|Short week won’t get in the way of Patriots-Jets rivalry: ‘Everything goes out the window when you play these guys’||10.13.14 at 9:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With just three days in between games when playing on Thursday Night Football, it might be tough to get up for your next opponent.
Not this week for the Patriots and Jets, as the AFC East division rivals will meet for the first time this season Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
“I think records go out the window when you play these guys,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “Everything goes out the window when you play these guys and you don’t have a problem getting up for them because of the history that is there. We will be ready as well.”
Even though the Jets come into the game 1-5 — losers of five straight — they are coming off a game Sunday where they were competitive right until the end with the Broncos, ultimately falling, 31-17. It is also their first division game of the season.
Having limited time to prepare, it does help facing a team you’re familiar with.
“Obviously every year teams are different,” Slater said. “We have new players, they have new players so there is still a sense of urgency when I comes to getting to know them, but it does help that we know some of their tendencies and we know their coach. We know kind of what to expect.”
After getting back from Buffalo late Sunday night, the biggest thing for the players is to try and get their bodies back to full strength after the beating they took Sunday afternoon, while also trying to become familiar with the game plan as quickly as possible with only two days until the game.
|Patriots supporting Jerod Mayo following season-ending injury: ‘Hopefully we can play well for him’||at 7:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sunday’s win over the Bills came with a big price.
The Patriots lost running back Stevan Ridley for the season with a torn ACL and MCL and also their leader on defense — captain Jerod Mayo to a ‘severe lower right leg’ injury, also reportedly ending his season.
It’s the second straight season Mayo has been lost for the year in Week 6 after he tore his pectoral last season and it gets no easier for his teammates, both coping with the injury as well as replacing him in the middle of the field at his middle linebacker position.
“With that happening yesterday, it was a blow,” fellow captain Matthew Slater said. “You can’t try and pretend it’s one of those things you can pick up and move on from because you feel for a guy like Jerod. I came in with Jerod, we were rookies together and to see him go down I know took a toll on me, but we have to do the best we can to bounce back.
“A lot of guys have to step up because a guy like that is hard to replace — not only what he does on the field, but who he is in this locker room. His leadership, the man that he is. A lot of guys can emulate and imitate because of who he is. Hopefully we can play well for him the rest of the year, but like I said there is no replacing him with one guy, it’s going to take a lot of guys stepping up.”
With all the season-ending injuries the defense had to deal with last season — including Mayo’s — defensive end/linebacker Rob Ninkovich was forced into playing much more than he was accustomed to and played quite well. Once again, it will take efforts like that to replace Mayo.
|Patriots elect Matthew Slater NFLPA player rep, Darrelle Revis alternate||10.03.14 at 10:51 am ET|
FOXBORO — In a move that hardly comes as a surprise, Patriots players have elected special teams captain Matthew Slater as their Players Association player rep to handle all matters between the union and the team.
The NFLPA made the announcement Friday morning on its Twitter page.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) October 3, 2014
|Patriots searching for identity going into Sunday’s matchup with Cincinnati||10.01.14 at 6:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There is a sense of unknown with the Patriots following the first four weeks of the season.
Last year the team was as mentally tough of any team in the Bill Belichick era, coming from a 24-0 halftime deficit against the Broncos to win in overtime, scoring with five seconds left to beat the Saints, 30-27 and also scoring two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds to beat the Browns, 27-26.
This season, following one of the worst losses in the Belichick-Tom Brady tenure – a 41-14 shellacking by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football — the Patriots go into this Sunday night’s game with the Bengals not really knowing how it will respond as they have yet to build an identity.
“We’ll find out,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “I feel confident we’ll be a resilient group and be able to bounce back, but time will tell. It’s easy to sit here and talk about it, but hopefully we’ll go out there and do something about it.”
For the most part this year’s team is the same as the one last year with a few exceptions — most notably Darrelle Revis on defense and rookies Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming on the offense line, along with the departures of Aqib Talib and Logan Mankins.
Even with a couple of younger players being mixed in, there is still a veteran presence, which can only help at a time like this.
“Every guy in this locker room has been in a situation where they haven’t played well or been on a good team and coming off a bad loss,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I think as football players we go through that — maybe not yet in the NFL — but throughout their college or high school careers. Your character or confidence as a individual player isn’t changed by that. I think we have good leadership so those young guys can look to us as the older guys in the locker room and see some of us played bad and we’ll be ready to go.”
|Matthew Slater compares ‘fearless’ Cordarrelle Patterson to Devin Hester||09.12.14 at 10:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Earlier in the day, Bill Belichick compared Cordarrelle Patterson to Baltimore’s explosive Jacoby Jones, the man who returned a key kick for a touchdown to open the second half of Super Bowl XLVII.
