Carter continues to thrive in New England

587994.jpg

Carter continues to thrive in New England

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Carter has said before how happy he is to play for the Patriots. He did, again, on Sunday night.

"It's just such an honor and opportunity to play for such a great franchise. I take advantage of it every day I step onto the field."

The feeling is undoubtedly mutual.

Carter set a franchise record with 4.5 sacks in New England's 37-16 win over the Jets. Some will look at the score as Mark Sanchez's failure against a weak defense and not entirely be wrong. But to do so is to discount Carter.

Sanchez completed 20-of-29 pass attempts for 306 yards and one touchdown. Some of the poor decision-making that led to two interceptions was typical of Sanchez, but his incoherence was inspired by New England. Carter gave the quarterback hell, bringing unrelenting pressure that started early.

On the Jets' second drive of the game, Sanchez took the snap on third-and-8 at the New York 42. Carter found him and dropped him for a loss of seven yards. The quarter ended with an exclamation point when Sanchez, in shotgun on second-and-6, found himself being chased again by Carter.

Lie down, Sanchez. Eight-yard loss.

Its one of those games Ill definitely remember. Im still shocked, still soaking it in," Carter said. "But regardless, Im very happy that we just came out here and won. That was the most important thing. Like I said, we came off two tough games back-to-back and this was definitely a must-win.

Carter's nine sacks in nine games lead all Patriots and only four players in the NFL have more. It's like the 32-year old has somehow turned back the clock to his days in San Francisco. His career-best is 12.5 sacks, recorded with the 49ers in 2002. It was his second year in the league.

Nine years later, he's on pace for 16.

It's no wonder Carter is so constantly grateful. Think about where he was last season: Washington, drowning as an outside linebacker in the new 3-4 Redskins scheme. Carter's 2010 campaign, 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks in just five starts, was one of the worst of his career. To ask for a release off that kind of season, at his age, was a risk. But Carter says he knew what was best.

He knew he could thrive with his hand in the dirt; New England gave him that chance.

"I thank God for the performance, for my family for constantly driving me, and the men that I play with every day and that practice with," he said. "Those people have been such a big influence on my life.

"But regardless, I'm just happy we came out there and won. That was the most important thing in general."

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.