Not as easy as it looked

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Not as easy as it looked

By Michael Felger

Four quick thoughts from a terrific NFL Sunday:

Credit the Patriots win on Sunday night to Aaron Rodgers' concussion. If the Packers starter played, it's hard to imagine the Packers would have burned the clock like they did late in the game and it's hard to imagine the Pats, given the way they were playing, would have been able to stop him. As it was, the Pats made Matt Flynn look like a star (or at least Colt McCoy) and won only thanks to a pair of unlikely returns one by guard Dan Connolly of all people, and another by corner Kyle Arrington.

The Pats were not particularly sharp offensively or defensively on this night, but they made just enough plays on both sides of the ball to eek out the victory. That's an improvement from the last time they looked like this, Nov. 7 at Cleveland, when their mistakes proved fatal. This time, they just proved a nuisance.

Still, Bill Belichick will have plenty of teachable moments to show his team. Ideally, this will be the kind of reality check game the Browns contest was, only without the negative impact of a defeat.

Then again, the Pats had been playing so well recently that a more human performance was probably in the cards. And it may very well show the fans the reality of the situation: The path to the Super Bowl won't be as easy as the Pats were making it look.

I don't know how you feel about it, but I consider the Colts winning over Jacksonville to be a mediocre result for the Patriots.

With the win, the Colts assumed the lead in the AFC South, and if the season ended today they would hold the No. 4 seed. As of now, that makes them the Pats' most likely opponent for their first playoff game at Gillette Stadium next month. (The Pats, as the presumed No. 1 seed, will face the lowest remaining seed in the AFC in the divisional round. If both home teams win on wild card weekend at this point that would be the Chiefs and Colts then the Pats get Indy).

I'd rather face any other team in the AFC than the Colts.

The history is well-known. Peyton Manning and Indy came into Foxboro last month having won five of the last six meetings with Belichick, and only a diving James Sanders interception in the closing moments prevented that run from going to 6-of-7.

Yes, the Pats defense has improved. Yes, Manning's offense has been depleted by injuries (Austin Collie suffered another concussion yesterday). Yes, the game will be played outside in January, and Manning has only rarely played well in those conditions. I understand all those things.

And I still don't want to face the guy. He figured you out a long time ago.

Disagree?

Great win for the Jets in Pittsburgh. One of those statements games. They may not be as good as the Pats, but they don't suck. They're a worthy playoff team. They are NOT the "same old Jets."

All that being said, they still do stupid things as a team and a coaching staff that will eventually catch up to them. Two things stood out in Pittsburgh:

The first was the way they defended Ben Roethlisberger. The book on the Steelers quarterback is well known: His best plays come off scrambles. He loves rolling right and throwing into the right flat. He's not as effective staying on the spot, or scrambling left. Everyone knows this.

So what did the Jets do? They sent blitz after blitz off Roethlisberger's left side, forcing him out of the pocket to his right. The results were predictable: Roethlisberger shredded them on third downs

The other was the Jets total lack of clock awareness in the final five minutes. On several occasions, Jets ball carriers stepped out of bounds, stopping the clock and allowing the Steelers to preserve time outs. Receiver Braylon Edwards did it twice. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson did it at least once. And if that wasn't bad enough, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer kept calling pass plays, most of which naturally fell incomplete, again stopping the clock and allowing the Steelers to keep their stoppages.

Brutal.

Finally, after what happened yesterday in New York, how can you not want Michael Vick and the Eagles in the Super Bowl, should the Patriots make it that far?

I know some of you want revenge on the Giants. And I know some would like the fireworks associated with a matchup against the Saints for Falcons. A few of you would appreciate an easy matchup with Chicago.

But come on. There is no more exciting or controversial player in the NFL than Vick. It's guaranteed entertainment both during the week (can you imagine the dog nuts in Dallas?) and come game time. That's the matchup I want.

The only downside, and it's a significant one, is having to share the city of Dallas with the knuckle-draggers from Philadelphia. I'll just be sure to bring the Hazmat suit.

The report card will post Tuesday morning. E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Cyrus Jones: I was scared of Tom Brady growing up as a Ravens fan

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Cyrus Jones: I was scared of Tom Brady growing up as a Ravens fan

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady has struck fear into the hearts of many a cornerback during his 15 years as a starter. Apparently that includes corners who haven't even entered the league yet. 

