Patriots

Order to lift lockout ushers in NFL confusion

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Order to lift lockout ushers in NFL confusion

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
Got chaos? Kinda. Since Judge Nelson's command that NFL owners lift the lockout and let players resume work immediately, confusion over what happens next has taken hold. "It's getting very complicated," one NFL executive told me Monday evening. What's complicated? Here's a little FAQ action for you. The answers? To be candid, some will be educated guesses. I'll let you know when I'm guessing. 1. Lockout lifted, can players go to work on Tuesday?

Yes. Unless and until there is a "stay" of Nelson's ruling pending appeal, her order to end the lockout is in effect. The NFL's Management Council has reportedly told teams to let in players who show up at the stadium but to keep them out of the weight rooms. Players, of course, would want to show up if they have fat offseason workout bonuses. There may be no offseason program to be present for, but it's possible they'll just show for effect just in case. There's a lot to process on the workout bonuses but that's the main reason players would want to be there. Put pressure on the owners to pay them or for the players to allege that the owners should. 2. When will the appeals court rule on whether or not to grant the "stay" Judge Nelson didn't?Dunno. The NFL immediately filed a request for the stay Monday night. ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson said, however, that the way Nelson worded her ruling, a stay by the appeals court seems unlikely. Judge Nelson mentioned the "public interest" several times in her 89-page ruling. My guess? The appellate court's decision on whether or not to grant a stay will come quickly as it's in the public interest to get this moving forward.3. Could the 2011 league year begin soon, meaning free agency starts?That's the biggest question for fans and the football branch of NFL teams (as opposed to the business branch). If the stay is refused, then it would logically follow that business as usual is supposed to begin under the 2010 league rules (no salary cap or floor, six years service for unrestricted free agency, no rookie wage scale, etc). The owners will want to delay thestart of the league year, especially this week. If free agency opens before the draft begins Thursday night, the football folks will be trying to acquire players on two fronts. And player trades - which were suspended during the lockout - would be in play on draft night. Now, this may not be in the best interest of the league as a whole. And it will be interesting if that's weighed by the courts. 4. What's this mean for your New England Patriots?Lots of meetings. Bill Belichick will not want to be caught sitting on his hands when the chance for player acquisition is upon his team. If there is no stay, one would have to expect Belichick to launch his free agency plan immediately. But would the sting of this ruling cause the Krafts to be bitter and reluctant to proceed as if the lockout is over, done and gone before the appeals process has run its course? In short . . . it's getting very complicated. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.