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Chandler Jones: ‘Main thing is just focusing on this game’ not brothers this weekend 09.20.12 at 2:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Chandler Jones knew exactly what was coming. So, apparently, did Bill Belichick and the coaching staff.

This weekend, Jones and his incredibly gifted athletic brothers will all be in the national sports spotlight. Chandler goes against Arthur’s Ravens while Jon “Bones” Jones battles Vitor Belfort on Saturday night in defense of Jones’ light-heavyweight title in UFC 152 in Toronto. [“Bones” Jones spoke with WEEI’s “Mut & Merloni” on Thursday about his football brothers and his fight this weekend.]

The Patriots shun promotion of any kind when it comes to big weekends like this so it came as no surprise that Jones was pretty brief in his comments about his brothers on Thursday.

Has Chandler been in touch with Arthur?

“No I didn’t,” Jones said. “I haven’t talked to him. Maybe, after the game. We usually talk every day but we’re just getting ready for this game.”

What will it be like to see his big brother – and former Syracuse roommate – Arthur on the field Sunday night?

“Main thing is just focusing on this game, trying to get this game plan down and win this game,” Chander said. “He’s the older brother. He’s [25], I’m 22. He was my roommate in college but it all boils down to what happens Sunday night, just getting ready for this game.”

Will he be watching Jon Saturday night?

“Yeah,” Jones said with a smile.

That’s a far cry from what Chandler said in April.

“The Jones brothers are three guys who are very competitive, but we have a bond that can never be broken,” Chandler said in a UFC media release headlined America’s Most Athletic Family leading up to Jon’s successful title defense against Rashad Evans. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Art Jones, Arthur Jones, Baltimore, Chael Sonnen
Pats’ Sterling Moore: ‘I definitely thought … this loss is on me’ 01.22.12 at 10:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — From goat to hero in the swipe of a hand.

So sums up the NFL life of Sterling Moore on Sunday in the AFC championship.

A lot went through Moore’s head in the split-second that he saw Lee Evans receive the pass from Joe Flacco in the end zone before he got his right hand in to knock the ball loose and to the ground in just the nick of time on second-and-1 from the Patriots’ 14.

“I definitely thought it,” Moore said of being a possible goat, “especially, when he caught the ball, I thought it’s over. This game’s on me, this loss is on me. But I just kept fighting and get it out any way I could. If a ball is close, I’m fighting to get it out, scratching at the ball until the whistle blows. I’m just glad it turned out the way it did.

“It’s an instinct. You don’t have time to think at that moment with good receivers like that. I honestly didn’t know the ball was coming. He didn’t tip it away with his eyes or hands. I just saw him catch it and tried to get it out.”

Moore was also the player that Torrey Smith easily shoved aside on his way to a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter as the Ravens took their first lead of the game. Moore and Devin McCourty missed tackles on the play.

But it was McCourty and other teammates who kept telling Moore to keep his head up and don’t get down.

“Everyone was telling me to put it behind me,” Moore said. “Quick turnaround.”

It’s advice Moore took to heart.

“Huge, huge, especially when you give up a touchdown earlier in the game, they’re there to tell you to forget about it, it’s happened to everybody, put it behind you and help you make a play and help the team later,” Moore said.

Moore would provide perspective hours later on his Twitter page: Please everyone save the thanks and what not. I didn’t do anything but my job and we have another game to play. #SeeYouInIndy

‘€œHe stepped up and made two big plays,” McCourty added. “That play to Lee; at first he caught the ball, so just to swing his hand and get the ball out was a huge play for us, and it kept them out of the end zone and gave our defense a chance.’€

Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore, Lee Evans, New England Patriots
Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty saw split time at corner and safety against Ravens at 9:59 pm ET
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Patriots second-year cornerback Devin McCourty saw nearly an equal number of reps at the two defensive back positions in the Patriots’ 23-20 AFC championship victory over the Ravens on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The 24-year-old McCourty is listed at 5-foot-10, 193-pound corner, but contributed time at safety on Sunday, providing rest for Patrick Chung (who was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report with knee issues) and James Ihedigbo. Here’s a look at the snap counts McCourty and the skill position players took in the win over the Ravens.

