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James Harrison impressive in New England Patriots debut

By The Sports Xchange
James Harrison impressive in New England Patriots debut
Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker and current member of the New England Patriots James Harrison (92) watches from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-9 win at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on October 8, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Linebacker James Harrison made his New England debut with 27 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Jets less than a week after he signed with the Patriots.

Harrison notched five tackles, including a pair of sacks -- one a forced fumble -- on the final two snaps of the 26-6 win.

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Though the sacks may jump off the stat sheet, Harrison's best play may have been dropping into coverage in the third quarter and coming up to make a nice hit/tackle on Robby Anderson to hold the explosive receiver to a 2-yard gain on third-and-5.

After breaking down the film, head coach Bill Belichick praised the former Defensive Player of the Year not just for his work on the game field, but for what led up to it.

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"I thought James worked real hard last week to try to, in the roles that we put him in, to try to understand those jobs, the communication, the adjustments that need to be made and tried to play and do things the way that we needed him to do them in the game," Belichick said. "It wasn't perfect, but I thought he did a good job of trying to do that. He had some productive plays for us.

"The strip-sack was certainly an experienced play where he went for the tackle, but was able to wrap his arm around and put some pressure on the ball and knock it out. Those are the kinds of plays that experienced players that have been there that can make more than the tackle. They can cause ball disruption as part of the tackle. But, we'll just keep going forward with it and see where it goes next week.

"I'm not sure how that will evolve. I don't know who we're playing or what we'll be doing. We'll try to put all of our players -- not just him -- but all of our players in the best position we can to have the most competitive performance that we can get because that's what we're going to need."

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Black Monday. The day after final NFL regular-season games in which teams begin to fire head coaches and start the process of finding a new field boss hit on New Year's Day, with Detroit, Indianapolis, Oakland and Chicago among those on the lookout for new head coaches.

As has been the case in recent years, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia immediately surfaced as possible candidates for the openings. Detroit, led by former New England front-office member Bob Quinn, reportedly has requested permission to interview Patricia. The Colts reportedly have done the same for McDaniels.

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Though head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't get into details when asked about the interest in his coordinators in his weekly day-after-game conference call with the local media, he did praise the duo.

"I think our staff has done a good job this year, as they have throughout the years," Belichick said, familiar to losing coordinators to promotions over the years. "I've been really fortunate to have a lot of great coaches and coordinators on the staff, so that's been a real positive for me and a positive for our team and our organization. I don't really know about the rest of it. We'll see how it goes, but those guys have done a great job for me."

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Patricia, who has interviewed for jobs over the last couple years only to return to New England, deflected talk of interviews that could again take place during New England's playoff bye week.

"I mean I have no idea about any of that. None of that is even really applicable for me right now because I don't have any information on that," Patricia said of possible interview requests. "I'm in normal mode -- came in and graded the Jets. (I'm) trying to take a good look at what we did on defense yesterday and try so see where things that were positive and things that we've got to get better on and working to make sure that we have a good, productive week this week and try to improve those things."

McDaniels, who has clearly been very careful in the interview process as he looks for his second chance as a head coach after a disastrous two-year stint in Denver from 2009-10, also talked about the process in only a very general sense.

"That process - whatever it is - it will take place," McDaniels said. "I mean, I'm certainly not aware of anything at this point. I've just been focused on trying to grade our tape and work with our staff to try to get ourselves ready to have a productive week here with our guys and get ready to go.

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"All of that stuff, you know, usually takes care of itself. There's a time and a place for all of that, and I've gone through it before, which is helpful in terms of being able to balance that and multitask it. But, my focus here when I come into this building will always be on what's best for the Patriots and trying to do what I can to help us prepare to play our best game the next time we go out on the field."

NOTES: WR Chris Hogan (shoulder) was inactive for the season finale, missing his third straight game and seventh in the last eight to the injury suffered in Week 8. Hogan did practice on a limited basis all last week. ... RB James White (ankle) was inactive against New York, missing his second straight game despite being limited in practice all last week. ... RB Rex Burkhead (knee) was inactive for the second straight Sunday after missing practice all last week with what's been reported as a sprain. ... RB Mike Gillislee (knee) was inactive against the Jets after missing practice all last week. Gillislee suffered the injury in the Christmas Eve win over the Bills, returning to action against Buffalo after a six-game stretch as a healthy scratch. ... LB David Harris was a healthy scratch against the Jets, sitting out against his former team for the second time this year. