Patriots look to establish 'D' vs. Jets ground attack


Patriots look to establish 'D' vs. Jets ground attack

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO After a humbling 34-17 beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the usually boisterous New York Jets coach Rex Ryan proclaimed that changes would be made heading into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

The Jets would return to their ground-and-pound, rushing attack ways.

Regardless of the loss suffered by the Jets, New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork wouldn't expect the Jets to play the Pats any other way.

"One thing we're not doing is looking at the games and saying, 'They're gonna do this. They're gonna do that.' We know the Jets better than that," Wilfork said. "They're going to come out and try and establish the running game."

Against the Patriots, can you blame them?

New England is giving up a league-high 477.5 yards per game.

And the Pats run defense, ranked 18th in the NFL, is giving up 108.8 yards this season.

But the Jets surprisingly have been among the NFL's worst rushing teams this season.

Their 71 yards rushing per game ranks 30th (out of 32 teams) this season, a far cry from Rex Ryan's first two Jets teams which ranked first and fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

That's what makes Sunday's game so intriguing for both teams.

New York is trying to get its ground attack off and running, while the Patriots are still trying to figure out how to become an effective team defensively.

"Inconsistency at times, has cost us," Wilfork said. "A handful of plays in each game really cost this defense from being a pretty good defense. We understand that. We have to keep striving for it, keep moving forward and keep getting better."

And like success, struggles can't be pinned on one player or unit.

The defensive line and linebackers aren't getting nearly enough pressure on quarterbacks, which makes the job of the defensive backs a lot tougher.

And when the pressure is there, the defensive backs aren't doing their part to make plays.

"They do what they do," Ryan said of the Patriots defense. "They force take-aways. They never ranked way up there (defensively); it's not like they're one or two in the league in defense. They're effective. They make you make mistakes. They do a great job playing the run, and they don't have the ball shot over their heads."

Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots defense has finished among the NFL's top-10 five times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008), but no higher than fourth which came in 2007 when the Pats went undefeated in the regular season before losing in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.

"We still have work to do," Wilfork said. "We've done things well; we've done some things not so well. What we've done well, we have to continue to get better. The things that we have to get better at, we have to do a good job of going out and correcting them."

That mentality should serve the Patriots well this week against a Jets team that hasn't played up to their Super Bowl-or-bust mentality.

"We'll get their best shot," Wilfork said. "The same guys over there, the same guys that played us last year. The same guys that beat us three of the five times we played them. This (Jets) team is definitely a good football team. Let's not get that wrong."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Slater returns to Patriots practice; no new receivers added to the roster


Slater returns to Patriots practice; no new receivers added to the roster

FOXBORO -- Patriots special-teams units saw their captain return to practice on Thursday afternoon. 

Matthew Slater was back on the field behind Gillette Stadium after missing the start of Wednesday's on-the-field work. He's been dealing with a foot injury he suffered in Week 11 against the 49ers and did not play against either the Jets or Rams. Slater practiced twice last week but was held out of last Friday's work. 

Martellus Bennett, who is dealing with ankle and shoulder issues that he's admitted are plaguing him, was back at practice as well. Absent from the media availability portion of the session were receiver Danny Amendola (ankle) and safety Jordan Richards (knee).

One added note based on an observation from Wednesday's practice that running back DJ Foster spent some time with receivers: That's not necessarily anything new to him, he said Thursday. He has spent time keeping his receiving skills sharp all season, and that has included spending time with the receiver group occasionally. Foster does, however, understand the team's situation at wideout -- the team has three healthy players at that position at the moment -- and he realizes he has to be ready for whatever role is asked of him. The Patriots have not added an additional roster to the 53-man roster this week, making Foster a candidate to help fill in.

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it. 

"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."

Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance. 

He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection. 

Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.

"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . . 

"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."

He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."

Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.

Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.

"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."