Belichick begins the Patriots' post-mortem


Belichick begins the Patriots' post-mortem

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO - You people got your DVRs. Take another look at the fake punt called by Patrick Chung near the end of the first half. You know, the one that turned a manageable four-point deficit into an 11-point halftime deficit? Right, that one.
When you take a look, you'll see that Sammy Morris gets his block at the right end of the line and seals the Jet on the outside. But look further to the right and see that gunner Matt Slater takes an inside release on the punt, bringing theJets' outside man back toward the line of scrimmage. Had Slater released outside, the blocker would have trailed him downfield and Chung would have had some room to roam.But, the way things were unfolding, the blocker would have seen what was developing and made the play.
Long story short? It appears Slater didn't even get the audible, and that mistake would have doomed the play even if Chung hadn't flubbed the snap. "There are a lot of things that can happen on a lot of different plays," coach Bill Belichick said Monday when asked about Chung having the latitude as the personal protector to make that call. "Really, Im not going to get into a detailed analysis of one play. There are a thousand things that could happen."

Asked if he would have signed off on the play given the time and field position, Belichick again demurred. "I mean, we can go through a thousand hypotheticals, so what happens, happens. Ill let you deal with all the ifs, ands and buts." Belichick was in a relatively upbeat mood on this Monday morning. Matter of fact and grudgingly accepting of the fate the Patriots now face. "You always think your seasons going to continue," Belichick said. "We had a lot of confidence going into the game and it didnt work out, so its a disappointing day. We had our chances yesterday, but in the end, we couldnt make as many plays as they did, so thats the result. Thats playoff football. "There were certainly a lot of good things that happened for us this season, but that definitely gets overshadowed by the final results," he continued. "Well have to work hard to get back to this point in the future. Well go forward. There are a lot of things in the future that are questions that we just cant answer and probably wont be able to answer for quite a while a lot of things that are out of our control as an individual football team that are related to a bigger picture. Well deal with those in due course."
Translation: The looming labor battle between players and owners which may result in a work stoppage.
As for the game itself, it was still worth kicking through the glacial pace of the final couple of drives. To that, Belichick said, "There are five minutes to go in the game over five minutes to go in the game we were stopped on the fourth-and-13, but if we score on that drive, its a one-score game with five minutes to go in the game. Its not the position you want to be in, but its not a bad position to be in. Without the score, now youre down by two scores with five minutes to go now thats a problem." And it was. Belichick and his staff will now coach the AFC team in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. To that, Belichick said, "Its definitely not where you want to be. Well go out there and do it."Heindicated thegame planwould revolve around . . . golf. You could sense Belichick's realization that, if the first two drives the Patriots had ended differently, the day would have ended differently.

"The first two drives, we took the ball right down the field," he said. "It wasnt we had one or two bad plays in there but for the most part, however many plays it was 14, 15 plays were good plays. We moved the ball. We mixed it. They did what they did. We had a lot of success with moving the ball, staying on track and putting ourselves in position, really, to score a lot of points there on those two drives. We ended up with three and thats not what we hoped to end with based on the way those two drives started. We felt like we should have had more points in that, but we didnt."

And as a result, a bitter playoff loss is what the Patriots are focusing on. Proof? Given the chance to take a victory lap about the 14-2 regular season, Belichick offered: "It was good."

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31


Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."


Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.


Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.


Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon.