Patriots

Curran: Patriots getting better; Jets getting worse

191543.jpg

Curran: Patriots getting better; Jets getting worse

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran

FOXBORO - I don't know who said it first, but it's a line they like to use around Gillette Stadium: "You're either getting better or you're getting worse."That platitude was in practice Sunday afternoon. The Patriots - with their once sadly amusing defense and forgotten running game - bowed up on the blowhard New York Jets. And the Jets? Owners of a three-game losing streak and entering back-to-back games against teams coming off of their bye weeks, they may have played better than they did last week but their identity crisis seems to be just beginning. We'll get to that in a few paragraphs. First, let's look at what the Patriots were able to accomplish in improving to 4-1 (keeping pace with the powerful Bills). As opposed to the last time these two teams met, the Patriots were able to establish balance. Thirty-three throws, 35 runs, and 7-of-14 on third down. The two key drives they reeled off were an 11-play drive that covered 77 yards and consumed 4:12. That came in the third quarter when the Patriots lead was 17-14 and they hadn't put together a sustained drive that resulted in points since early in the second quarter. The second drive began with 7:14 remaining and the lead 27-21. A 13-play, 69-yard drive (54 coming on the ground from BenJarvus Green-Ellis) that chewed up 6:12 and ended with a game-icing field goal with 1:09 remaining. After weeks of deservedly being called a finesse team, the Patriots lined up and rammed the ball down the throats of an increasingly disinterested Jets defense.

Thats always huge," said tight end Rob Gronkowski. "You dont want to give them a chance to come back. Give them any small chance, any play, they can come right back and score a touchdown no matter what the play is. So you always want to close it out and not give them a chance . . . You just want to finish it off in the game and we did with the field goal.

In the playoffs last year, the Patriots spent gobs of time trying to process what the Jets were doing before the snap. Sunday, they were decisive and destructive.

"That was a big part of the win. I thought we were balanced," explained Tom Brady."Ran the clock out at the end, that was important. We needed that win. We have to run the ball. If they have a lot of DBs out there, then we have to run it. If they put big guys in, we still have to run it. You just cant throw the ball every single down against these guys, they make it too tough."

The Patriots were the tougher team Sunday. And Brady had a lot to do with that with getting the offense into the correct running play at the line.

"They give you a lot of different looks,"said Bill Belichick."They stem in and out of things and overload and then switch it and just change things up on you, so youve got to be careful about running plays that just have no chance. You want to stay out of those and try to give yourself something that you at least have an even fight, fair numbers on. That's the quarterbacks responsibility and a couple times we just got caught in it. They did a good job. They maneuvered in a way that we werent able to do that, but I thought he did a good job handling that."

At his locker after the game, Brady lamented the plays missed, the throws not made, the points left on the board. But it was - relatively speaking - an improvement for this offense even though it mustered fewer yards than in the first three weeks of this season.

Defensively? No griping. A group that was good for a 30-plus play per quarter didn't allow a play of more than 20 yards until the fourth quarter and there were only two of those.

It helped that Mark Sanchez was less than accurate and that Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schotteheimer had a curious day of playcalling (throwing on short yardage on the first three Jets' series with no success; never challenging the Patriots' corners on the outside where they've been vulnerable). But the Patriots responded to New York's proclamation that they would ground andor pound the football at them. The Jets made yards (25 carries, 97 yards), but their ineptitude on third down kept them from getting any flow.

"We knew coming into this game they were going to try to get the ground game going," said Vince Wilfork. "At times they did, but at times we buckled down. I think you just saw two teams today that play each other all the time and its always tough. When you play a division game, its always tough. Especially with the Jets. But you just saw two good football teams go at it. We know one another. You may see a few wrinkles, but they do what they do. They play physical. They challenged us this week and I think we rose to the occasion."

This defense hadn't done that to a great extent this season. Moments? Yes. A full game of it? No. But they did it against the Jets, a team that they really, truly revile.

"They were going to make plays, we were going to make plays, but we knew we had to hang in their tough and play good solid football and then we knew wed be ok. I think we did tonight," added Wilfork. "I think third down was a plus for us tonight. The yardage, no big plays- thats part of the most impressive stat for us. Like I said, we werent perfect, but its a step in the right direction."

And as the Patriots keep getting better, establishing an identity, the Jets are reeling.

Asked in the postgame if this is the toughest situation the Jets have faced, Rex Ryan said, "Its probably right there with them. You know, we are the only NFL team in history to go to the playoffs having overcome two three-game losing streaks. Weve been down that road before, but to get back to winning, you have to roll your sleeves up and get after it. And start working and preparing and believing in each other and we can turn the tide."

It's never a good sign when you're able to dredge up stats about how good your team is when it goes in the tank. Because, at some point, the time comes when that team finds that the best way to respond to three-game losing streaks is to avoid them. The Jets aren't there yet. Their head coach may know that there is no switch to flip, but the annual preseason victory parades and proclamations are eventually going to backfire.

And that process may be in motion right now.Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

MORE PATRIOTS:

Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE