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Ray Lewis: ‘The only reason we know who Tom Brady is [is] because of a tuck rule’

01.14.15 at 11:08 am ET
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He’s not playing anymore, but Ray Lewis still is a thorn in the side of Tom Brady.

The former Ravens linebacker took at shot at Brady during an appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s radio show this week, implying the tuck rule enabled Brady’s success.

Smith and Lewis were discussing the catch by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in Sunday’s game against the Packers that was overturned on review when Lewis turned the discussion to Brady and the controversial overturned fumble call in the AFC divisional playoff game against the Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002.

“Honest to God, the first time we created something called a tuck rule is the only reason we know — I’m just being honest — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule,” Lewis said. “There’s no such thing as a tuck rule. If the ball is in your hand and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways — however it’s coming out, that’s a freakin’ fumble. But guess what we created? We created a freakin’ tuck rule. … Man, there are certain rules that should not be allowed to be in this game of football.”

Pressed to clarify his comment about Brady, Lewis didn’t back down.

“They don’t go to that championship game if that ball [isn’t] called a tuck,” Lewis said. “That’s a fumble. That man clearly fumbled the ball. And they named it a tuck rule — something we never heard in today’s game. So now you’ve got to ask yourself: When did the legacy really start?

“See, look, man, I’m a football historian. I love moments. I love moments. See a lot of people watch just the TV from the game and say, ‘Oh, that’s wrong, that’s wrong.’ Go back to the moment to when things started. That’s what I’m telling you.”

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Read More: Ray Lewis, Tom Brady,

Reversal of fortune: Why Tom Brady finally could be poised to post big numbers in an AFC title game

01.14.15 at 12:45 am ET
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Tom Brady has occasionally struggled in AFC title games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has occasionally struggled in AFC title games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

If there’s a playoff round when Tom Brady struggles, it’s the conference championship. The question is if the Colts are capable of exploiting that potential weakness in this Sunday’s AFC title game.

Tracing the quarterback’s statistical postseason arc since 2001, he’s had little problem lighting up opposing offenses in the divisional round, and, to a lesser extent, the Super Bowl. He’s 12-4 in those stages of the playoffs, with nearly three touchdowns for every interception, and a passer rating topping 93 at both levels.

It’s the conference championship where he’s most likely to post a stinker, with eight touchdowns, nine interceptions and a playoff-low passer rating of 77.4. As good as he has been in the divisional round — posting nearly perfect passer ratings against the Jaguars (2007) and Broncos (2011) — he has been that bad in AFC title game, losing to the Ravens and Colts, and barely outlasting the Ravens and Chargers. (Following the win over the Ravens in the 2011 AFC title game, Brady sheepishly told a national TV audience he had “sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us.”)

The good news for Patriots fans? The 2014 Colts might have the worst defense of any team the Patriots have faced in the AFC title game. At the very least, they’re the statistical equal of the 2006 Colts, who were similarly middle of the pack. The Ravens regularly give Brady fits, whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season. The 2007 Chargers were fifth in the league in points allowed (17.8) and ranked in the top half of the league in most major defensive categories. The same was true of the 2001 and 2004 Steelers, particularly the ’04 club, which led the league in scoring defense, run defense and yards allowed.

It’s a different story for this Colts team. Indianapolis has yielded an average of 23.1 points per game, 19th in the league, and is mediocre at best in most major defensive categories. Indy’s pass defense is slightly better than average — it allowed an average of 229 passing yards per game (12th). Beyond cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Mike Adams, the Colts are bereft of potential playmakers in the secondary — Adams leads the team with six interceptions, including two off of Brady in the contest between the two teams back in November. Meanwhile, Davis remains the best cornerback on the roster, and has built an impressive resume in his six full seasons in the league.

