Patriots defense scares the life out of Jets, Sam Darnold

Patriots defense scares the life out of Jets, Sam Darnold

“Wear a mic,” they said. “It’ll be good for your brand,” they said. “What could go wrong? It will give everyone a look into what it’s really like to be Sam Darnold,” they said.

Never again. NEVER AGAIN!!!!!

Somewhere Monday night, Mark Sanchez felt a weight lift off of him. Because even though he ran face-first into an ass on Thanksgiving Night seven years ago, nobody ever heard him mutter fearfully about what the Patriots were doing to him.

But Sam Darnold did. Miked up for Monday Night by ESPN, we found out with 2:55 left in that Darnold is just 22 and he do mind dying.

“They’re gonna keep bringing it,” Darnold muttered. “Seeing ghosts.”

In what may have been one of the worst quarterbacking performances of this decade, Darnold threw up more fallaways than Wizards-era Michael Jordan.

Let’s get this clear: you, me and 99.9 percent of the people on this planet would soil ourselves if we had to take a shotgun snap in an NFL game and figure out who to throw it to. We wouldn’t know what to do. We’d panic. We’d see ghosts, werewolves, minotaurs, small children chewing tin foil. But we’d have an excuse for the soiling and the panic. Not our job.

It is Darnold’s job. He’s an NFL quarterback, a top-10 pick, a young man eight days removed from a very impressive win over the Cowboys.

And Darnold wasn’t just caught in a moment of candor using a common football phrase meaning he sensed pressure that wasn’t coming.

He played with palpable fear. Every one of the four interceptions he threw was a grenade toss into nowhere. He took a flamethrower to any chance his team had to win. Worse, he may have assassinated his teammates’ confidence in him. To say nothing of what a performance like that will do to his own confidence.

If he were smart, he’d blame it on the spleen. But it’s probably too late for that. His “Seeing ghosts …” utterance will live in infamy. Especially if the Patriots defense continues down the historic path it’s on.

Through seven games, the New England defense has allowed 27 points. It wasn’t long ago that that was a good half for the Patriots when Matt Patricia was in charge. (I joke.) Now, despite all the “Yeah, buts …” about the teams they haven’t played, the mountain of statistical evidence has become impossible to dismiss. This unit is tracking to be the hardest defense to score on in the modern football era. Some would use shorten that description by simply using the words “best defense in the modern era.”

Darnold’s words make it easier for the collection of Patriots players trying to speak into existence the “Boogeymen” nickname they’ve been working on. It isn’t quite as catchy as The Killer B’s or The Steel Curtain but it’s just as good as the Purple People Eaters.

And now they’ve got Darnold co-signing on the concept.

Told that Darnold mentioned ghosts, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said, “That’s the Boogeymen. Did he really say that? That’s crazy. That makes it real.”

During his postgame interview on ESPN, Dont'a Hightower was told about Darnold’s words and reacted with disbelief, his eyes widening as he said, “Really?!”

It wouldn’t have been so bad for Darnold had he not intimated last week that he was about to find the soft underbelly of the New England defense and feast.

"Their defense is good, they have been all year,” Darnold said of the Patriots. "But just like any team, they’re not unbeatable. So we’ve just got to go out there, find the weakness in the defense and keep working it. So that’s what we’re going to do on Monday night."

He also said after last week’s win over the Cowboys that, once the Jets had all their players up to speed, they’d be “unstoppable.”

Yeah, no.

The Patriots heard all of it and then used it against Darnold and the Jets all night long.

As for the other side of the ball? Tom Brady was still a little tepid in the postgame about the output.

“We’re looking for (consistency) and we’ll be trying to be a little better next week,” he said.

He’s been a notoriously hard grader all season, but it is a fact that once the Patriots got out to their fat 24-0 lead, the offense managed just one score over its final nine possessions.

Still, that shouldn’t overshadow the dissection he presided over. Given 11 days to get ready for the Jets, the Patriots offense scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions. And that was with the offense incorporating two new tight ends (Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson), a parade of lead blockers for Sony Michel and a bigger role for rookie Jakobi Meyers. And it was without Josh Gordon, Rex Burkhead and the other offensive personnel the team’s been doing without for a while now.

