Patriots

AFC EAST: Ryan, Falcons slip and slide to 25-20 win over Jets

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AFC EAST: Ryan, Falcons slip and slide to 25-20 win over Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and the Atlanta Falcons slipped and slid to a 25-20 victory over the New York Jets on a soggy Sunday.

Fumbled snaps, dropped passes and a big-time drenching at MetLife Stadium had both squads trying to find their footing, but the Falcons (4-3) steadied themselves just enough to snap a three-game skid - all to other AFC East teams.

Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu each caught touchdown passes from Ryan, who finished 18 of 29 for 254 yards. The Falcons quarterback had lots of trouble with the weather, fumbling four snap exchanges from center Alex Mack and losing two of them.

The Jets (3-5) had their own issues while losing their third straight. Josh McCown had a bad snap exchange and fumbled on another play - but recovered - and Jeremy Kerley had a costly muffed punt.

McCown finished 26 of 33 for 257 yards with touchdown passes to Robby Anderson and Eric Tomlinson.

The Jets missed a chance to increase a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter when Chandler Catanzaro missed his second field goal of the game, going wide right on a 48-yard attempt.

It gave the Falcons their best starting position of the game at their own 38 - and the Falcons took advantage.

Tevin Coleman eluded a few tackle attempts on a 52-yard run that got the ball to the Jets 10. After Coleman ran for 5 more yards, Ryan fumbled the snap and recovered. Ryan then hit Sanu for an 8-yard touchdown to make it 22-17, but the Falcons quarterback again fumbled the snap on the 2-point conversion and the Jets recovered.

New York cut the deficit to two on its next possession on Catanzaro's 46-yard field goal with 8:42 remaining.

The usually sure-handed Kerley muffed Matt Bosher's punt and Kemal Ishmael recovered for Atlanta to put the ball at the Jets 13. New York's defense stiffened, though, and held the Falcons to a 29-yard field goal by Bryant to give Atlanta a 25-20 lead with 5:19 left.

The Falcons nearly put the game away with what appeared to be an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Andre Roberts, but Atlanta's Sharrod Neasman was called for an illegal block in the back - negating the score.

The Jets opened the game with an impressive drive, going 75 yards in eight plays and capped by McCown's 20-yard touchdown toss to a wide-open Eric Tomlinson.

New York got the ball right back four plays later, when Ryan botched the snap from center Alex Mack and Jordan Jenkins recovered. But the Jets couldn't take advantage as Catanzaro's 46-yard field goal attempt was wide right.

Atlanta tied it on its next possession, with Ryan marching the Falcons down the field through the driving rain with four passes to his tight ends - including a 1-yard touchdown to Hooper with 5:03 left in the opening quarter.

Ryan botched another snap exchange on the Falcons' next drive, and Jamal Adams recovered for the Jets. This time, New York took advantage as Catanzaro kicked a 43-yarder to put the Jets up 10-7.

Atlanta nearly took the lead midway through the second quarter, but Hooper had the ball go through his hands in the end zone. The Falcons settled for a 23-yarder by Bryant to tie it at 10.

The Jets took a 17-10 lead with 2:26 remaining in the first half when McCown connected with Anderson on a perfectly placed 24-yard pass through a driving rain for a touchdown.

Bryant's 45-yard field goal as time expired in the opening half made it 17-13, but it appeared the Falcons might get more before the drive stalled. An unnecessary roughness call on Darryl Roberts put the ball at the Atlanta 46 and was followed by a 23-yard catch by Sanu. Three plays later, Ryan took a shot at the end zone, putting up a ball to Jones and Morris Claiborne was flagged for pass interference - but the officials picked up the flag, saying the ball was uncatchable - and coach Dan Quinn fumed on the sideline.

After another incompletion, Muhammad Wilkerson got his first sack of the season to push the Falcons back to the 27 to set up Bryant's kick.

Bryant booted a 37-yarder in the third quarter to cut the deficit to one at 17-16 on a drive that started on a 54-yard catch by Julio Jones. The Falcons wide receiver had been held to just two catches for 20 yards by Claiborne, who left with a foot injury.

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Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."