Loss to Jets still eats at Patriots' Koppen

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Loss to Jets still eats at Patriots' Koppen

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

DALLAS - It couldn't have been fun for the three Patriots offensive linemen. From the DFW Airport to the downtown Dallas Convention Center, billboards praising the Steelers and Packers for their Super Bowl appearance were impossible to miss. And here were Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly and Mark LeVoir on Thursday picking up an award from an acid reflux company for being named the best offensive line in the NFL.
Koppen had no plans to even sample the Super Bowl scene. He came down Wednesday night and will leave Thursday night. His wife is expecting their second son in three weeks. "We definitely would have liked to be here under different circumstances, but that's the way it works. That's the NFL," said Koppen. "We didn't earn our spot to be here. We'll just have to deal with that and learn from it and get better. It's bittersweet."Koppen hasn't yet watched the tape of that Divisional Playoff loss to the Jets but said, "I might have to watch it just to put it to rest."Asked if it's agitating to know the Patriots lost because of inefficiency rather than being overmatched, Koppen said, "We got to go out there and play the game on Sunday regardless of what we did in the past or the regular season. Come playoff time it's one and done, and we weren't the best team on the field that day and we have to deal with that." The Patriots offensive line could be in flux. Stephen Neal's annual shoulder injury came again. Matt Light's a free agent. Logan Mankins is unhappy he has no new deal and will probably be franchised. "I don't get paid to make decisions," said Koppen when asked about the possible transition on the left side of the line. "Matt's been a great player for us for a long time and I hope he continues to be a great player for us. I think he's a Patriots type of player. With Logan's deal, it's not unheard of. There's a lot of movement, coaches, players (note: I have no idea what he means there; just dropping words, apparently), but those are two guys we'd like to have."The looming battle between owners and players has Koppen's attention. "It's concerning," he admitted. "This is what we do. That being said, there are certain things theNFL wants and certain things the players want." As for the chore of keeping in shape if labor strife drags, Koppen said players normally take a month off and then start training on their own. "With whatever happens with that, if you're a professional athlete you need to be able to handle it by yourself," he said.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.