Pats' defense can't step up in do-or-die game


Pats' defense can't step up in do-or-die game

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- All season long, the Patriots said it themselves. They fully acknowledged, and at times accepted, the fact that they "bend but don't break."

Trouble was, on Sunday all that bending wasn't good enough.

At first glance, it's hard to fault the defense for Sunday's 28-21 loss. Two of the Jets' touchdowns came on short fields -- a 37-yard drive late in the second quarter after a botched fake punt by the Patriots, a 20-yard drive late in the game after a failed onside kick -- and a third was only for 49 yards as the Jets won the first-half battle for field position. Just one drive, a 75-yarder in the fourth quarter, could be pinned on the defense.

But that sort of bending wasn't what the Pats needed Sunday. There were times -- particularly on the 75-yard drive, which came after New England had scored to cut New York's lead to 14-11 and swung momentum back in its favor -- when they needed stops.

And they couldn't get them.

"They just came out and played more physical than we did," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "They were able to establish the run. They were getting four yards, three yards, four yards, four yards, and we just could never get on track.

"I think the coaches did a good job getting us prepared and getting us ready for the game. We just didn't go out and execute."

Like New England's offense, it all came down to a lack of execution on the defensive end.

After the Patriots' most successful offensive drive of the day -- an eight-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that cut New York's lead to 14-11 with 13 seconds left to play in the third quarter -- it was of the utmost importance that Bill Belichick's defense step up and get the ball right back in Tom Brady's hands.

The Jets responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a Santonio Holmes seven-yard touchdown reception in the back-left corner of the end zone, giving New York a 21-11 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.

It was a drive that saw the Patriots' defense bend a little too much on the second play of the drive, when Mark Sanchez found Jerricho Cotchery streaking over the middle from the left side of the field, for a huge 58-yard play that moved the chains down to New England's 13-yard line, setting up for the dagger.

"We knew we had to answer," said Cotchery. "We had to answer on that drive. On that play, Mark Sanchez and I were on the same page, and it just blew open. I stayed on the move. He expected me to stay on the move, and after that, I was just trying to make a play, and the guys did a great job of rallying around me to try and get me to the end zone. It ended up setting us up with seven points, and that was what we were looking for."

"I don't feel like they had us off-balanced, they just made some key plays," said Patriots safety James Sanders. "We were in a position to make plays at times. We didn't make the plays, and they did. They did what they had to do to come away with the victory."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron


Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron

In searching for answers on what might be going on with Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, coach Bill Belichick was asked on Monday if there was any chance that Gostkowski's mechanics on kickoffs may be affecting his field goals. With the new touchback rule encouraging the Patriots to use more "pop-up" kicks to the goal line this season, might Gostkowski's swing have been altered?

Belichick said that the two plays are separate and that the Patriots expect Gostkowski to be able to execute a whole series of different types of kicks as part of his job.

"Well, I think they’re definitely different," Belichick said on a conference call. "I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, it would be like a golfer. You’ve got to be able to hit a sand wedge. You’ve got to be able to hit a five-iron. You’ve got to be able to drive. You’ve got to be able to putt.

"That’s what kickers and punters do. There’s plus-50 punts, there’s field goals, there’s kickoffs, there’s backed-up punts, there’s punts against a heavy rush, there’s punts against a six-man box where the gunners both are getting double-teamed. And just like golf, there’s wind conditions and not wind conditions and so forth. So it’s not like like you’re standing out there in a driving range and just banging the ball away every time. Especially on place kicks, you’re dealing with a center and a holder and timing on the play. It’s not like you’re just placing the ball down there on a tee and kicking it like you are a golf ball or a kickoff.

"Yeah, they’re definitely different, and whether it’s a punter or a kicker you’re talking about, they have to master different skills, different kicks, different types of kicks, different things that are specific to their position, just like every other player and every other athlete, for the most part, has to do. If you’re a basketball player, you just can’t shoot free throws. You’ve got to be able to make some other shots, too. That’s part of the position, being able to do the things that are required of that position, and they’re not all the same. I don’t think they’re all the same for anybody."

Belichick was also asked about how Gostkowski is coached. There are position-specific coaches with every NFL franchise, but when it comes to special teams, there is typically a special-teams coordinator and little else. There is no kicking coach, generally, nor a position coach dedicated to punting or snapping. 

Belichick said that he feels the team has enough support in place, starting with special teams coach Joe Judge, in order to help Gostkowski through his difficult stretch.

"I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking," Belichick said. "I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involved with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.

"Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.

"There’s a whole host of things that go into performance, but all the things that are related to those; be able to figure out which ones are the most important and which ones need to be corrected and so forth. I think Joe’s very knowledgeable on that, as was Scott O’Brien. I have a lot of experience with that myself. That’s what coaching is. You don’t know, then you’ve got to find out. Nobody knows everything. No coach knows everything about every position. Maybe a guy’s played it for a decade, he might be well-versed in that position. But I’d say for the most of the rest of us that haven’t done that, things you don’t know, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to figure them out."

Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers


Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers

How quick was Tom Brady's release in the New England Patriots win over the The Pittsburgh Steelers? Glad you asked. 

On average, Brady took 2.11 seconds to release the ball. That’s not as quick as he was against Cleveland, when averaged 1.86 seconds, but still pretty flippin' quick.

2.05 - Gun. Edelman crosser 9 yards
0.80 - WR screen to Edelman - 2 yards
5.34 - Gun. Flushed. 13 yards to White
2.04 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 6 yards
1.59 - Gun. Screen to White. 19 yards. TD
1.65 - Gun. Edelman at the hash. 9 yards
1.72 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 11 yards
3.17 - Gun. Hogan outside the numbers. 13 yards
2.25 - Play action. Incomplete short left to White
1.24 - Edelman right flat. 6 yards
2.37 - Gun. Deep in to Gronkowski. 13 yards
2.20 - play action. Happy feet, Incomplete to Bennett
2.90 - Gun. Bolden drop
1.53 - Gun. Incomplete to White at the numbers
1.79 — Gun. Edelman crosser. 7 yards
1.36 - Gun. Short right to Blount. 7 yards
1.66 - Gun. Edelman drop 
3rd Quarter
3.44 - Gun. Awful backhanded flip throw. Incomplete to White
2.25 - Gun. Crosser to Bennett. 5 yards
1.39 - Gun. Short right to Edelman. 3 yards
2.18 - Gun. Ground seam. 36 yards. TD
1.59 - Gun. Short middle to Edelman. 11 yards
1.33 - Gronkowski. short right. 7 yards
3.16 - Play action. 37 yards to Gronkowski
3.89 - Gun. Pressure. Incomplete deep left to Mitchell