Paoletti: This classic didn't live up to either QB's standards


Paoletti: This classic didn't live up to either QB's standards

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- There's a 24-hour rule in the NFL: You have one day to dwell, celebrate or cry over the last game. And then you move on.

Peyton Manning was "stewing" on Sunday night. When the Colts' quarterback met the media he was just a shower and suit removed from losing 31-28 to the rival Patriots. He held the press conference because he was supposed to, but to look at him -- to see how he shifted his gaze and kept it low, rubbed his shoulder, fiddled with his jacket -- was to see that Manning was elsewhere.

Tom Brady wasn't happy either. Like Manning, he conducted his press conference looking distracted and harried. Neither player seemed ready to leave the game behind.

Manning was stuck in a single moment on the New England 24 with 37 ticks on the game clock. Indianapolis was in field-goal range, but for a quarterback like Manning, it was also striking distance to steal the win. The Colts went no huddle, Manning got into shotgun, he took the snap and looked long down the right side to Pierre Garcon. The pass went up . . .


That was the game for Manning. His 396 yards and four touchdowns were stripped down to three picks, to a chance to win that came up short.

"Three interceptions . . . it's just inexcusable against a good offense like that,'' he lamented. "Gave them short field on the first one. Especially in the second half, we're playing from behind and obviously it just killed the series.

"Got to the end and had a chance to win it and it's just . . . sickening that we never even got a chance to win the game.''

The Colts shouldn't have come that close.

New England opened the fourth quarter with a nine-play drive that was capped off by a 25-yard field goal from Shayne Graham. The boot put the home team up 31-14 with just 10 minutes to play. It was the Patriots' game to lose and Manning almost made it happen.

Though the victor, Brady didn't look the part. He wanted to close the game out on his own terms, and he couldn't do it.

"It would have been a lot sweeter if we had done something there in the fourth quarter to help our defense,'' Brady said. "When we play these guys, we know its going to come down to the end, as always. We started fast. I wish we would have executed a little better there in the second half."

He wasn't kidding about this rivalry being tight. Indy rallied from a 31-14 deficit in the fourth quarter the last time these two teams met, too. On that November night in 2009 the Colts won 35-34. And though Manning said a comparison is impossible to avoid, to him the difference between the two games is glaring. One pass.

"I'm just sick about not extending the game,'' he repeated. "There's no excuse to not extend the game and give Adam Vinatieri a chance for a field goal. Certainly, we were going for the win. We had some time, had some time outs and we had a good play call . . . just a poor throw. It really sickens me."

Manning refused to indulge excuses. Want to talk injuries? Forget it. He'll acknowledge that, yeah, adjustments have been difficult for his stable of new offensive weapons. But this is Week 11, and he's tired of talking.

"Ive addressed it,'' he finally spit out after half-a-minute of stumbled frustration. "I don't like talking about it. It just sounds like you're making excuses. It is what it is. I guess I would agree that it is challenging, but it is doable.''

Considering what Manning has to face, shouldn't it be easier on the other side? Not when the battlefield is Patriots versus Colts. Manning was asked what makes the matchup so intense. He replied with a particular word: "Pride."

Of course. Take two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, two of the winningest franchises in recent NFL history, too many reporters, and inject the whole mess with melodrama. Then put the whole thing under billion-watt bulbs. The pride might get amped up a little.

This is why Brady couldn't let the game go any more than Manning. Was he relieved that the Patriots won? Yes. There's just a point that follows relief when a person realizes how close he came to failure.

"Believe me, were happy we won,'' Brady said. "You beat the Colts; you've got to be happy you won. But it also means weve got to do a better job there. In the fourth quarter, we had an opportunity to go up three touchdowns on them and we had a couple of third downs that I wish we would have converted," Brady said.

"We put ourselves in that situation at the end. I'm sitting on our sideline saying, 'We did it to ourselves.' If they kicked the field goal there . . . if they scored a touchdown, weve got to out there for a two-minute drive. If they kick the field goal, its going to overtime. Thats what I was thinking. You can't . . . you know, you just say, Well, this is the situation. Lets go out there and try to get it done.' "

The bottom line is that the Patriots did get it done. It's Peyton Manning's reality right now and will be Brady's when the dust of dissatisfaction settles. Both quarterbacks will move on to the next game, as they must. But when it comes to the Patriots and Colts, it just might take longer than 24 hours.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.

Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida. 

Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility. 

Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

(Listen above to hear Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss Cyrus Jones on the Quick Slants podcast.)

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  


But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017.