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5 things you have to know about Jets

12.15.14 at 2:09 pm ET
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Will Sunday mark the final time Rex Ryan leads the Jets against the Patriots? (Getty Images)

Will Sunday mark the final time Rex Ryan leads the Jets against the Patriots? (Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Jets, who will host the Patriots Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

They can still run the ball pretty well.

In Chris Ivory (174 carries, 739 yards, 6 TDs) and Chris Johnson (135 carries, 613 yards, 1 TD), the Jets still have some semblance of a ground game. (Johnson also had his long run of 37 yards Sunday against the Titans out of the wildcat.) The Jets actually have three games this season where they’ve rushed for more than 200 yards, including 218 the last time they played the Patriots and 277 this past Sunday in a 16-11 win over the Titans. They’re second in the league in rushing yards per game (147.1) and total rushing yards (2,060), and they’re tied for second with the Saints and Chiefs when it comes to yards per carry (4.7). It’s important to note that much of that rushing yardage has come as the result of good situational football. They’ve run it in the right situations — either in hopes of doing all they could to kill the clock when they’ve had a lead, or when faced with a defense that has occasionally struggled to stop the run. When they do run it, they’re more likely to try and go up the gut — according to NFLSavant, a sizable majority of their running plays this year have gone behind center Nick Mangold, who is accorded as one of the better run blocking centers in the league. (In Week 7 against the Patriots, the majority of the runs came over center.) Given the sturdiness of Mangold, when the Jets do try and run it this week, look for them to try and test the middle of the New England run defense.

They are really bad in the passing game.

Both Geno Smith (58 percent completion rate, 1,957 passing yards, 9 TDs, 12 INTs) and Michael Vick (53 percent completion rate, 604 passing yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) have struggled to get much of anything going in the passing game. The Jets are last in the league in total passing yards (2,365) and passing yards per game (169), and they’re 31st in completion percentage (56.1) and yards per attempt (5.9). Wide receiver Eric Decker (62 catches, 100 targets, 720 yards, 4 TDs) is easily the best and most productive receiver the Jets have. After a semi-decent start, rookie tight end Jace Amaro (35 catches on 47 targets, 311 yards, 2 TDs) has trailed off as of late — he’s had just three catches since the start of November, but is still the second-leading pass catcher on the team. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (34 catches on 67 targets, 322 yards, 1 TD) and newcomer Percy Harvin (25 catches on 47 targets, 306 yards, 1 TD) have performed well in spurts this season. If you are looking to break down possible assignments when Patriots go man coverage, it’s certainly realistic to think that Kyle Arrington (if healthy) will be on Kerley, who has been the primary slot option for the Jets this year. Meanwhile, Decker and Harvin would draw the Brandon Browner/Darrelle Revis combo, and Amaro would see Pat Chung and/or Jamie Collins.

They have a good front four, but not much else.

The Jets defensive front is still competitive, with Sheldon Richardson (6.5 sacks), Muhammad Wilkerson (4.5 sacks), Calvin Pace (4 sacks) and Quinton Coples (4 sacks) providing the bulk of the New York pass rush that could give the Patriots some issues up front. In the first game between the two teams, the Jets were able to sack Brady once (veteran linebacker David Harris got to him) and hit him seven times, with Wilkerson delivering three of those shots on the quarterback. On the back end, there’s really not much to speak of — per Football Outsiders, entering this past weekend, they were the worst team in the league when it came to defending tight ends and No. 3 receivers. In addition, they’re 16th against No. 1 receivers and 28th against No. 2 receivers. Small wonder that one former AFC scout I spoke with on Monday believes that if he gets just enough time, Brady should be able to have a big afternoon.

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Second-half domination: Patriots defense shutting opponents down over final 2 quarters of late

12.15.14 at 1:54 pm ET
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Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense has been outstanding in the second half of games of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense has been outstanding in the second half of games of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It was a tale of two halves Sunday for the Patriots, as they flipped a switch and outscored the Dolphins 27-0 in the second half on their way to a 41-13 win and their sixth straight AFC East title.

While Tom Brady and the offense get all the highlights, what has gone seemingly unnoticed of late has been the outstanding performance by the Patriots defense in second half of games. Brady credited the defense Monday morning when he was on with Dennis & Callahan.

“Our defense is playing as well as I can ever remember,” Brady said. “They really set the tone for us the last bunch of weeks.”

The Patriots have not allowed a second half touchdown since Andrew Luck and the Colts all the way back on Nov. 16. They have outscored their opponents 54-6 in the second half of games over the last four games, allowing field goals to the Packers and Lions.

In the first halves of games over that span the defense has allowed an average of 228.75 yards. In the second half, those yards go down by over 100, as the defense is allowing just 114.25 yards.

“We just made adjustments at halftime and really just started faster,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said after Sunday’s game, where the defense allowed just 113 net yards in the second half. “We felt like coming out, we played a little slow in the first half, so just making some adjustments at halftime and starting faster out there.”

“Awful. It was an awful half, we didn’€™t come out to play,”€ Miami wide receiver Mike Wallace added. ‘€œThey whooped us from the first play to the last play. Bad. They dominated us in the second half, totally.”

Opposing quarterbacks have also struggled in the second half, and they aren’t any slouches either, as Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford have gone a combined 47-for-85 (55.3 percent) with 471 yards (117.75 yards average), zero touchdowns and three interceptions in the second half against the Patriots over the last four weeks.

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Bill Belichick: Misfires at end of first half Sunday were result of ‘bad coaching’

12.15.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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Bill Belichick left no doubt as to who deserved most of the blame for the series of misfires at the end of the first half on Sunday against the Dolphins.

With less than two minutes to go and backed up against their own goal line, the Patriots called three running plays before punting the ball away. Then, there were defensive breakdowns across the board that allowed Miami to post a touchdown with five seconds left to draw to within one point at halftime.

New England posted 27 second-half points on the way to a 41-13 win, but the sequence was still gnawing at Belichick the next day.

“You just want to put the whole thing on me — bad coaching,” he said Monday morning on a conference call with the media. “It was a poor end of the half. Nothing we did is the way we wanted it to go, and so that’€™s my fault. So it’€™s bad coaching, I’€™ll take responsibility for it and try to see to it that it doesn’€™t happen again. It was a poorly coached sequence of plays, period. And poorly played, I might add, to go along with that.”

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Broncos DT Terrance Knighton guarantees Denver will win Super Bowl

12.15.14 at 12:30 pm ET
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In the wake of Sunday’s win over the Chargers, Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton guaranteed that Denver will win this year’s Super Bowl.

“It doesn’t matter what happens. At the end of the year, we’re hoisting that trophy,” Knighton told reporters Sunday after Denver beat San Diego 22-10 to clinch the AFC West title.

“I don’t care if New England doesn’t lose again. I don’t care where we have to play. I don’t care who our opponent is. We’re not going to be satisfied until we hoist that trophy. So if we’ve got to go to New England (in the playoffs) and win somewhere we’re not used to winning, we’re going to make it happen.”

The Broncos moved to 11-3 with the win over the Chargers, but New England still maintains the No. 1 spot in the AFC thanks to its November win over Denver at Gillette Stadium.

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Chandler Jones on MFB: ‘I started to kind of tear up’ about returning from injury

12.15.14 at 12:16 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones, one of the defensive stars in Sunday’s 41-13 victory over the Dolphins, stopped by for a visit with the Middays with MFB crew on Monday at Gillette Stadium. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Jones made his return to the field after missing six games with a reported hip injury, and the defensive end finished with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble while playing 55 of 81 snaps.

“My biggest thing was just moving forward from it. Each day forward was progression,” said Jones, who noted that he had an ‘X’ on the calendar marking the day he wanted to return. “I was just waiting for the doctor’s word and just taking it day by day by day, like Bill [Belichick] said. Yesterday was the day.”

Added Jones: “As I was sitting there getting ready, going through my pregame ritual, I started to kind of tear up, like, ‘Wow, I’m back, I’m back playing.’ And I just just hoped and prayed to God that I had a decent game and I was still able to move around. Because ‘lower-body injuries’ are harder to come back from.”

The Dolphins rallied past the Patriots for a win in Week 1, but the Pats showed that they are a different team than the one that started the season in Miami.

“Honestly and personally, I feel like each team in the NFL is a different team each week,” Jones said. “And not just as far as the roster — well, actually, the roster, too. And just the way teams approach different games and different game plans and different schemes. So we didn’t really look too far back on what had happened or certain yards given up. We had a new team since the last time we played them, and so did they. We just worked for what we had and we just tried to out-execute them, which we did.”

Teammate Brandon Browner continues to rack up the penalties, but Jones said the cornerback shouldn’t be too concerned about it.

“Brandon Browner is a very physical presence and he’s a very aggressive player,” Jones said. “I admire his game. I love it. I love it. Each and every time something happens I always walk up to him and say, ‘Hey, you know, let’s keep’ — because when guys start dwelling on the penalties and what they have done on the previous play, that’s when you get mixed [up]. There’s a whole game ahead of you. That’s my biggest thing, is I try to tell guys when I’m out there, ‘There’s a whole game to play, so don’t worry about that one play.’ So, he’s fine, he’s good. He’ll be all right.”

During his appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, Tom Brady talked about his devotion to a proper diet. Jones admitted that he doesn’t have the same approach.

“I know I shouldn’t say this because I do a lot of things with the Play 60, you know, 60 minutes a day with the little kids and exercise, but I am seriously a human dumpster,” he said. “I will eat anything. I will eat anything.”

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Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Starting Johnny Manziel made Browns ‘worse on that side of the football’

12.15.14 at 9:31 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ win over the Dolphins and other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots allowed the Dolphins 10 consecutive points at the end of the half, which cut the New England lead to 14-13. Hasselbeck said the locker room environment probably wasn’t angry, but one that looked to correct any issues from the first half.