McCourty at safety: 31

McCourty at corner: 35

Wes Welker: 68

Deion Branch: 66

Julian Edelman: 26

Tiquan Underwood: 2

Matt Slater: 1

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 23

Danny Woodhead: 25

Aaron Hernandez: 68

Rob Gronkowski: 58

Read More: Devin McCourty, Patriots, Ravens,
Key Moment: Billy Cundiff’s field goal attempt sails wide at 8:22 pm ET
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As the Ravens drove down the field in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter in the AFC championship Game at Gillette Stadium, the fans in New England held their collective breath as Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco led the offense into the Patriots red zone, well within scoring range.

After a third-down incompletion by Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta, kicker Billy Cundiff made his way onto the field with 15 seconds left for a 32-yard field goal attempt to tie the game up at 23, and Patriots owner Bob Kraft readily admitted to reporters after the game that he assumed the game was heading to overtime.

But as soon as the ball left Cundiff’s foot, it immediately started sailing to his left and wide of the far post. Patriots guard Brian Waters said after the game that he knew Cundiff missed because of the crowd’€™s reaction. This key moment ‘€“ the last play of the game (save for a Tom Brady kneel-down) ‘€“ proved decisive in propelling the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl appearance with Bill Belichick at the helm.

Flacco and the Ravens moved down the field and into position with under two minutes remaining. The Patriots defense held Ray Rice, the league’s total yardage leader, to just 46 yards on the ground through the first three quarters and 78 in the game.

After the game, Ravens punter Sam Koch said that heading out onto the field, everything felt normal for the special teams unit; the kick was just pulled a little bit too much.

‘€œIt is just really unfortunate. I feel for Billy, and he put his heart and soul out there today and he wanted to go out there and win it for us, and it is just very unfortunate,’€ Koch said. ‘€œIt was just one of those things where it just happened to go off to the left. Everything felt fine; maybe a little bit of a rush. I haven’€™t really talked to him about it, but it will be something we will diagnose later to see what he thought about it.’€

Cundiff wouldn’€™t have even had the opportunity if it weren’€™t for Patriots safety Sterling Moore. Moore broke up a sure touchdown catch by punching the ball from the hands of Lee Evans in the end zone a few plays earlier.

But when the kick sailed left and overtime was no longer going to be an option, the players from the Patriots sideline flooded the field in celebration. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said that the team would have been ready, though, had the kick sailed through the uprights.

‘€œI wasn’€™t praying,’€ he said. ‘€œIf he had made it, we would have just come out and done what we had to do to try to win the game. Whatever we had to do; fourth quarter, overtime. Whatever it had been.’€

Now, that mission will guide the Patriots as they await the winner of the 49ers-Giants contest to determine who New England will face on Feb. 5 in Super Bowl XLVI matchup in Indianapolis.

Read More: AFC Championship, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Billy Cundiff, Patriots
Snap Judgments: Patriots earn trip to Super Bowl by escaping Ravens, 23-20 at 6:15 pm ET
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With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Patriots snuck past the Ravens when Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining. The Patriots, who won 23-20, improve to 7-1 all-time in the AFC championship game.

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After a back-and-forth battle in the first 3½ quarters, the Patriots defense came up big on two plays (a Brandon Spikes interception and Vince Wilfork breaking through the offensive line on a fourth down, disrupting Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco) and held on against a Ravens comeback attempt that ended in euphoria for New England fans.

The 31st-ranked defense at the end of the regular season continued to step up in big ways these past two playoff weeks. Here are some things that went right and some things that went wrong in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.


— Wilfork started the game on fire defensively, helping cut short several Ravens drives in the first quarter, including three straight three-and-outs. On Baltimore’s second offensive possession, Wilfork stopped Ricky Williams on first down for a loss of five. Two plays later, he was in the backfield again disrupting and sacking Flacco for a five-yard loss. The Patriots defensive line didn’€™t have much trouble shutting down Ray Rice and the rushing game for Baltimore in the first, holding them to a total of seven yards. Wilfork left the game briefly as his left elbow was attended to, but was back on the line in no time. He added a crucial stop on third down with less than three minutes remaining in the game that forced the Ravens to use a timeout. The Ravens went for it, and Flacco’€™s pass fell incomplete.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran well in the first half on Sunday against the Ravens, gaining 50 yards on eight carries, including a 7-yard scamper for the Patriots’€™ first touchdown of the game. Green-Ellis did a good job all day of getting the New England offense into scoring range, even if multiple long drives resulted in short field goals. He outgained Rice by 29 yards at the half, but the credit there belongs as much to the Patriots defensive line as it does to Green-Ellis and the offensive line.

