Ryan still vocal, set on beating Pats again

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Ryan still vocal, set on beating Pats again

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

FOXBORO As a rookie last year, it didn't take New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty long to realize he was with a team that was built on being steady in its play, its demeanor and its approach to every opponent.

Then came Jets week.

"You could tell it's a rivalry game," said McCourty, the AFC's Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. "It's a little different energy, just because it's a division game. It's Patriots versus Jets."

And no one individual embodies the rivalry between these two teams more than Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who set his sights on dethroning the Patriots from the moment he took over as the New York Jets coach in 2009.

While the Jets have certainly more than held their own with the Pats since his arrival - the Jets have split the regular season series each of the last two seasons - Ryan wants more.

"We have to beat New England," Ryan said. "That's the team we have to beat, to win the division."

The Patriots have been atop the AFC East seven of the last eight seasons, one of the many Patriots-related facts Ryan can recite verbatim.

"If you want to get a home playoff game or whatever, you have to beat them," Ryan said. "We know what's in front of us."

While Ryan is quick to praise the Patriots (3-1) for their past and present success, he remains confident that his team can knock the Patriots from atop the AFC East and have the Jets finish atop the standings for the first time since 2002.

"It's a huge challenge, but to think that we're just going to accept that we can't beat those guys . . . no way in heck!" Ryan said. "We're here to beat everybody. New England is the best team in the league. But again, we want to be the best team in the league. That hasn't changed a bit. We're not backing down to anybody."

Ryan, as you might expect, had plenty more to say heading into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

Here's what he had to say . . .

On whether his team is still defined by its defense:

RR: "We've been inconsistent defensively. We played horribly vs. Oakland. We had a couple breakdowns that were just . . . we gave up a 70-yard run, which is absolutely ridiculous. One thing we know how to do, we know how to stop the run, play defense. This is a team that will be . . . our defense by the time it's all said and done, will be right there where we always are, right around the top in this league."

On whether quarterback Mark Sanchez has improved in this, his third NFL season:

RR: "I think he has. I see it everyday here. I definitely think he has. That last game (a turnover-laden rout at the hands of the Ravens) was . . . it was a rough one, to say the least. You put Tom Brady back there, he was going to struggle that day. The pressure, the consistent pressure that Baltimore was able to put on us, really disrupted what we were trying to get accomplished. I think Mark has improved. I think he's better now than he's ever been."

On the Patriots defense, which hasn't racked up many sacks and doesn't seem to put a lot of pressure on teams:

RR: "The Haynesworth kid only played the one game, but he was a dominant player. And obviously, Vince Wilfork . . . I think Vince should probably move to safety (because of his two interceptions this year). That might be the next move for Vince. They're doing a great job. They do what they do. They force takeaways. They're playing better in the red zone. 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."

On whether they need to add another player:

RR: "I'd just like to add one player. I'd like to get Nick Mangold back. That would be a big help for us. I'm definitely hopeful that Nick will play (on Sunday vs. New England). You take out the best center in football, no offense to Colin Baxter, but there's only one Nick Mangold in this league. When he went out (with an ankle injury), that was a big loss to us. Hopefully he'll be back and ready to play this week. With Vince and all those guys, we need Nick."

On New England's offensive attack this season:

RR: "The thing that surprises me truthfully about New England's offense, is they're running the ball much more effectively. I think they're eighth in the league in rushing, and with the number one passing attack in football that makes for a tough combination."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

MORE PATRIOTS

Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.