Jones excited for bigger, better sophomore season

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Jones excited for bigger, better sophomore season

FOXBORO -- Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones made sure to gently correct a reporter at Monday's year-end media availability.
"We're not rookies anymore," he said.

He was correct -- by a matter of hours.
New England had just gotten bounced from the playoffs by Baltimore in the previous night's AFC Championship game. After a quick turnaround, Jones was back in the locker room to box up his first season in the NFL.
He managed a positive attitude.
"It was exciting. I learned a lot," he said. "The offseason's the time to get bigger, faster, stronger, and spend some time with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash and assistant Moses Cabrera, and get ready for next year."
Jones had 45 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles, and two pass breakups for the Patriots. As far as sophomore year goals go, he's keeping it simple.
"Just to become a better player overall," he said. "Not anything specific. I'm excited for a full offseason to work out, to be honest with you."
He will also rehab the ankle that gave him trouble in 2012. Jones initially injured the joint against the Colts in Week 11. He missed New England's next two regular season games before returning in Week 14.
A second ankle injury befell Jones in January's Divisional Playoff win over the Texans. Though he was active for Sunday's game, he played just a few snaps of goal line defense.
"It really hurt not to be out there with my team," Jones said. "It was very unfortunate that I didn't get a chance to play, as much as I wanted to. But I'm back to congratulating the Ravens."
He is in a unique position in terms of dealing with last weekend's loss.
Chandler's older brother Arthur is a defensive end for the victorious Baltimore Ravens. This year's Super Bowl appearance will be the first of the elder Jones' three-year career.
In that way, the younger Jones is torn.
"I'm not really happy that we lost, but I'm very excited for my brother," Jones said. "Congrats to him. I still haven't decided yet if I want to go or not."
That Arthur's ticket to the title game was punched at New England's expense makes the trip a hard choice for Chandler. But it's about competitiveness more than bitterness.
He has learned, as a Patriot, to always leave Gillette with his head held high.
"It was a part of the game regardless of what the score was. We have guys like Vince Wilfork, and Rob Ninkovich, and Tom Brady -- they're always trying to keep us going forward. They're never with their heads down and that's what you need to be a leader by example."
The message from those veterans and head coach Bill Belichick?
"Basically, just be ready," he said. "Come back next year and do it all over again. Stay strong."

Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

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Green has big game as Bengals dominate Dolphins 22-7

CINCINNATI -- For most of the game, A.J. Green piled up more yards than the entire Miami Dolphins offense in a virtuoso performance. As an encore, he thrilled the crowd by juggling some Florida citrus.

The Bengals receiver followed his disappointing game with a dominating one - 173 yards and a touchdown - and a Cincinnati defense that was inspired by Vontaze Burfict's return clamped down on the Dolphins for a 22-7 victory Thursday night.

The Bengals (2-2) rebounded from a 29-17 home loss to Denver on Sunday with a solid all-around game against a depleted team.

Green led the way, beating the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route . He was upset with himself after he dropped a pivotal third-down pass and failed to make an impact against the Broncos.

"I hold myself to a very high standard," said Green, who had 10 catches. "I know what I'm capable of. Last week I didn't perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week."

During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.

Afterward, Green and Andy Dalton appeared on the postgame show, and the receiver entertained the dozens of Bengals fans who stayed around by smoothly juggling three oranges at the interview desk.

"Any time he was one-on-one, he was able to make the play," Dalton said.

The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron. They had one big play - Ryan Tannehill threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills - but couldn't do anything else on offense.

"We've got to get it fixed and quick, and by that I mean Monday," Tannehill said. "We're kind of in a dark spot right now. It's squarely on our shoulders."

The Bengals' defense expected to get a lift from Burfict's return. The volatile linebacker was suspended by the NFL for the first three games because of his illegal hits. He got a loud ovation when he ran onto the field during introductions wearing a baseball cap. Burfict knocked down a pass and had three tackles.

"He's amazing," end Carlos Dunlap said. "Did you see the plays he made? Those aren't plays you can coach. He came off his couch and played great. It's good to have him back."

Mostly, it was Green's show. He caught a 51-yard pass off Dalton's scramble in the first half, and had a 43-yard catch that set up another field goal in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead.

REMEMBERING FERNANDEZ

A large fan banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium honored Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died with two friends in a boat crash early Sunday near Miami Beach. The banner read: "Jose 16 Heaven's Bright."

STILL CAN'T RUN

The Bengals rushed for 77 yards and only a 2.1-yard average against the second-worst run defense in the league, one missing two starting linebackers.

SLOPPY DOLPHINS

Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal out of it.

INJURIES

Dolphins: LT Branden Albert and C Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles. Also missing were LBs Koa Misi (neck) and Jelani Jenkins (groin). C Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.

Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was inactive again, contributing to the Bengals' trouble close to the goal line. He's recovering from offseason ankle surgery and returned to practice on a limited basis last week. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was inactive with a hamstring injury suffered Sunday. G Clint Boling sat out most of the fourth quarter with an injured left shoulder.

ANTHEM STATEMENTS

Stills and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas knelt with their hands over their hearts during the anthem.

FANTASY IMPACT

Tannehill was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks. Dalton was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack.

UP NEXT

The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They're 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They've dropped their last six at New England, last winning in 1986.