Steelers' Clark: Patriots want to play basketball

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Steelers' Clark: Patriots want to play basketball

PITTSBURGH - Steelers safety Ryan Clark is one of the team's most outspoken players.

Leading into Sunday's game, he said he believes the Patriots have been given too much respect by his team with not enough in return.

Those days, Clark said, were over.

And when the game came, the Steelers backed up Clark's stance.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau scrapped the zone coverages he normally uses in his package and went man-to-man all over the field with his defensive backs and linebackers playing tight and physical at the line of scrimmage. It worked.

"New England likes to make things 7-on-7," Clark explained. "(If) they go 7-on-7, they got the best quarterback out there. We wanted to throw off some timing, play some press coverage, really try to be aggressive in our zones and it worked today. Its not basketball. Turn it into a football game. Because if its basketball, we cant beat em. I think we were able to do that."

They were.

Monday, Bill Belichick said the Patriots saw more man from the Steelers than New England is accustomed to seeing from them.

"It wasnt anything that I would say we hadnt really seen before, but probably a little higher percentage than what theyve shown in other games," said Belichick. We worked on it. Again, we just have to do a better job in those situations protecting, getting open, having plays that maybe could make everything happen a little bit quicker, a little bit cleaner. Again, I dont want to get into that everything was a self-inflicted wound. I think they played well, I think they did a lot of things well. We had some plays, not as many as they did and thats why the result was what it was."

Belichick went on to add that the Patriots have seen some man coverage from a few opponents. After Sunday's game, though, they can expect to see more.

Down in Florham Park, New Jersey, Rex Ryan lauded the "formula" the Steelers used.

And why not?

For the second straight game, Wes Welker was made to look mortal by an opposing DB who dogged him everywhere. This time is was Ike Taylor. Against the Cowboys it was Orlando Scandrick.

Welker had six catches in each of the last two games for 45 and 39 yards respectively. He had 499 yards in the three games previous.

It's important to remember what we're talking about here. This isn't a crisis like the Patriots have on defense. They can adjust and most likely will. They have the planet's best quarterback and more gadgety weapons than offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien knows what to do with.

But the gadgets they have are similar in the areas they work. Zero to 18 yards downfield. That makes it easier to creep safeties up and challenge at the line of scrimmage. When you have Deion Branch working outs and dig routes, Wes Welker running option routes in the middle of the field, Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead heading to the flat and Gronknandez working a little deeper in the seam, there's just not that much vertical space to worry about.

The easiest way to get a team out of stifling man coverage is to stretch the field. And the Patriots don't have a guy to strike fear in a defense. Matthew Slater has been their most potent downfield guy. He's not the answer. Chad Ochocinco? Please. Taylor Price? Long way to go before anyone stays up worrying about him becoming a field-stretcher.

The guy who could do it doesn't live here anymore but you can, for the first time, imagine Belichick dialing his number and debating on whether or not to hit "send."

Because the Patriots have to score. A lot. After the Jets and Cowboys let them off the hook by not throwing all over their corners, only a coordinator trying to get fired would pass on passing against them considering what Pittsburgh did.

The Patriots are going to have to counter the counter that defenses are going to use against them now. Who's going to help them do it?

Clark believes they'll think of something.

"We got him today," Clark said of Brady. "But we know that guys going to go to the lab and be back. We feel if we want to get to the Super Bowl, New England is the team you have to go through so were excited about the win today but no celebrations."

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)

MORE PATRIOTS

* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage, receivers will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.