|01.10.11 at 10:05 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the NFL playoffs and the Patriots-Jets matchup. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Jets knocked off the Colts in Indianapolis on Saturday night, 17-16, but it was far from a dominant effort. New York’s offensive struggles have to be a concern.
Said Esiason: “Sooner or later, Mark Sanchez is going to have to make plays. He certainly did that on the last drive of the game for the Jets against Indianapolis. Can he go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady? Tom Brady’s not going to be settling for field goals, I’m going to tell you that right now.
“Like I said earlier, Peyton Manning and his team were so beat up. The fact that the Jets, it took them all the way until the last play of the game ‘ they lost the lead there at the end ‘ kind of tells you that the Jets I don’t necessarily know are ready to go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. They’ll keep the game, I believe, a hell of a lot closer than the last time. I think that was more of an anomaly than anything else. But I can see the Patriots throwing up 34. Can Mark Sanchez score 35 points? I just don’t see it.”
Asked whether heralded cornerback Darrelle Revis might be assigned more often to cover Wes Welker, Esiason said that’s not the key matchup. “Pick your poison when you’re playing the Patriots,” he said. “The Patriots have two players in particular that are going to be very difficult for the Jets to cover, and that’s going to be [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez. Those two guys down the middle of the field are, to me, again, where the weakness of the Jets lie. Their safeties are not great cover guys.”
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have concerns as well. “The question is for them, Can they stop Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson?” Esiason said. “LaDainian looked great on Saturday night, and even he said last week that this is the healthiest he has been in a long time going into the playoffs.”
As for how the Jets will react coming off the 45-3 beatdown they took the last time these teams met, Esiason said: “You get pissed. You were embarrassed. … There is a pride factor that is at play here. If you are a prideful person ‘ which I know that almost NFL players are that way, they don’t like being embarrassed ‘ they are going to put their best effort forward, to be focused, to be really intense and make sure that they are ready to roll this week.
“I’m just telling you, the Jets’ mentality now, especially after beating Peyton Manning they way that they did in the second half, Rex Ryan is going to play it as if he’s a tougher team, he’s a stronger team, the Patriots are a finesse team and that’s the way that they like to play. We’re a more ground-and-pound team. I can hear it in my sleep. That’s exactly what he’s going to be telling his team behind the scenes.”
|01.10.11 at 9:58 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning for his weekly chat as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Patriots preparing to face the Jets on Sunday, Brady said he won’t let Rex Ryan‘s backhanded insult of him last week affect him. Ryan said Peyton Manning is the most-prepared quarterback in the NFL, and Brady gets more help from Bill Belichick than he would let on.
“I think everybody’s obviously entitled to their opinion,” Brady said. “And maybe he’s right. He’s a good coach. I’ll just keep getting ready like we’ve done all year, and hopefully we’ll go out and play well on Sunday night.”
Added Brady: “I don’t think anything that people really say has bothered me good, bad or indifferent over the years. Everybody has their opinion of people and things and places. All I know is that I feel really confident with our team and the way our team prepares each week. I’m sure we’ll be prepared going into this game on Sunday.”
Brady even took it so far as to agree with Ryan’s assessment. “I get a ton of help from our coach,” Brady said with a laugh. “Of course we do. I think we have the best coach in the history of football. I think we’ve got a great offensive staff, a great defensive staff, ones that get all the players prepared. Coach talks about being a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. Part of us being smart and prepared and ready to play is our coaches doing their homework. We use whatever we can to get ready to play.”
Much was made of the fact that Brady was attending a Broadway performance of “Lombardi” on Saturday night instead of watching the Jets-Colts game. Actually, Brady said he monitored the score on his cell phone and then got out in time to watch the second half of the Jets’ win, which he would have preferred not to do.
“I got home and watched the second half,” he said, explaining that his two best friends “suckered” him into watching football. “You know what happens to me is I get very anxious watching those games. I was watching the second half and I was actually kind of pissed that I watched it because I didn’t go to sleep ’til 3 in the morning. You just get riled up as I watch them, and then I start rooting for a team to win, and that’s not really what I want to be doing. I figure I’ll get enough, I’ll see the game. I’ve seen that game [on tape]. You know, it’s just something I wanted to do with my wife.”ï»¿
|01.10.11 at 12:18 am ET|
Here are 10 Patriots-related thoughts from wild card weekend:
1. Taking a look at the numbers from Saturday’s wild card contest, it appears that the Jets have gotten back to what they do best. The Colts aren’t the best team in the league against the run ‘ Indy allowed 127 yards a game over the regular season ‘ but it was clear that New York stuck with what worked against Indianapolis: ground and pound. The Jets committed to the run, and they made it work. If New York is to have a chance Sunday in the divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium, it has to do the same, even if they fall behind by 7-10 points in the second half.
2. New York got great work in the kick return game on Saturday, thanks in large part to the work of Antonio Cromartie. The cornerback had a pair of great runbacks against the Colts, including a 47-yarder late in the fourth quarter that set up the eventual game-winning field goal. With the Patriots struggling on special teams recently, expect kick coverage to be a major point of emphasis around Gillette Stadium this week.
3. The Jets’ running game is important to their success, but New York’s ultimate hope when it comes to beating the Patriots hinges on their quarterback, Mark Sanchez turning things around when it comes to facing the Patriots in Foxboro. While the USC product played well as a game-manager Saturday night against the Colts (18-for-31, 189 passing yards), he has struggled in his two career games at Gillette Stadium. His line in Foxboro: one touchdown, seven interceptions and has fumbled the ball away twice.
4. As far as many New England fans were concerned, it was unfortunate to see how things ended up for the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Early on, Kansas City certainly looked capable of knocking off the Ravens, but the Chiefs were unable to sustain things in the second half, as former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel threw three second-half interceptions on the way to a 30-7 defeat. Kansas City has many well-documented ties to the Patriots organization ‘ including Cassel, Mike Vrabel, the departing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli ‘ but there’s a real belief that Sunday’s game was the first step on the way to bigger and better things for the Kansas City organization. (That being said, you have to believe the distraction of Weis’ departure had some sort of an effect on the Chiefs’ stagnant offense.)
5. It was a miserable afternoon for Cassel, who was making the first playoff start of his career. The former Patriots signal-caller was just 9-for-18 passes for 70 yards with three interceptions, three sacks and a 20.4 rating ‘ one of the worst playoff quarterbacking performances in NFL playoff history. It was quite a change for Cassel, who threw just seven picks all year. ‘I forced a few balls in there and it did not turn out well,’ said Cassel, who credits Tom Brady with helping him develop into an NFL starter. ‘As leader of the team and a leader of the offense, I can’t do that. Our hats go off to the Ravens. They have a good defense. We knew that coming in. Hopefully, they do well going forward. But this one definitely hurts a little bit.’
|01.09.11 at 3:36 pm ET|
Former Patriots running back Curtis Martin is one of 17 finalists who were announced Sunday as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Martin, a third-round pick of New England in 1995, rushed for 3,799 yards in three seasons with the Patriots, including 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. In all, he played 11 seasons in the NFL, finishing with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.
Martin, a finalist in his first year of eligibility, joins an illustrious list of finalists, one that includes fellow first-timers Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders. They will be joined by 10 others: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe. In addition, there are two senior nominees, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, who were announced in August.
The Selection Committee will meet in North Texas on Feb. 5 to elect the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The election results will be announced at 7 p.m. during a one-hour NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl Media Center.
|01.09.11 at 3:11 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up a conference call with the media that lasted roughly 10 minutes. Here are a few quick highlights from the Q&A:
Opening statement: “It was a really, pretty exciting game last night. Both teams were right there at the end. It looked like it could have gone either way. Jets made the plays they had to make at the end of the game and won it, and that was kind of what we all think playoff football as being ‘ two good teams playing right down to the wire, and so now we can get ready for them. We split with them this year and now, it’ll be the best two out of three ‘ probably the way it should be. We’ll find out which team will advance next week. It’s a big challenge for us. I don’t the the last game or even the first game, either one of those means a whole lot. Both teams know each other well, and we’re up for a … ready for a whole new week of preparation, even though we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us, it seems like every time you play a team, games go a lot differently.”