— After being stopped on the 1-yard line twice, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal with just over 11 minutes and 30 seconds left to go in the game, trailing by four. Brady kept the ball himself and leapt over the flurry of defenders for the first Patriots touchdown since the second quarter. This score gave them a 23-20 lead, and gave Brady his first playoff touchdown since 2004.

— With 7:22 remaining in the game, inside linebacker Spikes jumped in front of a Flacco pass and made a one-handed interception in the middle of the field. The interception came at the perfect time for the Patriots defense, as the Ravens offense was pushing into New England territory. Though the Patriots almost immediately gave the ball back when Brady was picked off in the Baltimore end zone, it still proved a pivotal play in preventing Baltimore from claiming a lead.


— Coverage on Ravens receiver Torrey Smith was spotty, as the speedy rookie was open deep on several occasions. The Maryland product broke free from coverage early in the game and hauled in a 40-yard reception that put the Ravens in position for their first score of the game, a short field goal that knotted the game up at three apiece. With just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Smith broke a tackle in tight coverage and sprinted 29 yards to the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Ravens their first lead of the game.

— After a spectacular first half last Saturday against the Broncos, Brady experienced just the opposite in Sunday’€™s first half. The veteran quarterback didn’€™t register one passing touchdown, although he had a chance very early in the game. Brady overthrew a wide open Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field in the Baltimore red zone. Brady also threw an interception to Lardarius Webb in the first quarter on an underthrown ball intended for Aaron Hernandez.

— Rookie offensive lineman Nate Solder, who was listed on Friday’€™s injury report as questionable with a concussion, got the start in the AFC championship game with Sebastian Vollmer still out. Solder had a hard time handling the speedy Terrell Suggs on the pass rush, allowing Brady’€™s pocket to collapse rather quickly.

— Gronkowski went down with under a minute left in the third quarter on a Bernard Pollard (yes, that Bernard Pollard) tackle. Pollard brought Gronkowski down around the waist, and fell over his left ankle. Gronkowski was taken to the locker room for X-rays. He would return early in the fourth quarter, however.

— Timely plays were not New England’€™s specialty in this AFC championship game. Brady’€™s pick in the fourth quarter just one play after Spikes’€™ interception could’€™ve killed the team morale, but the Patriots managed to hold on at the end.

Read More: AFC Championship, Patriots, Ravens, Tom Brady
The world according to Terrell Suggs 01.18.12 at 4:16 pm ET
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Things are a little different around here.

When one walks into the media work room at Gillette Stadium, there is zero chance that they will find a player eating a slice of pizza while talking to three reporters about a clothing line titled “Ball So Hard.” I’d frankly be stunned if any player on the knows where the media work room is located, save for those who make trips to the podium. Let’s just say fraternizing is not exactly encouraged.

But that’s not the attitude at the Ravens facility, at least at sure wasn’t on Wednesday. Just a very loose scene both inside and out of the locker room, completely in contrast with what goes on in Foxboro. That’s not to suggest that the Patriots are at all wrong, it just goes to show that different approaches can lead to success.

And maybe if Terrell Suggs one day leaves Baltimore and signs with New England he’d keep his head down, say all the right things and keep away from the Papa Gino’s in the media room. Who knows? But on Wednesday the five-time Pro Bowler weighed in on a variety of topics during his six-minute session with local and national reporters (but not Rob Lowe) …

On the criticism of Joe Flacco from teammate Ed Reed: “I don’t have to stick up for Joe, his reputation speaks for itself. That’s all it’s about. This whole team has been anybody’s favorite, and he fits in with our persona, not flashy, but he’s right there in the locker room with us. We’re a different kind of group, we’re some special cats.”

On the Suggs/Tom Brady feud: “What? There’s no beef. I guess the genesis of that — there was the incident in ’09, where I almost hit him below the waist. That’s where it all started. You grow and mature, you can clearly see I’m not the same guy I was in ’09, I’m 20 pounds lighter. Like I said, I’m pretty much over it. Like I said yesterday, when it’s all said and done there are going to speak on three quarterbacks: Johnny [Unitas], Peyton [Manning], and him. There’s really no beef.”

On if he was aware that Brady (on WEEI) offered him a pair of Ugg boots to continue the recent peace between the two: “Yeah, I am. What does he wear, Ugg boots? I hear they are really comfortable. Maybe he can get me some. Tell him I’€™ll take a pair. I’€™ll send him some ‘€˜Ball So Hard’€™ wear.”

