Patriots rip Jets, take command in AFC East

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Patriots rip Jets, take command in AFC East

The stage was set for the type of meltdown that had become all too familiar this season.

Scoring, summary, statistics

The Patriots led the Jets, 23-16, early in the fourth quarter of their AFC East showdown Sunday night, but their already thin defense -- with such unfamiliar names as Jeff Tarpanian and Sterling Moore in the starting lineup -- had been weakened further by injuries to Devin McCourty and James Ihedigbo. Depending on the 'D' to nail this one down, not exactly a recipe for success this year in New England under the best of circumstances, hardly seemed like the best path to victory.

Enter Tom Brady.

Knowing the Pats needed a) points to make it a two-possession game and b) to take time off the clock, their All-Everything quarterback did both. Thirteen plays, 84 yards, and nearly seven minutes later, the Patriots had the touchdown that made it 30-16 and sealed the deal. It set the stage for a 37-16 victory that broke the Pats' two-game losing streak and, suddenly, puts New England back in the drivers' seat in the division race.

The Patriots are now 6-3, while the Jets -- and the Bills, who were mauled in Dallas -- are 5-4. In addition, the Pats own the tie-breaker over New York by virtue of having swept the season series. And the dark clouds that had smothered the region after two consecutive dispiriting losses have suddenly lifted.

"One game won't win you much," said coach Bill Belichick said, "but it's a good win and we're certainly happy to have it."

"It's very sweet," Brady said, "getting this win."

The defense played well by any standard and VERY well by its own. The Patriots sacked Mark Sanchez five times (Andre Carter had 4 12 of them, a single-game franchise record), held New York to 4-of-11 on third-down tries, and even put up some points of its own on a 12-yard pick six by linebacker Rob Ninkovich for the game's final score.
"Bill challenged us last week," said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "We took his challenge and it showed tonight."But it was Brady (26-of-39, 329 yards, 3 touchdowns) and the offense who turned the tide in this one.

The Patriots took possession at their own 16 with 14:50 to play and a seven-point lead. Brady had begun working the no-huddle during the Pats' previous series, and he started it again on this drive. It had the double-barrel effect of preventing the Jets from subbing into different defensive packages and also tiring out the defenders who couldn't get off the field, and both were evident as the Pats marched methodically down the field.

And methodical it was, since there was no one big play. The biggest gain was for 13 yards but, other than a three-yard loss by Kevin Faulk on an attempted sweep, every play gained yardage. They finally got the payoff when, from the 8-yard line, Brady hit Deion Branch with the touchdown that made it 30-14 with 8:10 to play . . . and, for all intents and purposes, ended the game.

"We took advantage of some plays when we went fast," said Brady.

Prior to that it had been close, but the Pats slowly took command in the second half.

Leading 13-9, they got the first break of the second half when they recovered Joe McKnight's fumble on a punt return at the Jets 13. A 14-yard touchdown toss from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, which would have been their second scoring connection of the night, was overturned on review when the officials ruled Gronkowski had gone out of bounds before catching the pass, so the Pats settled for a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski -- his third field goal of the game -- and a 16-9 lead.

They created the second break, as Ninkovich intercepted a tipped pass by Sanchez at the Pats 25 and returned it to the New England 43. It took Brady, working the no-huddle to perfection, eight plays to march the Pats 57 yards for the touchdown that made it 23-9. The last play: A five-yard pass to Gronkowski, making up for the TD he'd had taken away on the last series.

The Jets answered with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Plaxico Burress on the first play of the fourth quarter, making it a one-score game at 23-16.

And then Brady and Company took over.

They'd been wasteful and unproductive for the first 28 12 minutes of the game, but, trailing 9-6, finally began clicking on its final drive of the second quarter. The Pats took possession on their own 20 with 1:20 to go and efficiently marched 80 yards in 1:11 for the touchdown that gave them a 13-9 halftime lead.

Brady -- who'd had a miserable half to that point, completing only 7 of 16 passes for 127 yards -- started off with quick strikes of 12 yards to Gronkowski and 14 yards to Wes Welker. On first-and-10 from their own 46, he hooked up with Gronkowski for 25 yards (and the Pats retained possession on an officials' review, after the referees originally ruled Gronkowski had fumbled when, in fact, the ground had caused the ball to come loose).

A face-mask penalty against Jets safety Eric Smith on the next play moved the Pats to the New York 16, and there it seemed they'd stay; they were soon facing a third-and-12 from the 18 with 32 seconds left. But Brady, going without a timeout, found Gronkowski down the middle for an 18-yard touchdown, putting New England back in front.

It was all much more productive than the Pats' last offensive series. The Jets had gradually begun winning the ball-control battle -- the Pats' first five drives started on their own 20, 27, 39, 7 and 8 -- and it paid off at last when Jamaal Westerman, blowing past Sebastian Vollmer and Danny Woodhead on a third-and-13 from 5, forced Brady to intentionally ground the ball fron the end zone, forcing a safety that cut New England's lead to 6-2.

The Jets took possession on a free kick and went 65 yards in 7 plays, scoring on a two-yard run by Sanchez and moving ahead, 9-6.

Prior to that, the Pats' defense had done sterling work in holding New York scoreless. The Jets had moved easily on the game's first drive, reaching the New England 6, but the Patriots stiffened and Nick Folk flubbed a 24-yard field goal.

The Patriots' first two drives stalled in New York territory, but first-quarter field goals of 50 and 36 yards by Gostkowski gave them a 6-0 lead.

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.

 

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

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Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed backup linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

"Jonathan is a very dependable player," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Saturday. "He is able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside, outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball defensively. He has been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size, a four-phase special teams player.

"He is one of our overall top workers in terms of the offseason program, preparation, training. He always does things right. He works hard, doesn't really say a lot, but is very dependable and consistent. I think everybody in the organization looks up to him."