What stands out to you that’s different than the Jets from what you saw on Dec. 6? “Oh, I think they’re pretty much the same team. Obviously, they didn’t have a good night that night, but they do a good job running the ball. They have some big play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense ‘ play a lot of man coverage. They’re very physical on the front line. They’re very good in the kicking game. Good return game ‘ that was a big play for them last night on the kick return after the field goal. I think they’re a solid team. They’re record reflects that. I don’t think they’re a whole lot different than really what they’ve been all year. They do a lot of things well.”
How does the atmosphere change the dynamic of two teams who are so familiar with each other? “I think everybody knows what the importance of the game is. I don’t think it changes it a whole lot. I mean we all know this is a one-game season, so we’ll just prepare for it that way, both teams will give it their best, and we’ll see what happens.”
Is it hard for teams to change anything at this time of year, or does familiarity come into it? Are teams are who they are at this time of year? “You’ve had 16 or 17 games, whatever it is, not counting preseason. Another 100 or something practices. I think everybody’s probably got a lot of options in their playbook or in their system. It’s a question of what you want to do, what you feel like is best to choose from in the selections that you have and how you match up and how you want to play against each team that you’re up against. I’m sure everybody has a lot of options at this point.”
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|01.08.11 at 11:46 pm ET|
Get ready for Patriots-Jets III.
On the strength of a 32-yard field goal from Nick Folk at the buzzer, New York beat the Colts 17-16 Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (recap) to set up a matchup next Sunday at Gillette Stadium between the Patriots and the Jets.
Moments after the game, bombastic New York coach Rex Ryan deflected questions about the impending matchup between New England and New York, saying his team earned the 12 hours to celebrate the win.
“Right now I’m just going to focus on the Colts,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve earned about 12 hours of enjoying this victory. This is a great football team. We beat them at their place, beat Peyton Manning at their place. I don’t know if that’s been done a whole heck of a lot. I know it hasn’t been done by a team that I’ve been on, so I’m just going to focus on the Colts right now.”
The Patriots-Jets divisional playoff meeting will be the third game of the season between the two hated rivals.
New York captured the first contest, a Week 2 matchup at the New Meadowlands by a 28-14 score. In that one, the Patriots held a 14-10 lead heading into the half, but 18 second-half points from the Jets made the difference in the first loss of the season for New England.
But a midseason makeover on the offensive side of the ball ‘ one that included the trades of Randy Moss and Laurence Maroney, as well as the re-acquisition of Deion Branch and the emergence of Danny Woodhead ‘ helped re-energize the New England offense. It was believed by some NFL analysts that these changes were made with a specific goal in mind: To beat the Jets.
‘They are building this team specifically to beat the Jets,’ NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger told WEEI.com in late October. ‘You are not going to beat the Jets by taking seven-step drops and looking for Randy Moss 50 yards down the field. You beat the Jets by getting the ball to the quicker guys who can beat coverage. Between [Julian] Edelman, [Wes] Welker, [Deion] Branch and [Danny] Woodhead, that’s what they are doing. All of these changes are designed to beat the Jets.’
Those changes were evident when the two teams met the second time. The Patriots demolished the Jets on Dec. 6 at Gillette Stadium, 45-3. In that game, New England busted out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back on the way to an easy win, as quarterback Tom Brady went 21-for-29 for 326 yards and four touchdowns.
For his part, Ryan has made no secret of the way he feels about the Patriots. When he was named head coach of the Jets in 2009, he said, “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick‘s, you know, rings.” Earlier this season, he told Newsday, he wanted to “kick Bill Belichick’s ass.” And in the days leading up to New York’s playoff game against the Colts, he took another swipe at New England, saying that nobody prepares harder than Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. “I know Brady thinks he does. I think there’s probably a little more help with Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning.”
While these two teams have enjoyed a twice-a-year rivalry, this marks the first time since the 2006 postseason where the two have met in the playoffs. That year, New England won a wild card contest against New York, 37-16, in a game at Gillette Stadium.
|01.08.11 at 5:46 pm ET|
The Patriots have waived defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison, according to Mac’s Football Blog. (UPDATE, 5:46 PM: A league source has confirmed the news to WEEI.com.) The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder out of Missouri was signed last week after New England suspended rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick. However, with Deaderick reinstated on Friday and the seven-day roster exemption for rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes set to expire on Monday, the Patriots needed to make a move to get down to the 53-man limit.
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