On Bill Belichick calling Reed the best player he’s ever coached against: “You know he said that to us before and constantly threw the ball back at him, so … I don’t know. I agree, when it’s all said and done he’s going to go down as one of the best safeties in history. We’ll have to see on Sunday.”

On if the Ravens can win a shootout: “Can we? I think so, I hope so. If that’s what it’s going to take, if we need to win the game 63-60, that’s what it going to take. We don’t really want that, but if it is, it is.”

Read More: AFC Championship, Patriots, Ravens, Rob Lowe
Here’s why the Patriots will win on Sunday 01.17.12 at 6:53 am ET
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You know what we’ve got on Sunday?

Two Super Bowl or bust teams.

When the season began, neither the Patriots or Ravens would have been satisfied with a spirited, hard-fought loss in the AFC championship as the conclusion to the season. Nope, the expectations were Lombardi Trophy or Lost Season.

How many other teams, realistically, thought that way in September? The Packers, obviously. The Saints, sure. The Steelers. One more, and it’s almost now charming in its delusion: The Jets.

That’s it. Every other team would have signed for 12-4 and a playoff win. That includes the two remaining NFC teams.

This will be the only Super Bowl or Bust matchup of the entire postseason. Doesn’t mean the winner will win the next game, of course, but it is going to be a particularly brutal defeat on Sunday for the Patriots or Ravens, much more so than for a 49ers team that won six games in 2010 and is way past house money stage, or for a Giants team that missed the postseason last year, won nine games this year and was 7-7 just a month ago. If the Giants lose 23-14 to the 49ers on Sunday I suspect, with some time to gain a little perspective, they’ll look at the season (with that win in Green Bay as the unquestioned highlight) as a whole as a success.

I’m picking the Patriots to win this game, but it’s about as close to a coin flip as it can get. A Baltimore win would be nothing close to a surprise, that defense plus Ray Rice is plenty enough to beat New England. Doesn’t take much to make a case for the Ravens on Sunday.

But three factors stand out when choosing New England, and it’s the first one I believe will matter most ‘€¦

Brady vs. Flacco

No quarterback in the history of the NFL has won as many regular-season games in his first four seasons as Joe Flacco (44 – but if you’ll allow a quick caveat: Brady won 48 in his first four seasons as a starter but is disqualified here because he played in one game in his actual rookie season of 2000). Flacco has a career TD/INT ratio of 80-46, which even in the new NFL world of juiced-up passer ratings is impressive. And on Sunday, Flacco won his fifth career postseason game. So you’d think this is a guy that would reside firmly at the elite table of current quarterbacks, below Brady, Rodgers and Brees but right there with Roethlsiberger and Eli Manning (who is two wins away from pretty much locking up a spot in Canton, hard as that may be to believe).

But no one ever puts Flacco in that group, his national temperature is tepid at best. Why? Well, he had his worst season in 2011 (most INTs, TD’s were down, yards per attempt and completion percentage were career lows) and looked very shaky at times against the Texans on Sunday. Probably you remember Baltimore coming to Foxboro and destroying the Patriots in January 2010. Also you might remember this: Flacco stunk in that game, finished 4-for-10 for 34 yards and an INT (10.0 passer rating). In his postseason career he has completed 53.1 percent of his passes with seven INT and six TDs (Tony Romo - who routinely gets massacred by the press for not being a “winner” with just a single playoff win in five games – has completed 59.3 percent of his playoff passes with four TDs and just two INTs). Flacco is a perfectly serviceable NFL starter, perhaps a little more than that. But if he had been drafted by, say, Seattle instead of Baltimore it’s fair to wonder what Flacco would be. Having Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata as teammates can cover up some of the quarterbacking acne.

When the Patriots lost to the Giants in Week 9 they were 5-3 on the season and Tom Brady already had 10 interceptions. Since then the Patriots are 9-0 and Brady has thrown 25 TDs (as many as Flacco has thrown in any season of his career) against three picks. Yup, this Ravens defense is significantly better than any Brady has faced during that stretch (tops in the NFL in pass defense) and the heart of that group dominated him in that playoff game two years ago, but he enters Sunday playing at least as well as he has at any time of his career. Huge head-to-head edge for the Patriots at the most important position.

Understanding The Need For Balance

The three losses:

Buffalo, 45 passes, 26 rushes

Steelers: 35 passes, 12 rushes

Giants: 49 passes, 24 rushes

(And these were not blowout games, obviously, the kind that would force your quarterback to throw and throw some more. The losses were by three, six and four points.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, Patriots, Ravens
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