Patriots ousted from playoffs by Jets, 28-21

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Patriots ousted from playoffs by Jets, 28-21

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- After a week of talking the talk, the Jets came into Gillette Stadium Sunday and walked the walk.

Did they ever.

Taking control of the game defensively in the second quarter, New York clamped down on the NFL's highest-scoring offense. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez managed the game masterfully when he had to, and came up with big plays in the fourth quarter when he needed them. And through it all it was the Patriots -- the favored Patriots, the 14-2 Patriots, the (supposedly) Super Bowl-bound Patriots -- who looked befuddled and bewildered in the face of suffocating secondary coverage and unexpected blitz packages.

As a result, it's the Jets heading to the AFC Championship Game and the Patriots heading home after New York's 28-21 victory.

"It's a tough way to end it," said coach Bill Belichick. "We're a better team than we played today."

They certainly looked nothing like the team that won its final seven regular-season games -- including a 45-3 thrashing of New York on Dec. 6 -- and finished with the NFL's best record.

The Jets took command in the second quarter through a combination of defensive schemes that seemed to confuse Tom Brady and a ball-control offense that took advantage of its opportunities. They were aided by uncharacteristic New England mistakes . . . the biggest being a flubbed fake-punt attempt late in the first half when New York was holding a slim 7-3 lead, which led to a Jets touchdown that put them in charge at 14-3.

"We picked the wrong time to play our worst game," said wide receiver Deion Branch.

The Pats were finally able to regain some rhythm offensively in the second half and cut the lead to 14-11 with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute of the third quarter. The score reawakened what had become an almost totally silent Gillette Stadium -- save for the several thousand Jets fan who were enjoying themselves immensely to that point -- and looked like it would set the stage for a rousing fourth quarter.

But then it was the Patriots' defense -- which, to that point, had played credibly -- that collapsed. A blown coverage left Jerricho Cotchery wide open over the middle on a second-and-6 play from the Jets' 29 at the start of the fourth quarter, and he turned it into a 58-yard run-and-catch that moved the ball to the New England 13. Three plays later, on third-and-4 from the 7, Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone, putting New York back in front by 10, 21-11.

The Patriots took possession and began moving the ball, but -- to New York's advantage -- showed almost no sense of urgency and wiped nearly eight minutes off the clock on a drive that ended with the Pats giving up the ball on downs on New York's 34-yard line. At that point -- Jets ahead by 10, with the ball, and little more than five minutes left -- the outcome was inevitable.

"Well, we thought if we can get in the end zone, it's a three-point game and there would be plenty of time left to tie or go ahead," said Brady in explaining why the Pats didn't turn up the intensity on that drive. "We didn't really execute the way we needed to in order to finish that drive, and then we just couldn't get the ball in the end zone when we needed to."

There was plenty of scoring in the final two minutes -- a 35-yard field goal by Shayne Graham with 1:57 to play; a 16-yard touchdown run by Shonn Greene after the Jets recovered the Pats' onside kick; a 13-yard Brady to Deion Branch TD pass in the closing seconds -- but the outcome had been decided by then.

In retrospect, it was decided in the first half. The Patriots moved the ball with ease on their first two possessions, but -- in what was perhaps a bit of foreshadowing -- came away with only three points. The first drive was shortcircuited when Brady threw his first interception since Oct. 17, overshooting BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a screen attempt at the Jets' 28 and getting picked by linebacker David Harris, who was run down by Alge Crumpler at the Pats' 12 after taking it back 52 yards.

The Pats' defense stood tall, stopping the Jets cold, and New York came away empty-handed when Nick Folk missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt. The Patriots resumed their attack, going from their 21 to Jets' 7 (big play: 29-yard completion from Brady to Crumpler that got the ball to the New York 12), but Crumpler dropped a catchable pass in the end zone on third down and the Pats had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Graham and a 3-0 lead.

"3 points down after those 2 drives is not bad," Tweeted ex-Jets great Joe Namath, and he was right.

"We talked all week about fast starts and getting ahead of these guys and playing ahead," said Brady. "We had some opportunities there in the first quarter and really let those slip away."

It was as if the game turned on Crumpler's drop. The Jets' offense, held to 36 yards in the first quarter, found its footing. While it didn't immediately pay off in points, it did pay off in field position: pinning the Patriots back deep in their own territory, and giving the Jets the ball consistently near midfield.

Sanchez finally capitalized with 10:24 to go in the second quarter, driving the Jets 49 yards in five plays and hitting LaDainian Tomlinson with a seven-yard touchdown pass that put New York ahead -- to stay, as it turned out -- by a 7-3 score.

New England made its biggest error in the final two minutes. Faced with a fourth-and-4 from their own 38, the Pats tried a rare gadget play -- a fake punt -- but Patrick Chung fumbled the direct snap and was nailed for a one-yard loss.

"We just made a bad mistake on the fake punt," saidBelichick. When asked to elaborate, he responded: "I'm not going intothat."

Punter Zoltan Mesko, however, said in the locker room that Chung called the play.

The Jets took immediate advantage. Tomlinson ran for 22 yards on the next two plays and, on a third-on-4 from the 15, Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards with a TD pass that made the score 14-3.

Sanchez finished the game at a workmanlike 16-for-25 for 194 yards -- but with three touchdowns -- and had the edge on Brady, who was sacked five times and wound up 29-for-45 for 299 yards.

