Sep 19, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) carries the ball as New York Jets cornerback Michael Carter II (30) tackles during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones outplays Zach Wilson as Patriots top Jets, 25-6

Mac Jones and the Patriots prevailed in a battle of highly touted rookie quarterbacks as New England earned a 25-6 win over Zach Wilson and the host New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J.

Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in this year’s draft, completed 22-of-30 passes for 186 yards en route to his first NFL victory. Damien Harris rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown and James White also had a rushing TD for New England (2-0), which bounced back from a season-opening 17-16 home loss to Miami.

No. 2 overall pick Wilson was intercepted four times and threw for 210 yards on 19-of-33 passing for the Jets. Wilson has thrown five picks in his first two NFL games after tossing one interception in the Jets’ 19-14 loss at Carolina last Sunday.

New York (0-2) suffered its 11th consecutive loss to New England over a six-year span.

Nick Folk made all four of his field goal attempts for New England, eclipsing Stephen Gostkowski’s franchise record with his 32nd consecutive made field goal from 32 yards on his third of four attempts to make it 22-3 late in the third quarter.

Two plays after Wilson’s fourth pick of the game early in the third quarter, Harris carried four Jets defenders on his back while powering in for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Patriots ahead 19-3.

Wilson’s first two pass attempts were intercepted and he completed just 3-of-7 passes along with a trio of picks as New England built a 13-3 halftime lead. He is the first player since at least 1991 to be picked off on his first two attempts of the game, per NFL Research.

The first of two J.C. Jackson first-half interceptions set the Patriots up on the Jets’ 35 yard line before Nick Folk kicked a 46-yard field goal to put New England up 3-0 with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter. White’s seven-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to play in the quarter made it 10-0.

Matt Ammendola’s 21-yard field goal capped New York’s longest drive of the opening half at 59 yards to make it 10-3 with 9:52 left in the second quarter. Folk added a 49-yarder as time expired in the first half, matching Gostkowski’s team record.

–Field Level Media

Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy (throat) ruled out vs. Dolphins

New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy will miss Sunday’s game against the host New York Jets due to a throat injury.

The 30-year-old Van Noy had three tackles and one sack in the season-opening 17-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Van Noy is beginning his second stint with the Patriots and 45 of his 65 career NFL starts have come for the team. Overall, he has 361 tackles, 24.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 96 games (65 starts) with the Detroit Lions (2014-16), Patriots (2016-19, 2021) and Miami Dolphins (2020).

The Patriots also ruled out kicker Quinn Nordin (abdomen). He was a healthy scratch against the Dolphins as veteran Nick Folk handled the kicking duties.

New England listed offensive tackles Trent Brown (calf) and Yodny Cajuste (hamstring), linebacker Ronnie Perkins (shoulder) and tight end Jonnu Smith (hip) as questionable. Brown practiced in a limited role Friday after sitting out the previous two days.

Linebacker Jamien Sherwood (ankle) is doubtful for the Jets. New York also listed receivers Keelan Cole (knee) and Jamison Crowder (groin), offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (non-COVID illness) and cornerback Isaiah Dunn (shoulder) as questionable.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie quarterback battle looms in Patriots-Jets

Two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of this year’s draft collide as No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson and the New York Jets host No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones and the New England Patriots in an AFC East divisional clash on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J.

Neither highly-touted quarterback was victorious in their respective NFL debuts last Sunday.

Wilson threw for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 20-for-37 passing in New York’s 19-14 defeat at Carolina. Meanwhile, Jones finished 29-for-39 with 281 yards and a touchdown in New England’s 17-16 loss against Miami.

Both were victims of poor protection as Wilson was sacked six times while Jones was sacked once, but took a number of bruising hits.

In Wilson, the Patriots will have to prepare for somewhat of an unknown as the promising 22-year-old makes just his second career start. However, New England coach Bill Belichick has seen enough of Wilson already to declare him a capable conductor of the Jets’ offense.

“He’s an explosive player,” Belichick said. “He’s got a great arm. Live arm. Makes all the throws. Athletic. Like any young player, you know, they gain experience and get better every time they go out there.”

Under Belichick, New England has historically fared well against rookie quarterbacks with a 21-6 record against them during his 22 seasons coaching the Patriots. On the road, however, Belichick’s teams are just 8-6 against first-year starters under center.

On the opposing sideline, New York knows full well how difficult Belichick-crafted defenses are to prepare for. Jets tight end Tyler Kroft said the team must be ready to face a mixed bag of coverages throughout the game.

“We know New England will be going to come with its bag of tricks,” Kroft told the team’s Inside The Jets Radio Show. “They’ll give us the whole Rolodex of coverages and fronts, and they’re going to put a lot on Zach’s plate. We have to be locked in and our communication will have to be on point.”

Jets linebacker Jamien Sherwood (ankle) did not practice Wednesday and wide receiver Keelan Cole (knee) was limited. Coach Robert Saleh said that Cole and fellow wideout Jamison Crowder (COVID-19 list) were expected to be available for the game.

Patriots left tackle Trent Brown (calf) and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (throat) did not participate at Wednesday’s practice. Meanwhile, tackle Yodny Cajuste (hamstring) and linebacker Ronnie Perkins (shoulder) were limited. Wideout Nelson Agholor (ankle) and defensive backs Kyle Dugger (wrist) and Jalen Mills (ankle) were listed as full participants.

New York dropped both games against New England a season ago and has lost 10 straight meetings over the last five seasons. The Jets’ last win against the Patriots was a 26-20 overtime victory on Dec. 27, 2015 at home.

It is the Jets’ first home game in front of fans since a Dec. 22, 2019 win over Pittsburgh.

To celebrate the return of Jets football to the New York Metropolitan area, the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit up in the Jets’ Gotham Green on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins hold on to beat Mac Jones, Patriots

Tua Tagovailoa passed for 202 yards and a go-ahead three-yard touchdown to rookie Jaylen Waddle as the Miami Dolphins spoiled Patriots quarterback Mac Jones’ NFL debut with a 17-16 win over host New England in the season opener on Sunday afternoon.

Waddle, the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, grabbed his first career touchdown catch with 10:51 remaining in the third quarter to put Miami on top for good at 17-10. Nick Folk’s 42-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the third and another from 33 yards out at 10:36 of the fourth pulled New England within 17-16.

Tagovailoa, who also had a rushing touchdown, finished 16-for-27 passing and was also intercepted by New England defensive back Jonathan Jones with 8:07 to play in the fourth. Mac Jones and the Patriots drove 41 yards before running back Damien Harris lost a fumble at the Dolphins’ 11-yard line.

Waddle finished with four catches for 61 yards and the score and DeVante Parker had four catches for a team-high 81 yards for Miami (1-0).

Mac Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in this year’s draft, completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown in his pro debut. Harris rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries and Nelson Agholor made five catches for 72 yards and a score for New England (0-1).

Miami and New England were tied 10-10 at halftime.

Tagovailoa capped a 10-play, 80-yard opening drive with a three-yard TD run off the right tackle to put the Dolphins up 7-0 with 5:29 to play in the first quarter. Folk kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Patriots on the board at 10:17 of the second.

Jones connected with Agholor for his first career touchdown pass with 2:30 left in the half to put New England ahead 10-7. The rookie faked a handoff to Harris before firing a seven-yard strike to Agholor.

Jones and Tagovailoa were teammates at the University of Alabama. Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in the 2017 season and Jones guided the program to its 18th title last season.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) throws the ball against the New York Giants during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots elevate K Nick Folk, QB Brian Hoyer to active roster

The New England Patriots elevated quarterback Brian Hoyer and kicker Nick Folk to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Saturday and placed receiver Malcolm Perry on injured reserve.

The Patriots released both players on Aug. 31 but then signed them to the practice squad the following day.

Folk, 36, has played 177 regular-season games in 13 seasons with Dallas (2007-09), the New York Jets (2010-16), Tampa Bay (2017) and the Patriots (2019-20). He earned Pro Bowl recognition as a rookie.

