Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

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Patriots stay grounded, despite past success against Jets

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO The last time the Patriots and Jets met, it really wasn't much of a meeting.

Led by Tom Brady's 310 passing yards, Wes Welker's 15 catches for 192 yards, and, yes, Laurence Maroney's 77 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns, the Pats' offense made somewhat easy work of the vaunted Jets D on their way to a 31-14 win.

Before practice on Thursday, that game was, predictably, a topic of conversation in the New England locker room. And just as predictably, the Pats were quick to write off the possibility of that prior success having any effect on what happens this Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"Sometimes you have one of those days where you're able to just get into a zone and make some plays," Welker said of last season's dominating performance, "and I'm sure they're gonna be coming up with something to take that away this time around."

"This is a different team," said Julian Edelman, who had three catches for 26 yards last time the two team met. "They drafted a new corner, and they're going to have different schemes, probably, so we're just out there preparing our best and doing whatever we can."

Perhaps the bigger story than the new corner the Jets drafted (Kyle Wilson, out of Boise State), is the one who they traded for former All-Pro Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie, who measures at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and is one of the stronger, more physically gifted cornerbacks in the league, is expected to line up against Welker on Sunday.

"He's super fast," said Welker, who admits he's still not back at 100 percent after offseason knee surgery. "I don't think there's anyone faster in the league than that guy. His speed and his range and recovery and everything like that. And his size, he's a big guy. He's a rare combination of size and speed and definitely somebody that you have to stay on top of your routes and not get sloppy."

But if there's one spot where Welker does have a leg up in the match-up, it's with his quickness (even he's not yet fully recovered).

"It's usually bigger guys have more problems with that," he said, "so I'll try to use that to my advantage for sure."

He'll also have a little more help on Sunday than he did last week, thanks to the return of Edelman, who missed the Bengals game, and much of the preseason, because of an injured ankle.

"I'm real anxious to get back out there, he said. "I love playing the game and anytime you don't get to play with your teammates that you've been training so hard with, going through double-days and going through camp with, it's a little disappointing. So I'm chomping at the bit."

When asked if he learned anything from the 31-14 win?

"I don't even remember that, really," Edelman said. "When our offense is clicking, we're pretty tough. That's what I learned. But this is a different team."

The addition of Edelman, combined with the emergence of Brandon Tate, should help Welker offset what is undoubtedly the most hyped match-up of the afternoon.

Randy Moss vs. Revis Island.

With cornerback Darrelle Revis back from his holdout and already slinging trash talk the way of Moss, you can expect the two to go at each other all day. And while the Patriots have complete confidence in their star getting the best of Revis, they'll be ready to pick up the slack if Moss does in fact find himself stranded.

"Obviously, Revis and Randy are great players, and they're going to go at it," said Welker. "It just means he's gonna battle and do what he needs to do, and at the same time every else has to battle and make sure they're doing their job."

The defense also had their way with the Jets last November, intercepting rookie Mark Sanchez four times including a first-quarter pick six by Leigh Bodden and holding New York to barely 200 yards of total offense.

You'd think that that, combined with Sanchez's poor showing on Monday night against Baltimore, might have the Pats feeling overconfident. Okay, actually, you know that wouldn't happen, but either way, the Patriots made sure to express that they aren't taking anything for granted against the Jets offense on Sunday.

"I'm sure Sanchez has a chip on his shoulder, but that's not going to change how we prepare for the game and execute," said Darius Butler. "We're ready for the challenge. I'm sure he's a different player than he was last year."

"They have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field," said Jonathan Wilhite, "and receivers who can go get it, so we have to be ready to go."

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

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Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

When news broke on Tuesday of Buddy Ryan's passing, it wasn't very long before the NFL community at large paid tribute to one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the history of the league. 

Ryan, a longtime coordinator and head coach, leaves a legacy that includes two sons -- Rex and Rob -- who have carved out length careers spent on NFL sidelines. His legacy also includes a defensive scheme that confounded offenses, particularly in 1985, when the Bears '46' defense dominated all comers. With eight men in the box and just three defensive backs, Ryan's defense could be as confusing for quarterbacks as it was intimidating.

On the day of Ryan's passing, we can add to the list of Ryan rememberances a long quote from a Bill Belichick press conference back in 2012. The Patriots were getting ready to play Rex Ryan's Jets, but as the topic of conversation shifted away from the game itself and toward football philosophies, Belichick explained how Ryan's '46' defense changed the game, and where it can still be seen today. 

(To see the video of the press conference, you can head here. It's a bit slow for the first six or seven minutes, but when Belichick is asked about the idea behind being a "game-plan offense" and which coaches inspired him to take that mindset into his own career, things start rolling. Belichick rattles off the names of those who influenced him, including Annapolis High coach Al Laramore, Phillips Andover's Steve Sorota, Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda and several others. He calls the list of coaches who educated him -- including his father, of course -- a "menagerie." If you're into those types of Belichick responses about football philosophy and his own personal football upbringing, it's a video that's worth your time.)

Here is Belichick's response to a question from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, then of the Boston Globe, concerning Ryan and his '46' scheme. A tip of the hat to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football for pointing out the quote on Twitter early Tuesday. 

Q: You mentioned Buddy Ryan earlier. How come we don’t see more 46 defense? I’m not talking about for a full season – not everybody is the ’85 Bears, but in a one-game situation. Is it because of the quarterbacks and the shotgun?

BB: "A lot of the success that Buddy had with the 46 defense came in the ‘80s when there was a lot of two-back offense. It was one of the things that probably drove the two-back offense out. If you remember back in the ‘80s when Buddy was in Philadelphia, he had a lot of trouble with the Redskins and their one-back offense, a lot of trouble. There were a lot of mismatches of Art Monk and Gary Clark on the middle linebacker and stuff like that.

"I think the 46 was really originally built for two-back offenses, whether it be the red, brown, blue and the flat-back type offenses and eventually even the I-formation. I think it still has a lot of good application; a lot of teams use it in goal-line situations. They either use a version of it like a 5-3 or cover the guards and the center and however you want to quite fit the rest of it, but that principle you see a lot in goal-line, short yardage situations. You see it and some teams have it as part of their two-back defensive package.

"As it has gone to one-back and it’s gotten more spread out, if you’re playing that, it kind of forces you defensively to be in a one-linebacker set. You lose that second linebacker and depending on where the back lines up and what coverage you’re playing, then there’s some issues with that. If you’re in a one linebacker defense and you move the back over and the linebacker moves over then you’re kind of out-leveraged to the back side. If you don’t move him over, then you’re kind of out-leveraged when the back releases and that kind of thing.

"There are some issues there that, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but you have to work them out. In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems.

"I think that’s what Buddy, really, where the genius of that was. He had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable."

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."

Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

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Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

Danny Amendola did not participate in OTA or minicamp practices that were open to reporters, but that doesn't mean he's ailing. 

"I feel really good," Amendola said while paying ESPN's NFL Insiders show a visit. "I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can."

Amendola joined a relatively long list of Patriots regulars -- including LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon -- who were not spotted during spring workouts. There exists, however, some optimism that he'll be ready to participate in training camp.

Though Amendola has battled nagging injuries in three seasons with the Patriots, he's often played through them rather than miss time. The 30-year-old wideout has played in all but six regular-season games since 2013.

Amendola is coming off of his best year in a Patriots uniform, finishing 2015 with 65 catches for 648 yards and three scores. He now helps make up a receiving corps that will include Edelman, newly-acquired wideouts Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien.