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New York Jets championship gear is already on the market 01.22.11 at 7:29 pm ET
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Hmmmmm.Seems that someone has discovered some of these shirts floating around out there. (Credit alert Tweeter @AhoyNickStevens with the picture.) No great surprise — companies print up batches for both sides to cover their bases and to hand them out to the winners as soon as the game is done (these bring up a tough memory for any Patriots fan) — but it is a surprise that they have become public, especially in a game where both sides might be angling for some bulletin-board material.

If the Steelers got ahold of these, it wouldn’t be the first time that a T-shirt has played a role in an AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field. Prior to the 2001 game in Pittsburgh, the Patriots discovered boxes of Steelers championship swag next to their locker room. Patriots coach Bill Belichick took one and gave it to New England safety Lawyer Milloy, who put it on the Patriots’ blackboard. And after the Patriots’ 24-17 win, the New England players returned to the locker room and gleefully stomped on the T-shirt.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Jets, Lawyer Milloy, Patriots
Peter King on D&H: Steelers better equipped than Patriots to beat Jets 01.21.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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Peter King

Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports football analyst Peter King made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Friday to talk about the NFL playoffs. To hear the interview, including King’s thoughts on Bill Belichick‘s legacy, the NFC championship game and the Tom Jackson controversy, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

King said in the days before the Jets knocked off the Patriots, Rex Ryan went to his staff and defensive team leaders and asked them for suggestions on how to stop the Patriots offense. Explained King: “He said, ‘Listen, if you’ve got some ideas, give them to us. We’re looking to do new things to try to confuse the Patriots.’ And I think what they ended up doing was basically fairly consistently putting [Antonio] Cromartie and [Darrelle] Revis alone with whoever the Patriots put outside. It wouldn’t have mattered whether it was [Wes] Welker, it wouldn’t have mattered whether it was Deion Branch — I guess most often it was probably Deion Branch and [Brandon] Tate.

“And they said we’re not going to concentrate — I’m not saying we never will — but we’re not going to concentrate on giving them any safety help. They’ll just handle those guys, and then we’re going to cloud the middle of the field, and we’re going to make Tom Brady, when he looks over the field, we’re going to make him look at traffic everywhere he looks. I think that’s, in essence, a lot of what happened in this game.”

As for why the Patriots were not able to successfully combat the Jets’ strategy, King said: “I’m not really sure what you can do without either sort of the blazing speed or the big, type Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss in his prime on the outside to really affect the game. For instance, I think that the Pittsburgh Steelers probably right now are more well equipped to face that secondary because they’ve got three speed receivers that they can put on the outside now. It’s going to be difficult, in my opinion, anyway, for the Jets to match up the way that they were able to match up on the Patriots.

“To me, I think it just underscores the need that — Randy Moss is gone, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a big receiver in a game when you’ve got two really good cover corners. A big receiver in that game would have gone a long way — a big, athletic receiver.”

King also addressed the league’s warning to players about trash-talking and then targeting players on the field. “I think the league didn’t want to come out and single out the New York Jets for basically doing this trash-talking,” King said. “But I think they wanted the Jets and every other team to know that we’re not going to tolerate having guys talking about bounties, and having guys talk like that any more.”

Added King: “Once they figure out this CBA, I think that’s one of the things they’re going to talk about. It’s just a coincidence it’s happened at the same time that we’re talking about civility in the country, but I don’t think that Roger Goodell and the NFL believe that’s a very smart way to showcase your game to have one player saying publicly, in very strong language, cursing another player on the team. And same thing with Bart Scott. I think those things are both bad. And I think those are things that the NFL really wants to eradicate.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, antonio cromartie, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick
Ron Jaworski on The Big Show: Brady ‘began to see ghosts’ on the field 01.18.11 at 3:53 pm ET
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Ron Jaworski

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, after reviewing the coaches’ film of the Patriots’ 28-21 loss to the Jets, credited New York for their defensive execution. At the same time, he expressed surprise at the number of opportunities missed by the New England offense, particularly quarterback Tom Brady.

“Obviously, a disappointing effort from the Patriots. I was surprised they played as poorly as they did,” Jaworski said. “I’m going to be honest with you guys. I looked at tape. There were some plays on the field that Tom Brady did not see. I think Tom began to play a little bit fast, and the term I use, he began to see ghosts. There were some opportunities, particularly early in the game, a key third-and-3, he had Danny Woodhead out of the backfield in the flat, he doesn’t throw the football. It’s a play that Tom has probably seen 50 times this year and completed 50 times. For some reason, he didn’t throw the football. I don’t know if he got spooked by the interception or what, but he did leave some plays on the field.

“I think he had a poor game,” Jaworski added. “He’s always been really good at that movement in the pocket, those subtle little moves to the left or right or up in the pocket that allows some time for the receivers to uncover. I just felt that at times he had those opportunities and he kind of flinched. There was a perception of pressure, and at times it wasn’t there. It was awkward to me to see Tom reacting that way. When bodies weren’t around him, he was perceiving pressure.”

Jaworski said that the Jets did not blitz on a high percentage of plays, but that they did so enough to change the timing and rhythm of Brady, the offensive line and receivers. He praised the play of cornerback Darrelle Revis, suggesting that he turned the contest into a “10-on-10″ game. He also suggested that the Jets — who had as many as seven defensive backs on the field — employed a strategy used to great effect by Bill Belichick and the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, chipping receivers to throw off the rhythm of the passing game.

The analyst (and former NFL quarterback) also noted that the Patriots offensive line did not have its best game against the Jets’ defensive front. Though he said that the call for a punt fake was an excellent one — and that “the play would have worked” but for Patrick Chung fumbling the snap — he expressed surprise that the Patriots did not try to take advantage of tight end Aaron Hernandez to create matchup problems for the Jets and that the Patriots did not exhibit greater urgency on their almost eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter.

“There just didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency,” said Jaworski. “It was a great drive if it was in the first quarter. … I was very surprised by the lack of urgency to get the plays running.

To listen to the interview, visit The Big Show’s audio on demand page. For complete Patriots coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New York Jets, playoffs, Rex Ryan
Phil Simms on D&H: Wes Welker benching ‘didn’t surprise me’ at 2:04 pm ET
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CBS NFL analyst Phil Simms was a guest of the Dale & Holley show on Wednesday. Simms, who called the Patriots’ 28-21 loss to the Jets with Jim Nantz on Sunday, was asked about Rex Ryan‘s defensive game plan, which clearly frustrated Tom Brady and the rest of the New England offense.

“He [Ryan] wasn’t worried about the outside throws against his defense,” said Simms, who also noted that it helps to have great players such as Darrelle Revis. “Because he knows he has those two corners, which were really very good matchups against the Patriots wide receivers. And he was rewarded. So he can basically take nine guys and play them from one end of the formation inside to the other… No matter how good you are, you can’t beat those kind of numbers, and Tom Brady couldn’t either.”

Simms told Dale and Holley that Ryan is a unique figure in the NFL, and isn’t surprised that the head coach of the Jets is so popular with his players.

“It’s nothing like we’ve never seen in the NFL, it’s nothing like we’ve seen in professional sports,” said Simms of Ryan. “He says what’s on his mind, and players on his team react well to it. … He lets the players have a free reign and it’s working well for him right now, no question.”

CBS was first to report the benching of Wes Welker, doing so right before kickoff on Sunday. Simms — who said CBS learned of the plans of bench Welker “about a minute or two before kickoff” — was asked if he was surprised that Bill Belichick chose to discipline Welker.

“It didn’t surprise me,” said Simms. “I thought that when Wes Welker did his tongue-in-cheek thing on Rex Ryan this past week I thought, ‘OK, well he must have got the OK to attack the Jets a little bit.’ But apparently he did not have the OK, so he paid the price by missing the first series.”

Simms did not have a problem with the Patriots’ apparent lack of urgency toward the end of the game. The Patriots offense — down 10 points in the fourth quarter — took eight minutes to run a 14-play drive that included seven rushes, a drive that ultimately ended on downs.

“I don’t know, if they hurried up was that going to give them another possession in the game?” Simms asked. “I don’t think so, and in fact I’m convinced it wouldn’t.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Chad Ochocinco interested in Patriots? 01.17.11 at 9:03 pm ET
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Chad Ochocinco, a New England Patriot? The controversial wide receiver posted a Tweet on Monday in response to a question from a Boston Herald reporter saying “PePe and Bill #EPIC.” (PePe is one of his nicknames.)