In 16 games last season, he hit 92.9 percent (26 of 28) of his field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards.

Hoyer, 35, who signed with New England as an undrafted free agent, played with the Patriots from 2009-11, then again in 2018 and 2020. This is his 13th NFL season, also playing for Arizona (2012), Cleveland (2013-14), Houston (2015), Chicago (2016), San Francisco (2017) and Indianapolis (2019), in addition to New England.

Hoyer has played in 70 regular-season games (39 starts), completing 59.2 percent of his 1,501 pass attempts for 10,404 yards, 52 touchdowns and 35 interceptions.

Perry was claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 2. He has a foot injury.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks on during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton: Release from Pats ‘absolutely’ caught him by surprise

Free-agent quarterback Cam Newton didn’t hold back while addressing his release from the New England Patriots.

“Did it catch me by surprise being released? Absolutely,” Newton said Friday morning in a 45-minute YouTube Live video in which he sat down with his father, Cecil, at Westlake High School in Atlanta.

Newton, 32, said he believed he would have been cut from the Patriots regardless of his five-day absence due to a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” last month.

“During that time, I started seeing signs of change,” Newton said. “… Do I think this would have happened without me being away from the team for five days? Honestly, yes. It was going to happen. Did it help ease the decision? Yes.”

Newton said he “absolutely” would have accepted a backup role behind Mac Jones, however he questioned whether the rookie first-round pick would have been comfortable with that situation.

“Let me be honest with you. If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we’re going to give the team to Mac, you’re going to be second-string; we expect you to be everything and some to guide him throughout this tenure,’ I would have said, ‘Absolutely,’” Newton said. “But listen, the truth of the matter is this: He would have been uncomfortable.”

The Patriots, who signed Newton to a one-year deal worth close to $14 million to return to the team in 2021, released him Aug. 31.

Speculation swirled that the Patriots cut Newton because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. Coach Bill Belichick said last week that played no role in the decision to release Newton.

As the Patriots starter last season, Newton — the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player — completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 592 yards with 12 scores.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) warms up against the New York Giants before the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton teases video to get things ‘off my chest’

Free-agent quarterback Cam Newton promised to share “a lot of things that I need to get off my chest” soon.

In a video posted to his Instagram account Wednesday, Newton said he will be dropping a video on Friday to address issues on his mind.

“This is not a retirement speech, and I have a lot of football still left in me,” Newton, 32, said.

Perhaps Newton will address his exit from New England. The Patriots, who signed him to a one-year deal worth close to $14 million to return to the team in 2021, released him Aug. 31 and handed the starting job to rookie first-round pick Mac Jones. Newton’s ability to win the job was hindered, in part, by landing in the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Speculation swirled that the Patriots cut Newton because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19. Coach Bill Belichick said last week that played no role in the decision to release Newton.

As the Patriots starter last season, Newton — the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player — completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 592 yards with 12 scores.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; General overall view of the 2017 Cotton Bowl logo on the back of the helmet of Southern California Trojans long snapper Jake Olson at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham, star fullback, dies at 71

Sam “Bam” Cunningham, a Southern California and New England Patriots fullback often cited as a positive force for the integration of football teams in the South, died Tuesday in Inglewood, Calif.

The cause of death was not yet known. He was 71.

Cunningham was an All-American for USC and was named the Rose Bowl MVP in January 1973, when he scored four touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a 42-17 win over Ohio State. That 1972-73 Trojans team went on to be named the unanimous national champion.

Earlier in his collegiate career, Cunningham, who was Black, helped USC pound Alabama 42-21 in the 1970 season opener by rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The Crimson Tide varsity football team had not yet integrated, but did so the following season.

Longtime football coach Jerry Claiborne, an assistant on Bear Bryant’s staff at the time, went on to say, “Sam Cunningham did more for integration in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.”

In a 2016 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cunningham explained why he felt the truth was messier than that simple anecdote.

“That didn’t change how those white people thought of black people,” Cunningham said. “They were accepted because they could help their program win football games.”