Cyrus Jones, a corner out of Alabama and New England's second-round pick in this year's draft, grew up in Baltimore as a staunch Ravens supporter. When his team squared off against the Patriots over the years, he said that Brady never allowed him to feel confident. 

"I grew up a Ravens fan so anytime we played the Patriots, I definitely was scared of Tom Brady," Jones said after being introduced to reporters by Patriots ownership. "But obviously, you know, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks to step foot into this league, and I'm just honored to be a part of his team.

"He's a winner, and everybody likes winning. I consider myself a winner so I'm looking forward to working with him and trying to get to another Super Bowl and winning."

Jones now joins a cornerback group that will compete against Brady regularly in practice that includes Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts and EJ Biggers.

Jones ready to follow in Revis, Law's footsteps with No. 24

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Jones ready to follow in Revis, Law's footsteps with No. 24

FOXBORO -- For the Patriots, the No. 24 is held in high esteem when it comes to the cornerback position. Ty Law, a team Hall of Famer, wore those digits for 10 years. Darrelle Revis played just one season in New England, but he helped the team to its fourth Super Bowl title with No. 24 on his back. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft announced on Friday that second-round draft pick Cyrus Jones, a corner from Alabama, would be the latest to sport the number. 

"Cyrus will be wearing a special number to our family, No. 24," Kraft said. "There's a lot of good karma that goes with that number."

Jones was just two years old when Ty Law began his rookie season in 1995, but he said he understood Law's historical significance to the franchise despite their age difference.

"I knew who Ty Law was before I came here," Jones said, "and watched him as a young kid still trying to learn the game. Definitely remember him making a lot of plays on TV."

Of course there have been others who have worn No. 24 since Law and before Jones, including Kyle Arrington, Bradley Fletcher, and most recently Rashaan Melvin. But what Revis did for the Patriots in 2014 is still fresh in Jones' mind, having beaten Jones' hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs before helping the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX.

"It's definitely a lot of history, guys like Ty Law, Darrelle Revis," Jones said. "Great defensive backs and great players. Two of the greatest players ever to step foot in the National Football League. There's definitely a legacy behind the number, and I want to make my own legacy with the number."

Curran: New deal's a win-win for Amendola and Patriots

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Curran: New deal's a win-win for Amendola and Patriots

Danny Amendola’s not going anywhere. The Patriots wideout -- whose 2016 salary of $5 million and cap hit of $6.8 million were sticking out like a sore thumb -- reworked his deal according to a league source.

Amendola, who also reworked his contract in 2015, agreed to a two-year, $7.35 million deal with $750,000 in roster bonuses and incentives. Mike Garofalo of FOX Sports first reported the deal (yay, Mike!!).

In a statement, Amendola said, “It’s an honor to play for this franchise and with this group of guys. We have one goal – to win another Championship and that’s all we care about.”

This is a win-win for Amendola and the team.

Signed as a free agent in 2013 to a five-year, $28 million deal, injuries prevented Amendola from settling into a role until the tail end of 2014. Once he did, he became a valuable alternate weapon to Julian Edelman as opposed to the redundancy as a quick, mid-range little dude.

In the 2014 Super Bowl run, Amendola had 11 catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns in three postseason games. Last year, he caught 65 for 648 yards and three touchdowns and led the league in punt return average (12-yard average on 23 returns).

At 30 and with a playing style and slight build that leads to injuries, Amendola -- despite his recent work -- probably would have had a tough time getting a better deal on the open market.

Meanwhile, given the track record of receiver pickups in New England, it’s very likely a free agent signee with more upside (like Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones) would have cost more but contributed less. Having Tom Brady’s trust, an understanding of the program and the ability to catch 60 passes and return punts are hard to overstate.

This redo was something everyone saw as needing to happen. Now that it has, the Patriots pay structure at wideout isn’t out of whack as it was and the team has some certainty going into minicamps about who will be here.

The team now has on its roster (in order of perceived on-field value) Edelman, Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Malcolm Mitchell, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, Devin Lucien and De’Andre Carter in the fold.

Washington, Dobson, Harper, Lucien and Carter will fight to stick.