But the Colts certainly don’t appear to have an effective counterpoint to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown when the teams met in the regular season. In addition, they lack a premier pass rusher. Indy had 41 sacks over the course of the regular season, but the Colts don’t overwhelm you with talented edge rushers the way they used to. Linebackers Jonathan Newsome (6.5 sacks, 5 quarterback hits) and Erik Walden (6 sacks, 16 quarterback hits) provide the bulk of the pass rush.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Tom Brady

Report: Jets hiring former Cardinals DC Todd Bowles as coach

01.13.15 at 10:28 pm ET
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After Rex Ryan officially was hired as the new coach of the Bills on Monday, the Jets reportedly have hired his replacement.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Jets are hiring Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as their new coach. Bowles was the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2012 and then in Arizona for the last two seasons. It is Bowles’ first head coaching job. He spent one season with the Jets, as their defensive backs coach in 2000.

Bowles led the Arizona defense, which allowed 18.7 points a game this past season — the fifth fewest in the NFL.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, New York Jets, Todd Bowles,

Whatever the weather, Patriots have prospered this season

01.13.15 at 5:45 pm ET
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With the Patriots going from the freezing temperatures of Foxboro to the balmy climes of San Diego this year, New England will have run the gamut of conditions this season. Via official gamebooks, here’€™s a look at the conditions at kickoff for each game and how the Patriots have done.
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Read More: New England Patriots, Weather,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2014 postseason

01.13.15 at 5:26 pm ET
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The Patriots ended the regular season with 120 penalties (tied for fourth in the league) for a total of 1,080 yards (third in the NFL). In their first postseason game Saturday, they were flagged for seven penalties and 60 yards. Here’€™€™s a breakdown of the calls that went against the Patriots to this point in the postseason, not including penalties that were declined or offset:
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Read More: 2015 playoffs, penalties,

Pressure points: Which Patriots defender was best at getting after QB on Saturday?

01.13.15 at 5:14 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

Every week over the course of the 2014 season, we’ve looked at the Patriots pass rush numbers. Like all stats, the numbers have to be placed on context of game-situations and personnel. And while sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it gave us a good picture as to what defenders were consistently able to get after the quarterback. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’s a look at the pass-rush numbers for the Patriots after one game of the 2014 postseason:

Sacks (via gamebooks)
None

Quarterback Hits (via gamebooks)
DE Chandler Jones: 2
DE Rob Ninkovich: 1
LB Jamie Collins: 1

Quarterback Hurries (via PFF)
DE Chandler Jones: 7
DE Rob Ninkovich: 6
DT Sealver Siliga: 3
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 2
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
LB Jamie Collins: 1
DB Patrick Chung: 1
DL Chris Jones: 1
DL Alan Branch: 1

Read More: 2015 playoffs, pressure points,

Bill Belichick on Saturday’s 3 fumbles: ‘We have to have better ball security than that, period’

01.13.15 at 4:35 pm ET
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Yes, the Patriots are playing in their fourth consecutive AFC championship game this Sunday against the Colts by way of their thrilling, 35-31 come-from-behind win over the Ravens last Saturday, in which they came back from two, 14-point deficits.

But that doesn’t mean the game was perfect by any standards.

Although the Patriots only turned the ball over once (a Tom Brady interception at the end of the first half), the Patriots fumbled on three different occasions, but fortunately retained possession on all three.

There was Danny Amendola‘s fumble on the kickoff early in the first quarter following Baltimore’s first touchdown of the game, but fortunately Chris Jones was able to recover. Julian Edelman fumbled in the second quarter, but he somehow recovered it, even with five Ravens players on top of him. Finally, on New England’s final drive before Brandon LaFell’s game-winning touchdown catch, Shane Vereen fumbled, although the play was reviewed and he was ruled down.

Coach Bill Belichick knows the team cannot have the same thing happen again on Sunday.

“I’€™d say the bottom line on all that is we have to do a much better job of taking care of the ball,” said Belichick on Tuesday’s conference call. “We had really four potential turnovers — one interception and three fumbles that we could have lost. We just have to do a better job of taking care of all those balls. Yeah, it speaks to the toughness of getting in there and fighting for the ball and all that, but we have to have better ball security than that, period.”

Turnovers are a huge part in both the Patriots success this year — they were second in the NFL with a plus-12 turnover differential, turning the ball over a tied for league-low 11 times — and also in the postseason, as since 1970, the Patriots are 18-1 when having a positive turnover ratio, and are just 4-12 when they have a negative turnover ratio.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick,

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