“I don’€™t think it’€™s accusatory,” Hasselbeck said of the locker room. “I think what happens is you look at what [the other team is] doing. Really, what you try to do is you try to gather as much information as you’€™re able to gather. Usually, there’€™s some type of process where you’€™re going to the bathroom, the players do whatever they need to do. Guys, they go to the bathroom, they just switch their cleats. Whatever they need to do, grab a snack, whatever it is, they take their time to do that. The coaches will go and meet. The process of the coaches€™ meeting together, they’€™ll come up with a plan and say, ‘€˜Hey, look. These are the runs we think work. This what their kind of blitz du jour is for this week on third down. This is what where we’€™re having an issue with matchup-wise. This guy’€™s giving us a problem, so we need to help him.'”

Continued Hasselbeck: “They devise a plan and then you go talk about what the plan is for the second half going forward based on what did well and what you didn’t do well in the first half for whatever the reason. Whether it was a penalty situation, getting behind down and distance or whether it was a matchup thing. That’€™s really what happens, and I don’€™t think in an environment where you’€™re up one point there’€™s any situation to panic. I think you look at some of the maybe missed opportunities and things that you try to take advantage of in the second half.”

Rob Gronkowski was not involved in the offense in the first half, but when he grabbed three passes and touchdown in the second half, New England took off and ran up the score. This had many wondering why he wasn’t involved in the offense from the outset.

“People come in with a plan,” Hasselbeck said. “And then it’€™s kind of what I talked about with halftime and you start to adjust and you start to say, ‘OK, well this what we’€™re going to do formation-wise, so they’€™re not able to do that, so they’€™re not able to beat him up off the line of scrimmage.’ That type of stuff. And I think in the second half you saw that. Great example of something similar: You look at last night’€™s game, Cowboys and the Eagles. The first three third downs, [the Eagles] are dealing with Dez Bryant and they’€™re rolling somebody over the top to Dez, and Jason Witten has got one-on-one coverage and he’€™s not getting impeded off the line of scrimmage. In each of those third downs, Romo hits Witten for a first down. So, then Philadelphia is like, ‘€˜All right, enough of that. We can’€™t let him beat us.’ They start playing cover-1 single-high safety, bringing guys down so that there’€™s more traffic, congestion in the middle of the field. Well, then you isolate Dez Bryant and the game’€™s over at that point because Bradley Fletcher can’€™t cover him. So there’€™s elements and there’€™s that type of it’€™s either this or that when you’€™re starting to deal with guys that play inside the numbers vs. guys that are playing outside and how you’€™re defending it. I can’€™t say for sure that’€™s exactly what happened without going back and watching it closer, but I certainly get a sense that has something to do with it.”

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I don’t think we ever take the pedal off the metal until there’s no time left in the game’

12.15.14 at 9:19 am ET
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Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show on Monday morning, a day after the Patriots clinched their 11th AFC East title in 12 seasons with a 41-13 rout of the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady completed 21-of-35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also scrambled for a first down in the third quarter to spark the offense after an unimpressive first half.

“I found a little space there,” Brady said of his run. “They’ve been doing it to us the last few times that we played them where they really focus the coverage on a few guys and it leaves definitely some places to run. When I felt like I had the look, I kind of wanted to pull the trigger, and I saw some space and got some great blocks down field. So it ended up being a big play in the game.”

That 17-yard run was a hot topic after the game.

“Well, it’s pretty atypical. I guess when it happens once every seven or eight years then yeah, it can definitely be talked about,” Brady joked. “But I thought there were a lot of great things to be talked about. Certainly, a lot of guys played really well yesterday. Our defense is playing as well as I can ever remember. They really set the tone for us the last bunch of weeks.

“I’m glad we were able to put some things together there in the second half. But it’s a good defense. They’re the fifth-rated defense in the league. They got guys that can rush, they got guys they can cover. We made some plays there in the second half, which was great to see.”

After being tackles, Brady got up and was very vocal in the direction of Dolphins safety Walt Aikens.

“I don’t remember [what was said]. No, I don’t remember much,” Brady said. “He gave me a good little pop. Normally I’m always going down or getting out, and I was pretty close to the goal line. But there’s a reason why they’re called safeties and they’re the last line of defense. He definitely didn’t let me get any farther than I wanted to go.”

Asked if he took the hit in an effort to light a fire under the team, Brady said: “Well, I said after the game that I wasn’t in the best of mood at that time. So I think when I got there and I was into the secondary and surveyed some things and then I saw him coming, I just figured, why not? I don’t take those too often because usually those don’t go to well for me or for many players when they’re not used to getting hit. And he was bigger than I thought he was. I wish I would’ve stayed on my feet. But it was good play, it was a play that we needed. A lot of guys made a bunch of plays that we needed. I was glad to be able to contribute.”

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