Patriots

Patriots look to establish 'D' vs. Jets ground attack

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Patriots look to establish 'D' vs. Jets ground attack

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO After a humbling 34-17 beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the usually boisterous New York Jets coach Rex Ryan proclaimed that changes would be made heading into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

The Jets would return to their ground-and-pound, rushing attack ways.

Regardless of the loss suffered by the Jets, New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork wouldn't expect the Jets to play the Pats any other way.

"One thing we're not doing is looking at the games and saying, 'They're gonna do this. They're gonna do that.' We know the Jets better than that," Wilfork said. "They're going to come out and try and establish the running game."

Against the Patriots, can you blame them?

New England is giving up a league-high 477.5 yards per game.

And the Pats run defense, ranked 18th in the NFL, is giving up 108.8 yards this season.

But the Jets surprisingly have been among the NFL's worst rushing teams this season.

Their 71 yards rushing per game ranks 30th (out of 32 teams) this season, a far cry from Rex Ryan's first two Jets teams which ranked first and fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

That's what makes Sunday's game so intriguing for both teams.

New York is trying to get its ground attack off and running, while the Patriots are still trying to figure out how to become an effective team defensively.

"Inconsistency at times, has cost us," Wilfork said. "A handful of plays in each game really cost this defense from being a pretty good defense. We understand that. We have to keep striving for it, keep moving forward and keep getting better."

And like success, struggles can't be pinned on one player or unit.

The defensive line and linebackers aren't getting nearly enough pressure on quarterbacks, which makes the job of the defensive backs a lot tougher.

And when the pressure is there, the defensive backs aren't doing their part to make plays.

"They do what they do," Ryan said of the Patriots defense. "They force take-aways. They never ranked way up there (defensively); it's not like they're one or two in the league in defense. They're effective. They make you make mistakes. They do a great job playing the run, and they don't have the ball shot over their heads."

Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots defense has finished among the NFL's top-10 five times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008), but no higher than fourth which came in 2007 when the Pats went undefeated in the regular season before losing in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.

"We still have work to do," Wilfork said. "We've done things well; we've done some things not so well. What we've done well, we have to continue to get better. The things that we have to get better at, we have to do a good job of going out and correcting them."

That mentality should serve the Patriots well this week against a Jets team that hasn't played up to their Super Bowl-or-bust mentality.

"We'll get their best shot," Wilfork said. "The same guys over there, the same guys that played us last year. The same guys that beat us three of the five times we played them. This (Jets) team is definitely a good football team. Let's not get that wrong."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.