Patriots defense holds the line against Dallas

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Patriots defense holds the line against Dallas

FOXBORO -- Come clean: You didn't think they could do it.

You never thought that if Tom Brady and the Patriots offense was taken out of a game, the defense could hold the line.

But New England beat the Cowboys Sunday, 20-16 -- because of the defense, not in spite of it.

A win within the win.

"We wanted to stick together," said Kyle Arrington. " It's, 'We all we got,' that's what we always say defensively. I think we just all banded together and left it all out on the field."

Of all the statistics being fired at football fans this season, New England's 32nd-ranked defense always gets radio play. Largely because the flaw adds insecurity to long-term postseason plans. (It also makes lovers of The Other 31 giddy.) Average yards surrendered per game: 433.0. Total receptions surrendered: 154.

The numbers are those that teams like Dallas feed on.

Despite a 2-3 record, there are certain offensive dangers the Cowboys pose. Tony Romo's a gunslinger, and he's got some good targets in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten. The trio of receivers had caught all of Romo's seven touchdowns going into Week 6. And, believe it or not, Romo's reputation as a self-saboteur isn't something you rest a game plan on.

The same way the Patriots can't plan to rest on Brady.

On Sunday, they couldn't. Brady was sacked three times and threw two picks on the night. DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and the rest of the Cowboys 'D' loomed large on every play. First-quarter drives: field goal, interception, fumble. First-quarter time possession: four minutes, 38 seconds.

New England's defense was forced to mature.

It did.

The Patriots held Dallas to 33-percent efficiency both on third down and in the Red Zone. Contributions came from all over, whether in Gerard Warren drawing a hold and recovering a Vince Wilfork-forced fumble, Kyle Arrington picking off a pass, or Andre Carter putting Romo on the ground -- twice.

"You know what it does?" Arrington quipped. "It sets the standard, especially with an explosive team like the Cowboys . . . a very talented offense. That's a great outfit over there. For us to play 'D' like that, it just sets the standard. There's no reason why we can't do that week-in and week-out."

Andre Carter was more cautious in his postgame assessment.

"Lord willing, we're coming along," he said. "We still have a long way to go, especially on those long drives in the second quarter and a little bit in the third. So if we can eliminate those and be consistent then we're headed in the right direction."

They need to eliminate missed tackles, too. There were plenty, and some were costly. Like on Romo's final drive of the first half, when Bryant got the better of Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton and safety Patrick Chung for 33 yards up the sideline. The play grew into one of those long drives Carter bemoaned in the postgame: 11 plays, 93 yards, zero third downs and six points.

The missed and broken coverage, you'd better believe that will be a focus of this upcoming bye week. But for one night, the defensive corps could take pride in securing the win.

They earned it; there's been no bigger test in 2011 Dallas' third drive of the fourth quarter.

Romo got the ball with a 16-13 lead and three-and-a-half minutes on the clock. New England squashed the first two plays with tackles for a loss of three total yards. The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot with a five-yard false start penalty to wind up at third-and-18. Dallas then picked up just eight on the run and chose to punt.

They won the ball back for Brady. The offense returned the favor with a touchdown.

"As a defense, that's what you want: you want to have the confidence of the offense," said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "If they go out there and have a bad play, have a turnover, they know they're going to get the ball back."

That's exactly what happened Sunday against Dallas. And that's exactly why the Patriots won.

Curran: Goodell wins, but the truth again is lost

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Curran: Goodell wins, but the truth again is lost

You keep thinking Roger Goodell’s hit absolute rock-bottom and then he sets a new low.

Thursday morning, while stumping for the NFL Draft on "CBS This Morning," Goodell was back at it again, calling the Wells Report an independent investigation.

Responding to a comment from Saints quarterback Drew Brees that Brees would not “trust any league-led investigation when it comes to anything,” Goodell answered, “There was an independent investigation on this, and an independent report that was presented to me. And that’s what we based the judgement off of. And then we had a hearing, we had a process that is articulated in our collective bargaining agreement that has been there for several decades.” 

We long ago established why the Wells Report wasn’t independent, but since Goodell’s talking points included trying to sell that lie anew, let’s revisit the reasons the Wells Report was a propaganda hit piece.

First, Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead counsel and one of the primary investigators during the proceedings, edited the report. Goodell’s right-hand man, his legal brain and advisor, the man Wells initially said was around merely to facilitate interviews, put his eyes and hands on the slanted 243-page report that has been proven to be anything but independent.

Second, Lorin Reisner, a fellow lawyer at Wells’ firm, popped up on the conference call Wells staged to bluster about his own integrity during the investigation.

Then, Reisner was questioning and cross-examining on behalf of the NFL during Tom Brady’s appeal. Ultimately, the league stated during court proceedings that it wasn’t bound to give a player an independent investigation anyway so all the holes being poked in Wells’ obvious propaganda piece didn’t even matter. 

So, Goodell would be best off not mentioning the words “independent” and “investigation” as it relates to the Brady case. Of course, he’d have been better off not talking about anything except this week’s appeal decision handed down, but he can’t help himself.

On Wednesday, he offered this fabrication, saying that the 2-to-1 decision upholding Goodell’s right to suspend Brady and conduct the arbitration hearing in the manner he did, “Reaffirmed our authority and the underlying facts to the case.”

They didn’t reaffirm the underlying facts to the case. Actually, the judges were clear that they were not doing that. They were simply reviewing whether Goodell had the right to suspend for conduct detrimental in this instance and whether he was fair in the arbitration process. Two robes thought he was. The third thought he dispensed his own brand of industrial justice and moved the goalposts during the proceedings.

Spinning and selling. Laughing and lying. All in a day’s work.
 

King: Best guess is Notre Dame's Smith lands with Patriots in third

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King: Best guess is Notre Dame's Smith lands with Patriots in third

Earlier this week, our intrepid Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran broached the topic of Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith potentially being worth a Patriots draft pick.

A top-10 talent before suffering a gruesome knee injury at the end of last season, it seems as though Smith would certainly be worthy of a late-round selection, Curran wrote. The Patriots front office has proven its willingness to take chances on talented players with injuries in the past so why wouldn't they do it again? Especially if Smith lasts until the sixth round where the Patriots have five selections, three of which are compensatory picks and can't be traded. 

But what if the Patriots pounced sooner?

In a draft-day column on MMQB.com, Peter King's "best guess" on where Smith will end up was with New England at pick No. 96 overall in the third round. 

"He’s the first-round pick they didn’t have this year, assuming the Notre Dame linebacker ever comes back from the nerve damage in his knee stemming from his Fiesta Bowl injury," King wrote. "The Pats can justify it because of their multiple selections in this area—60, 61, 91 and 96."

Smith, when healthy, checks every box as the protorypical modern-day linebacker. At 223 pounds, he's a bit undersized relative to the players that the Patriots typically like to draft at that position, but athletically he was elite before his injury.

If the Patriots medical staff gives the coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio the thumbs up in regard to the health of Smith's knee, it would absolutely come as no surprise if the Patriots drafted him.

No two injuries are alike, obviously, but when it comes to getting good value on a player in the draft with physical question marks -- whether it's Rob Gronkowski or Dominique Easley or Ras-I Dowling -- their track record is proven. They'll take a shot.