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Ochocinco go back all the way to 2001, when Belichick worked him out as a collegian. They have maintained a friendship over the last few years, and it certainly sounds like the Patriots’ coach as a real admiration for Ochocinco and vice versa.

“I like Chad — I like him as a player. I like him as a person,” Belichick said. “I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has with football, and I like how he competes on the football field. I have a lot of respect for that.

“[We’re] an odd couple, but in the end I think we have a lot of things in common.”

“It became a relationship beyond just a football player and a coach. He became a friend of mine,” Ochocinco said of their relationship. “He has a lot of respect for me in my game and I have a lot of respect for him in everything he’s done as a coach.

“We just became really close and fond of each other’s work. He’s one that I look up to tremendously, one that I’ve never played for, but I show the same respect as if he was my own head coach.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco,
Several Patriots garner PFW, PFWA honors at 7:38 pm ET
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The Patriots season ended Sunday evening, but they should be busy now that the NFL award season is underway. Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America named its 2010 award winners, all-pro and all-rookie teams on Monday, and there were several Patriots represented. Quarterback Tom Brady was voted the league MVP by the PFW and PFWA, and was also named all-NFL. Meanwhile, coach Bill Belichick was named NFL coach of the year. In addition, linebacker Jerod Mayo was named to the all-NFL team, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Devin McCourty and punter Zoltan Mesko were named to the publication’s all-rookie team.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski
The Big Nickel: Patriots still in shock over loss as rookies discuss playoffs and team faces looming labor questions at 3:20 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez cleans out his locker as the offseason started for the Patriots on Monday. (AP)

FOXBORO — The five most important things to know about the Patriots on Monday:

1. Patrick Chung (whose appearance was covered here by colleague Mike Petraglia) was one of several players who took time out from packing up their lockers to reflect on the end of the season. It was a group that included wide receiver Deion Branch, tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Devin McCourty, as well as linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Tully Banta-Cain.

Chung’s admission that he was the one who botched the fake punt was the big news of the day, as the safety, who was working as the up man for punter Zoltan Mesko, said “blame me” for what happened.

“Of course, there are regrets,” Chung said. “That’s part of the game. That’s all on me, not Bill, not [special teams coach Scott O’Brien], none of them. I take full responsibility. I just saw a look we have. That’s how it goes. Make the call and it didn’t work out for us. Leave [Patriots coach] Bill [Belichick] alone, leave Scotty alone. I take responsibility, blame me.

“There’s no if. There’s no if. I didn’t catch it. That’s part of the game. That’s part of the game. Some things happen, you have to bounce back from it. That play is over now and it didn’t work out for us. I take full responsibility. No one else.”

Meanwhile, 12 hours after the loss to the Jets, the rest of the locker room was still dealing with the aftermath of the defeat.

“We obviously are all in shock. We weren’t expecting this to happen. It was one of those things where all you can do is just reflect and hope you do better going forward,” said Banta-Cain. “We had gained some momentum from the regular season going into the playoffs, and it kind of felt like we had some good steam behind that momentum, and for it to come to a screeching halt, no one was expecting that.”

“I think everybody has different thought process on how the season was going and how it ended,” said Branch. “But I think it all comes down to the fact that it ended the way we didn’t want it to end. I think that’s the biggest thing. We can all put our own spin on it, but it just didn’t end the way we wanted it to end.”

2. Belichick and the Patriots are now in a curious spot — the uncertain labor situation involving the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has the league facing murky future. Belichick does have some history in this area, having worked an assistant coach when work stoppages altered the 1982 and 1987 schedules, and he knows enough to know that as a coach, he has very little control over the situation.

“It’s different, but similar to two other situations I was involved in in ‘82 and ‘87. It’s the same type of thing,” Belichick said. “I’d say if you are in the business long enough, that’s part of it. It’s uncertain in that situation. I’m certain it will get resolved in time … whenever that is, at some point. In the meantime, you do what you can do. Those things are all out of my control as a coach. I don’t deal with any of that. Whenever it’s resolved, it’s resolved. In the meantime, we’ll do the best that we can with the opportunities and the information that we have.
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Read More: Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch
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