Cunningham was the 11th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft by the Patriots and played nine seasons for New England. He scored 43 rushing touchdowns in the NFL and remains the Patriots’ all-time rushing leader with 5,453 yards.

Cunningham, the older brother of longtime NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Patriots’ Hall of Fame in 2010.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of yet another loss to the Patriots family this week and our hearts ache for Sam Cunningham’s family and all who are mourning his passing today,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said. “Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham was one of my favorite players throughout the ‘70s and my sons all loved him.

“After I bought the team in 1994, it was my honor to welcome him back to the team on multiple occasions, recognizing him as a 50th anniversary team member and again for his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

“As much as I admired him as a player, my affection for him only grew after spending time with him and learning more about him as a person. He made a tremendous impact, both on and off the field, and was beloved by his teammates. As a Patriots Hall of Famer, Sam’s legacy and contributions will be preserved and celebrated forever, but today his loss is felt with heavy hearts.”

Others around the football world also paid their respects to Cunningham on Tuesday.

“Extremely saddened by the loss of a college football legend,” USC head coach Clay Helton tweeted. “As good a man as he was a player. Thank you Sam for being the example of what a Trojan should be. You will be missed but never forgotten.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks up during the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick doubles down on vax opinion

Saying he wanted to clarify a comment about vaccinations he made last week, New England head coach Bill Belichick on Monday doubled down on his opinion that COVID-19 vaccinations don’t “solve all our problems.”

Belichick reiterated that “no player has been released or kept because of their vaccination status,” a reference to the release of quarterback Cam Newton last week.

But he didn’t back off his opinion about vaccinations in general, despite pushback from the NFL late last week.

“My comment relative to the vaccinations, really the way I feel is, that’s an individual decision for each person to make,” Belichick said Monday. “As a team, we’re better off if everyone is vaccinated and that being said, even if everyone is vaccinated, that doesn’t solve all our problems as we’ve seen, multiple players, head coaches, assistant coaches throughout the league have tested positive for COVID even after they have been vaccinated.”

His comments echo the statement he made last week after Newton was released.

“There’ve been a number of, quite a high number I would say, of players who have had the virus who have been vaccinated, so your implication that vaccination solves every problem, I would say that has not been substantiated based on what’s happened in training camp (throughout the NFL) this year.”

NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills pushed back on that notion last Friday.

“We released our data … from the first three weeks of August, and that data has consistently shown higher rates of infection in unvaccinated players than in vaccinated players,” Sills said.

“We know that vaccines are working,” Sills said. “What we are seeing are some vaccinated people who test positive. But their illness tends to be very short and very mild, and that’s exactly what the vaccines were designed to do.”

–Field Level Media

Peyton Manning was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Sunday, August 8, 2021. Manning was presented by father Archie Manning.

Enshrinement2021 9313

Peyton Manning: Patriots’ rivalry encouraged move to Broncos

The thought of not playing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the postseason helped to encourage Peyton Manning to sign with the Denver Broncos before the 2012 season.

That’s what the Hall of Fame quarterback told host Bill Simmons on his podcast, The Ringer.

With the Indianapolis Colts deciding to transition to No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck after Manning missed the 2011 season with a neck injury, Manning had a number of suitors.

“I remember talking with the 49ers, talking with Seattle and talking to the Cardinals, and the whole recurring theme in my mind, I’m just an AFC guy,” Manning told Simmons. “I think I should stay in the AFC. You’d think it’d be, ‘Please get away from the Patriots, go play in the NFC.’ I don’t know, if you’re going to play in the Super Bowl, you’re going to have to go through New England, so might as well play them in the AFC championship every year.

“New England had a little role in my decision to go to Denver.”

In his four seasons with the Broncos, Manning defeated Brady and the Patriots in two AFC title games — 2013 and 2015. Denver went on to win the Super Bowl following the 2015 season, and Manning retired shortly after as a two-time Super Bowl champion.

Despite being longtime football rivals, Brady and Manning are friends off the field. Brady, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, left training camp last month to be on hand when Manning was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

–Field Level Media