Patriots

Sam Darnold explains what he meant by 'seeing ghosts' vs. Patriots defense

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USA TODAY Sports

Sam Darnold explains what he meant by 'seeing ghosts' vs. Patriots defense

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was caught saying "I'm seeing ghosts" against the New England Patriots defense during the first half of Monday night's 33-0 loss.

Darnold was mic'd up for the game, and the ESPN broadcast showed him on the sideline making the surprising admission.

The 22-year-old quarterback explained what he meant by the ghosts comment, telling reporters after the game, "When I talk to the coaches, I've just got to be straight up. For me, I've just got to see the field a lot better, that's kinda what that means. It was a rough night out there. Obviously, I've got to be better and learn from the mistakes, but we will get better."

Darnold definitely didn't see the field well at all. He threw four interceptions, and each one happened as a result of a horrible throw/decision. The USC product also completed just 11 of his 32 pass attempts for 86 yards with zero touchdowns.

In fairness to Darnold, the Patriots have made many quarterbacks look pretty bad this season, but his performance Monday was a new low. Darnold had a 3.7 passer rating, which is the lowest mark by an opposing quarterback against the Patriots in Bill Belichick's 21-year tenure as the team's head coach.

Jets running back Le'Veon Bell told reporters that Darnold "learned a lot (Monday night)." He's certainly not wrong.

The next step for Darnold is taking this experience and using it to correct the weaknesses in his game that are holding him back from being a top-tier NFL quarterback.

Kyle Van Noy has priceless reaction to Darnold 'seeing ghosts'>>>

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Report: Mohamed Sanu expected to miss Patriots-Cowboys with ankle injury

Report: Mohamed Sanu expected to miss Patriots-Cowboys with ankle injury

The New England Patriots reportedly will be without Mohamed Sanu when they face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Sanu has been dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles and is expected to miss the Week 12 matchup, according to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

This doesn't come as much of a surprise as the veteran wide receiver missed practice Wednesday and Thursday due to the injury and was limited on Friday.

There's a chance Sanu's absence extends beyond this week. NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran stated earlier in the week there's a chance Sanu's high ankle sprain keeps him sidelined for multiple games.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was listed on Friday's injury report with an elbow injury but is expected to play in Sunday's contest. Without Sanu, that leaves Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett (questionable with a concussion) as Brady's wideouts.

Kickoff for Pats-Cowboys is set for 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

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Point/Counterpoint: Pass rush or coverage more important for Patriots vs. Cowboys?

Point/Counterpoint: Pass rush or coverage more important for Patriots vs. Cowboys?

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate the key matchups that will decide the Patriots-Cowboys game in NFL Week 12.

What is the key matchup that will decide Patriots-Cowboys in Week 12?

The main reason Dak Prescott’s an MVP candidate and Tom Brady is the frontrunner for MDP (Most Disappointed Player) comes down to the people in front of them.

Prescott gets an exquisite amount of time from his offensive line. Enough to make potent washed-up players like Jason Witten and Randall Cobb. Enough time to help Amari Cooper go from Oakland bust to Dallas star. Enough time to throw for more than 400 yards three times. He leads the NFL in passing yards with 3,221, he is second in QBR (77.8), first in yards per attempt (8.82), fourth in completions (247), tied for second in touchdown passes (21) and eighth in passer rating. He’s only been sacked 12 times.

Prescott gets 2.9 seconds per attempt to get rid of the ball according to NextGen stats. He’s second in the NFL in average completed air yards (how far his completions went in the air before being caught) and is third in intended air yards with eight and 9.9 yards respectively. Those numbers speak to an offense that has the luxury of waiting for plays to develop so receivers can uncover and find space.

Can the Patriots speed up Prescott and – even if they don’t sack him – get him to be a little less accurate than the 67.7 percent completion rate he’s got? Last week, the Patriots got to Carson Wentz for five sacks. Wentz and Prescott are similar in terms of mobility but Wentz didn’t have the protection Prescott enjoys and he sure doesn’t have the offensive firepower at his disposal Prescott does.

The Patriots have 37 sacks in 10 games – a tremendous pace. The pressure up front is what’s helped the Patriots secondary be as effective as it’s been.

Can the Patriots’ front-seven (and assorted blitzers) get the heat on Prescott necessary to keep Dallas under 25 points? They need to.

Let's turn this into a good, old fashioned Rush vs. Coverage argument, why don't we?!? Of course the two are inextricably linked, but the way in which the Patriots have built their roster would tell you they favor one over the other.

They let Chandler Jones walk. They let Trey Flowers walk. They signed Stephon Gilmore to the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history. Coverage is what will determine whether or not the Patriots come away from their matchup with the Cowboys standing at 10-1.

More specifically, if the Patriots can erase Dak Prescott's No. 1 receiving option Amari Cooper, they'll win. It's that simple. Getting to Prescott with pressure will help, but don't overestimate the importance of his offensive line. They've shut down some of the worst pass-rush units in football, including Miami (32nd in sacks), Detroit (28th), Washington (24th), the Giants twice (23rd), and they got worked over by mediocre units in Philly (20th, sacked Prescott three times) and Green Bay (17th, sacked Prescott three times).

Against the blitz, a Patriots staple this season, Prescott's protection is decidedly below-average. The Patriots shouldn't be worried about their pass-rush. (Did we mention Cam Fleming could be starting at right tackle for injured lineman La'el Collins?) The key will be covering Cooper on the occasions Prescott does have time to throw.

Prescott's statistical explosion has coincided with Cooper's arrival last season, as the former Raider has asserted himself as far and away the team's most efficient wideout. If Stephon Gilmore does his weekly trick of making top options disappear, Prescott will be forced to go to Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. Both are talented players, and both helped the Cowboys put up 35 points on Detroit when Cooper (three catches, 38 yards) was largely shut down last week.

But the Detroit defense New England is not. Despite having Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay (who shadowed Cooper), the Lions are arguably the worst pass defense in football, allowing 288.6 yards per game (30th) and a 7.3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (32nd).

Prescott is at his best when he gets rid of the football quickly. His 115.8 quarterback rating when he releases less than 2.5 seconds after the snap is tops in the NFL. There will be plenty of plays where the Patriots pass-rush has no chance. But down-to-down, the coverage will have to be on point. If it is, the Patriots win.

MORE PERRY: Imagining a world where Tua Tagovailoa falls to the Patriots>>>

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