With 18 touchdowns, Hester holds the NFL record for most all-time return touchdowns (punt and kick combined) and most all-time punt return touchdowns (13). Last year, Patterson had two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
“I think what we have to do is really do a good job of getting a lot of hats to the ball,” Slater said. “This guy back there is as good as anybody we’ve seen over the last 10, 15 years in this league. He reminds you a lot of a young Hester with his explosive play. We just have to do a good job of getting a lot of hats to the ball, everybody just doing their job, not trying to go down there and run out of your lane to make a heroic play. We just have to do our job, beat this front and hopefully contain him.”
Like Jones in the Super Bowl, Patterson returned a kick 109 yards for a touchdown last year, one of two he took to the house in 2013. He led the NFL with a 15.4 yard average. What makes him so good from a defender’s perspective?
“I think similar to Devin and Jacoby, he is fearless,” Slater said. “Those guys, the good ones, are not afraid. Sometimes there may be smoke and they’re running though it. Now, there may be a guy on the other side of that smoke or there may be a seam. Those guys are not afraid to hit it and that’s what makes them great.”
Patterson isn’t the only return specialist Slater is concerned about as Marcus Sherels is one of the most feared punt returners in the game.
“This guy was second in the league in punt returns last year,” Slater noted. “Speed, quickness, similar aggressive nature about him. He’s got the ability to make people miss in the open field and he seems to have a good feel for the return schemes that they run. He poses a big problem back there as well.”
|‘No panic’ for Patriots after season-opening loss to Dolphins||09.09.14 at 6:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots locker room was a quiet, empty place late Monday afternoon as the players had just wrapped up their day reviewing the ugly game film from Sunday’s 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.
Many of the players walked to their lockers, grabbed their belongings and left without much interaction. The Patriots had not lost a season-opener since 2003, so it was an unusual feeling for the players this early in the season as they went 4-0 during the opening month of last season.
“It’s never a happy meeting room after a loss,” safety Devin McCourty said. “There’s no panic — watch the film, correct what we need to correct and try and move on. It’s the first game of the season. We can’t let that affect the rest of the season. We still have a lot of football left to be played. We have to keep improving and the focus is to go out there and win on Sunday.”
It was the Patriots’ first loss by more than one possession in the regular season since Nov. 7, 2010 when they lost 34-14 to the Browns.
Instead of dwelling on the loss and kicking themselves for their mistakes, the sentiment among all the players was they have already turned the page on Sunday and are now focused on correcting the miscues for Week 2 against Minnesota.
“I think the biggest thing for us this week is going back to square one and focusing on the fundamentals,” said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “I think fundamentally we need to do a number of things better and it wasn’t for a lack of effort or anything like that. We just need to go back to the basics and try and improve.”
The team is full of veteran players who have won in the league before and know one loss isn’t going to make or break the entire season. Therefore, the confidence level among players hasn’t changed after one rough game.
“Confidence is fine,” safety Duron Harmon said. “We know it’s a long season and we just need to fix it and keep moving in the right direction.”
|What to watch for in Thursday’s Patriots-Giants preseason finale||08.28.14 at 7:30 am ET|
Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Thursday night when the Patriots meet the Giants in the preseason finale for both teams.
WHO DOESN’T PLAY
When it comes to the preseason finale, it’s just as important to figure out who doesn’t play as opposed to who does play. As we detailed here, if you’re a starter — or even a veteran — and you find yourself on the field for anything more than 10-15 snaps on Thursday night, it’s a bad sign. (The only area where this might be an exception is along the interior of the offensive line, for reasons we will address shortly.) Based on the work the Patriots were able to put in last week against the Panthers when they looked mostly razor sharp on both sides of the ball, don’t expect many of the starters to see the field against the Giants, despite the fact that we know New York is going to roll out its starters for between 15-18 snaps.
A good chunk of this relates back to the first point — we know quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to start and get the bulk of the snaps. But given the fact that history tells us those who don’t play are likely to have a secure roster spot, we’ll be keeping an eye on a few first-year players and monitoring their playing time. Cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back James White have been among the rookies who have played well enough to land a roster spot over the course of the summer — if they end up sitting Thursday night, it’s a good bet they’ve made the roster.
Thursday will be the first professional start for Garoppolo, and he’ll get a chance to show what he can do against a No. 1 defense for the first time in the preseason. The New England coaching staff will be interested in seeing him in as many different situations as possible: two-minute, end-of-half, under pressure from a steady rush, as well as a potential four-minute offense situation. Everything is on the table when it comes to evaluating Garoppolo. From this viewpoint, Ryan Mallett still is the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, but the rookie will get his opportunity to show what he can do come Thursday evening in North Jersey.
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