"I don't know if we confused Brady," said Jets safety Eric Smith. "It was about making him take the snap and then read the defense . . . instead of just lining up, getting under the center and knowing where to go with the ball."

"In order to score points, you've got to consistently be able to puttogether plays, and we could never really do that, or find a rhythm,and they made a lot of plays," Bradysaid. "They didn't make many mistakes. We made too many mistakes, there was too many plays that weren'tthe way we drew them up."

Nor was it the way they drew up the ending to a delightfully surprising -- but ultimately disappointing -- season.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Patriots’ ‘Pot Roast’ turns up the heat on pushing Durant to Celtics

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Patriots’ ‘Pot Roast’ turns up the heat on pushing Durant to Celtics

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton’s biggest contribution to the New England sports landscape may not be in the middle of the Patriots defense.

The Hartford native and avid Celtics fan is close friends with Kevin Durant.

He says that once the Thunder close out the Golden State Warriors and have their way with the Cavaliers, he’ll be calling up KD.

“I’m leaving him alone right now, letting him finish it up,” said Knighton after Thursday’s Patriots OTA practice. “I love how he’s playing. I hope he wins it. I kind of hope he doesn’t.”

Knighton didn’t say why he kind of hopes Durant loses, but one can surmise it’s because he’d like to start recruiting.

“As soon as the season’s over, if he’s hoisting the trophy or not, I’ll definitely be texting him every day, calling him, flying down to OKC. I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me.”

Durant has now twice promised to turn up the heat on Durant. 

If he can make that happen and do damage for the defense, he'll have his own Duck Boat. 
 
 

OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

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OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went through their third OTA of the week on Thursday. It was the first that was open to members of the media and lasted approximately two hours.

Here are a handful of observations from the afternoon of work the Patriots put in under the sun on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium . . . 

* The Patriots sported practice jerseys during the workout, which was noteworthy because in years past they have worn blank t-shirts during OTAs and minicamp. With the offense in white and the defense in blue -- and with every player assigned a number -- it made identifying players much easier. Why coach Bill Belichick opted to go this route is unclear, and it remains a possibility that the players will go without jersey numbers later in the spring. Still, it was a welcome sight for reporters trying to track the proceedings. Quarterbacks wore red non-contact jerseys and each player wore helmets and shorts. 

* Belichick appeared to make his players re-start the practice after they finished up their stretching period in a fashion that didn't satisfy the head coach. After breaking into position groups briefly, Belichick ordered players to get back into their warmup lines and finish more crisply. 

* With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis all absent from the practice, new Patriots weapons were given a chance to take extra reps. Running back Donald Brown was lauded by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after completing one particularly well-run route -- a slant-and-go, Martellus Bennett was the beneficiary of several targets from Tom Brady in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. 

* In 11-on-11 work, Brady went 6-for-9. Jimmy Garoppolo went 8-for-9. Jacoby Brissett went 7-for-12.

* In 7-on-7 work, Brady went 3-for-5. Garoppolo went 2-for-2. Brissett went 2-for-4, and he had one rep where he tucked it and ran. 

* During periods focused on special teams, Brady worked in a few side-sessions with different targets. In the past Brady has used these side sessions to get a little extra work in with a handful of players. Two years ago, he threw to Gronkowski with Darrelle Revis in coverage as Gronkowski worked his way back from a knee injury. Last year, Brady worked with Gronkowski and Scott Chandler together in order to develop some on-the-field chemistry there. On Thursday, Brady worked with two new tight ends -- Bennett and Clay Harbor -- as well as fullback James Develin. In another side session, he threw passes to Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Malcolm Mitchell. Tight ends coach Brian Daboll ran the show during both periods.

* Rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones, receiver Chris Harper, receiver DeAndre Carter and undrafted rookie corner V'Angelo Bentley all took turns returning punts. On Wednesday we took a look at how Edelman and Amendola might benefit from relinquishing those duties to another player. Jones would be an interesting choice given his production as a returner in college. 

* Bennett was asked to run a lap after dropping Brady's first offering of the 11-on-11 period. He recovered nicely as the day went on, however, making perhaps the most impressive grab of the day when he reached around Patrick Chung, plucked a Garoppolo pass out of the air and hung on as the two players tangled and fell to the turf. It was a good back-and-forth between the athletic tight end and perhaps the best defender of tight ends on the roster. Chung broke up one pass intended for Bennett, and Bennett later beat Chung to the corner of the end zone, reeling in a soft Brady lob. 

* Brissett appeared to rely on his ability to scramble, as he often did as the signal-caller at NC State. He hit throws on the run to Mitchell and rookie Devin Lucien. We'll see in practice sessions going forward if Brissett will be encouraged to stick in the pocket longer during these non-contact practices. 

* Brissett and Mitchell appear to have a good early connection. They hooked up for four of Brissett's nine completed passes. One was on an impressive pitch-and-catch that saw Mitchell lay out in the back of the end zone during 7-on7s. Later in 11-on-11s, Brissett sensed pressure coming from his blind side and lofted a deep pass to Mitchell that was completed along the sideline. 

* Brissett was picked off by Jones late in the practice but came back two plays later to complete a nice skinny post to Carter from about the 15-yard line.

* Brady's business partner and friend Alex Guerrero was spotted on the sidelines of the session. Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris was also present, shadowing running backs coach Ivan Fears. 

* Among the musical artists blared over the speakers during 11-on-11 work to mimic crowd noise were Guns N' Roses, James Brown, Bon Jovi, U2, Kenny Chesney and Desiigner.