The running game is still sputtering along and the reliance on Julian Edelman and James White is still outsized (the two were handed off to or targeted with passes a total of 28 times) but, as Brady pointed out, if the other team doesn’t score, it’s going to be hard to beat the Patriots.

The next two weeks brings the rest of the upper tier of 2018 quarterback draftees. The Patriots have already dispatched Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Darnold. Next up, it’s Baker Mayfield and then Lamar Jackson.

As the week progresses, we’ll do our analysis and — by Sunday — we (or, more accurately, I) will have found ghosts of our own. Phantom reasons why opposing offenses may pose a threat to the Patriots defense and give this team a reasonably competitive game. Reasons that maybe the Patriots should be ascared.

And by 4 p.m. or so, I’ll probably be where I’ve been after a bunch of other games this year. Like Sam Darnold, not exactly sure what I’d seen.

Best & Worst from Patriots' 33-0 win>>>>

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Tom Brady leaves motivational comment on N'Keal Harry's Instagram

Tom Brady leaves motivational comment on N'Keal Harry's Instagram

Tom Brady's future with the New England Patriots is currently up in the air. But at least he's still taking some time to give his Patriots teammates some love on social media.

N'Keal Harry dropped a post on Instagram Friday night that had a picture of him in workout gear at a football practice facility. And the caption with the photo simply read "Cookin' Up".

Here's a look at the post, per Harry's official Instagram account. 

View this post on Instagram

Cookin’ Up👨🏾‍🍳🔥

A post shared by N'Keal Harry (@nkealharry) on

That post should be encouraging enough for Patriots fans, as Harry had some nice moments as a rookie and if he continues to put in work, the first-round pick should improve heading into his second season.

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But Brady weighing in on Harry's post with a motivational comment? That could be even better news for Patriots fans.

Brady's comment read: "Going to be a great year for you" and he tagged Harry's handle in it. Here's a screenshot of the comment, per NESN's Zack Cox. 

That's certainly a nice gesture and it seems Brady is continuing to support his (perhaps soon-to-be-former) teammates despite his uncertain future.

However, skeptics of Brady's potential return will point out that the QB said only "it's going to be a great year for you" when talking about Harry's upcoming season. He could've said us had he known that he was returning to the team, but it's also highly unlikely that he was thinking about that minor difference when posting the comment.

Either way, Brady's future with the Patriots is murky and it remains to be seen what will happen come the official start of free agency March 18. For the time being, at least he's staying in touch with his teammates on social media.

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

The New England Patriots have been the subject of many NFL Combine meeting stories over the years. And 2020 has been no different.

Notably, the team told one tight end prospect that he had a "loser's mentality" at one point in their interview. They also asked one of the quarterback prospects how he would feel to replace Tom Brady. And an LSU tight end said that he was "kinda scared" in his meeting with the team.

Some haven't minded the meetings. And one Clemson Tiger actually "felt comfortable" talking to the Patriots.

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Still, the same can't be said of former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. 

McKinney had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the combine and he called his interview with New England "tough" and "awkward".

"That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward," McKinney said, per Nora Princiotti of The Boston Globe. "But Vinnie Sunseri was in there so it just made me a little more comfortable just knowing that I’ve been in the room with him plenty of other times. It was a good meeting though."

Sunseri joined the Patriots coaching staff this offseason but the former Alabama safety had previously served as a graduate assistant with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before. So, he had a connection with McKinney, which eased his nerves a bit.

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But McKinney said he just felt "uncertain" about the meeting coming out of it.

"Just towards the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well," McKinney said. "You kind of walk out of these meetings kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can."

McKinney has a good point and players often are unsure about what teams think of them. That's by design. Some teams really don't like to tip their hand in the lead-up to the draft, and the Patriots are certainly among those that keep their intentions close to the vest. 

So, it's well within the realm of possibility that the team liked McKinney. They just may not want him to realize that right away.

McKinney had 95 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama. He's expected to be one of the first safeties off the board and our own Phil Perry mocked him to the Patriots in his first NFL mock draft of the offseason in January.