Patriots

Eli Manning debacle shows Giant difference in philosophy from Patriots

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Eli Manning debacle shows Giant difference in philosophy from Patriots

It’s almost impossible to dislike Eli Manning.

Even though he’s the ultimate child of NFL privilege, even though his daddy pulled strings in 2004 to game a system every other player in the league has to bow to, the mop-topped, Halibut-mouthed Eli is beloved and respected.

There are good reasons for that. He’s a pleasant guy who doesn’t bitch out teammates or coaches, he shoulders blame, plays through pain and has been a big-game assassin. Forty-four of these United States will forever adore him for what he did to the Patriots in Super Bowls 42 and 46. The other six here in New England will always give him grudging respect for those games. New England also keeps its Eli hostility holstered because Eli isn’t Peyton.

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As the Patriots march methodically, expectedly to the AFC’s No. 1 seed and a likely appearance in another Super Bowl, the Giants sideshow is a terrific little diversion.

Especially because of the wailing and gnashing of teeth going on among Giants fans. They love Eli because he was the one that made their greatest days as Giants fans happen. Twice. And because of that they treat a once-good (but never great) quarterback like a deity. Eli’s been in the league for 14 years. The Giants made the playoffs six times. Four times they were one-and-done. The other two appearances, they had eight combined wins and a Super Bowl each time.

Eli is the human equivalent of a ticket stub from the greatest concert you ever went to. Just a keepsake from better days.

Know who he reminds me of? Drew Bledsoe with better jewelry.

There wasn’t anything to dislike about Bledsoe -- a tough, productive, reserved, polite leader who was a beacon of dignity on a crumbling franchise.

He also became -- after a flurry of coordinator changes and three years with scatter-brained Pete Carroll -- complacent, average and ripe for the picking.

Too few people realized Bledsoe was part of the problem so -- when he got hurt and his backup played better than Drew ever would have -- the fact Bledsoe was being put out to pasture caused much gnashing of teeth.

This Eli thing is similar but -- if you’re a Giants fan -- there’s no Brady, no Belichick, no hope.

The Giants are quitting on their season. (Don’t believe the John Mara BS about that being a BS allegation -- opting for Geno Smith and Davis Webb is announcing: “We are not trying to win games, everyone!!”) 

They are plunging into the abyss and Eli is being taken behind the barn by a pomade-addicted junior-executive level head coach who will be cramming his personal effects in a cardboard box in less than two months and leaving the Giants forever.

And Ben McAdoo is acting as executioner for Mara, who just keeps reaping karmic rewards for shanking the Patriots throughout Deflategate (as have the Ravens, Colts, Roger Goodell and others who behaved like rodents). What’s amusing is that Mara has so snookered the NY/NJ media with his firm handshake, and look-you-in-the-eye, call-you-by-your-first-name manners that he was at first seen as merely having signed off on test-driving the other quarterbacks. It actually was his idea.

And it’s deliciously backfired to the point where Giants fans want a parade for Eli down the Canyon of Heroes and Mara will probably try to make it happen.

Meanwhile, 200 miles to the north, the Giants' former defensive coordinator could part with a quarterback like Tom Brady -- who would make better decisions after downing a fifth of gin than Eli often did -- and a wide swath of the region would grudgingly say, “OK . . . ” when Belichick says he’s “Trying to do what’s best for the football team.”

We are by now conditioned to Belichick throwing cold water on the masses with outrageous personnel moves that work. We just nod and shuffle forward en masse toward another postseason that ends with the Patriots in position to raise a Lombardi Trophy.

Down in New York, they are rending garments because of two February Sundays in the past decade. Sentimental fools.

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Patriots suffer defensive wounds against Dolphins

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Patriots suffer defensive wounds against Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The number of points the Patriots allowed in their 27-20 loss to the Dolphins on Monday night was the most they'd given up in more than two months. And they were lucky it wasn't more.

New England's defense had breakdowns across the board against Adam Gase's offense, allowing Jay Cutler to complete 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Had it not been for four Dolphins drops -- including one that nearly went for a long touchdown to Jakeem Grant -- Cutler's numbers would've been even better.

Here's a look at some of the issues the Patriots exhibited at Hard Rock Stadium. If they're going to get them cleaned up before next weekend's game in Pittsburgh against one of the NFL's best offenses, Matt Patricia is going to have a busy week on his hands.

