turn the ball over, but the way New York repeatedly shot itself in the foot -- the five fumbles, the interception, the surrender of an 83-yard Patriots touchdown pass on a wheel-route -- was too absurd to even imagine.

The Jets are now owners of a -3 giveawaytakeaway differential. It would look worse if the defense didn't keep up because their 22 turnovers (10 interceptions, 12 fumbles) is tied for third-most in the NFL.

Jets tight end Dustin Keller on how Coach Ryan felt about the game:

DK: "I'm not going to quote him word for word, but he is disappointed in us. He has higher expectations for us and we have higher expectations for ourselves. For how we feel about ourselves and what we are capable of. And to do that, it is just embarrassing."

I wonder why Keller can't quote his coach?

Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow on Coach Ryan stating he didn't want Tebow to play with his injury:

TT: "It was and I appreciate his concern. I had to do a little bit of talking just to dress, but I just want to be there for my teammates in case they needed me in an emergency situation."

Only one player who was active for Thursday night's game did not play in Thursday night's game.

Tebow.

Come to find out, the backup has two cracked ribs. Fine. So why did he dress? Why, in Tebow's own words, did he "do a little bit of talking just to dress"? Shouldn't New York have activated a healthy quarterback -- like Greg McElroy -- in case Sanchez had to leave the game? Tebow reportedly couldn't even breathe deeply without pain.

Ryan insisted on his Friday conference call that the backup could have played in an emergency situation.

"Tim was cleared to play. He wanted to play. And that's just the way it is."

Heroic? Or silly?

Sanchez on how he handles fans chanting for Tebow:

MS: "The same way I've handled it before and just block it out. I don't think about it. I just keep playing, keep fighting for our guys and just continue to work, try to get better, and eliminate some of these mistakes that have hurt us."

You can applaud Sanchez for putting on a brave face, but he's in an impossible situation. This is not Colin Kaepernick versus Alex Smith, this is Tebow.

Last year some fans spent tens of thousands of dollars to buy billboards in Denver reading, "BRONCOS FANS TO JOHN FOX: PLAY TEBOW."

Fox caved. Tebow played. Denver went 7-1 over its next eight games.

Does this mean he's the solution for New York's quarterback quandary? Absolutely not. But you have to think, cracked ribs or not, pressure for Tebow to replace Sanchez will only continue to build.

Think about it for a second: Why are you reading his quotes? Why did the only active player who didn't play Thursday night hold court with reporters and answer questions?

All 30 of them.

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning. 
 

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."