NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Patriots’ win over the Jets on Thursday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
New England narrowly defeated the Jets, thanks to a blocked field goal by Chris Jones on the final play of the game. The Patriots used a bend-but-don’t-break approach on defense, which Harrison said they shouldn’t have done against the Jets and quarterback Geno Smith.
Said Harrison: “I think it directly applies to what type of team you play. I like that against, say, a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, a high-scoring offense with potentially a quarterback that can beat you in so many different ways. But when it comes to Geno Smith, one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, I don’t agree with that. I still think [Bill Belichick] could become a lot more aggressive, play a lot more man-to-man coverage. And you force him to make those tight throws.”
The Jets ran a solid game plan against the Patriots, running for over 200 yards while not committing a single turnover. They also limited Tom Brady‘s time on the field. In the end, though, the Patriots still won.
“[The game plan] didn’t work to perfection because if anybody knows playing against the Patriots, when Tom Brady is halfway on, when you get to the red zone, you have to score touchdowns,” Harrison said. “You can’t continue to settle for field goals. I think that’s a big mistake. When I look at the Jets, with all that being said, you look at what happens week in and week out, and obviously that wasn’t the case last night in terms of turnovers. But you look at the blown coverages, you look at the mistakes on the defensive side of the ball, you look at the mistakes, period, across the board. And you start to wonder, is it the players’ fault or is just the lack of coaching? And this team just seems unprepared each and every week. … I think you have to look at the coaches in this situation, not just the players.”
Harrison said he has personal experience playing on a bad team, as he was part of a 2000 Chargers squad that won just once all season.
“I played on a team that was 1-15 in San Diego, we had the worst offense in the league and we had the No. 1 defense,” Harrison said. “It comes down to this: You play for pride, you play for your family, you play for the fans that still support you. And it’s your job. Go out there and just continue to prepare, continue to work hard. It’s tough, it’s a tough situation, especially when you’re the Jets. You look at the game that you played against the Patriots and you say, ‘We should’ve won this game. We had a great opportunity to win that game.’ People don’t talk about moral victories. I talk about moral victories because I do believe there’s a lot of positives that you can find in negative situations.”
The Patriots will have 10 days off, but when they return they will begin a tough portion of their schedule. The hosts wondered if the defensive issues New England had Thursday night can be corrected over time.
Said Harrison: “You can’t have a team able to run over 200 yards rushing on you and physically dominate you on the line of scrimmage. But also, along with that, I look at the defensive line and I don’t think Vince Wilfork‘s 100 percent. I mean, coming off such a devastating injury, it’s going to take time for him to really feel comfortable and get back to being close to 100 percent. I think as time goes on, they will get better.”
Continue Harrison: “I think [Wilfork] will get better. I think as much as Vince takes care of himself, and he’s a pro and he’s a veteran, the days of him being an All-Pro, he’ll probably never get back to the time when he was 28, 29 years old or 27 years old. He’s still going to be an effective player. It’s just one of those things he’s smart, he works extremely hard and he’s still tough as nails.”
For the first time this season, the Patriots were without linebacker Jerod Mayo. Although they were without him for most of last year because of a season-ending injury, Harrison said Mayo’s absence will not go unnoticed.
“Jerod, he’s a quiet, humble guy. But he prepares, works hard, just his work ethic, the consistency in which he plays, the communication. It’s almost like having your big brother there. You just have that sense of comfort knowing that you’ve got Vince up front, you’ve got Jerod. … You just need that. When you look around, and you have that brotherhood, you miss having Jerod.”
While many picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl before the 2014 season began, that is now in question after an inconsistent start. Harrison, though, said it doesn’t matter how things are going during Week 7, but the process going into the postseason is more important.
“I don’t look at them as being a team right now ready to win a Super Bowl,” Harrison said. “But I can say that about a bunch of teams. The only team I can probably say that for is the Denver Broncos. But at the same time, you don’t have to be ready right now to win a Super Bowl. You’re continuing to build, you’re trying your best to stay healthy and continue to build cohesion within that team.”