CUTLER GOES LONG
The once-retired veteran has been a mostly dink-and-dunk style quarterback this season, but he aired it out with some success on Monday. Credit Gase and his staff for drawing up a plan that forced the Patriots to cover "every blade of grass." Without much pressure from the Patriots defense (more on that later), they stretched Bill Belichick's defense both horizontally and vertically. They found open crossers for much of the evening, utilizing Cutler's mobility to roll out and find receivers running across formations. They also caught the Patriots on some deep attempts. The first that had a shot came early in the second half when Julius Thomas let a big-gainer slip through his hands. Three plays later, Cutler found Grant for a 25-yard touchdown when Grant out-jumped Malcolm Butler for the 50-50 ball.

"Should've been more aggressive," Butler said after the game. "Should've went up, played the ball a little better. Think I competed well, but I think in that case competing wasn't good enough."

Butler gave a step to Grant again in the fourth quarter, but Cutler's pass bounced off of Grant's fingers and fell the would-be touchdown pass fell incomplete.

PASS RUSH LEAVES ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The entire front seven for the Patriots had their issues on Monday night, which made sense given the personnel. Without Kyle Van Noy, Trey Flowers and Alan Branch (ruled out with a knee injury during the game), the Dolphins hovered around 4.8 yards per carry until late in the contest. In coverage, Patriots linebackers -- in particular Elandon Roberts, who allowed 77 yards on three catches -- had their issues. But the team's pass rush has to be a concern as well. The Patriots managed just three hits on Cutler in the game. Two were sacks. Both Devin McCourty and Adam Butler came up with one. The other hit came in the first quarter when Eric Lee put a lick on Cutler as Cutler let an incompletion fly. Lee was the team's most productive rusher with three additional hurries. Eric Rowe also had a hurry on a corner blitz in the fourth quarter. Jordan Richards came up with a pressure of his own that should've resulted in more. Which leads us to . . . 

MISSED TACKLES AN ISSUE
On Miami's final drive of the first half, the Patriots seemed to have their opponents stuffed in the red zone yet again. Richards shot a gap on the interior and had a clean hit lined up on Cutler, but he missed the takedown, and Cutler found Kenyan Drake for eight yards and a first down. Brutal. One play later, Cutler found Jarvis Landry to make the score 13-7. Richards' miss was, in essence, a four-point play. Roberts missed a first-quarter tackle that led to a Drake 26-yard run, and Landry stiff-armed Jones to the ground soon thereafter to give the Patriots another miss. In the third quarter, Drake spun out of a potential Patrick Chung tackle and scooted for 31 yards to set up Landry's second touchdown of the game.

BUNCH FORMATIONS ARE BACK
The Patriots were expected to see bunch formation after bunch formation when they struggled to defend them against the Panthers in Week 4. Instead, they weren't inundated with bunch looks. They saw them only periodically and handled them well. But the Dolphins were relentless with their bunch sets. The Patriots seemed to have them figured out for the most part, but Landry got loose out of a bunch formation near the goal line, leading to his second score of the game. And in the third quarter, on a third-and-four play, the Patriots appeared to be almost too ready for a pick out of a tight two-man set. Jonathan Jones, seemingly anticipating contact, lost Kenny Stills off the line of scrimmage and gave up an 11-yard completion for a crucial first down. Two plays later, the Dolphins were in the end zone.

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NFL Network suspends analysts over sexual misconduct suit

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NFL Network suspends analysts over sexual misconduct suit

NEW YORK -- Hall of Fame player Marshall Faulk and two other NFL Network analysts have been suspended after a former employee alleged sexual misconduct in a lawsuit.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Tuesday identified the three as Faulk, Ike Taylor and Heath Evans. He says they have been "suspended from their duties at NFL Network pending an investigation into these allegations."

According to court documents first reported by Bloomberg, former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor described several sexually inappropriate encounters with the three retired NFL players and others who have worked for the NFL Network.

Former NFL Network executive Eric Weinberger and former NFL Network analyst Donovan McNabb are among those named in the suit. McNabb now works for ESPN.

Cantor worked at the NFL Network for a decade. She filed an amended complaint originally filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in October.