No Huddle: Patriots-Jets postgame sound


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.


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.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1


STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.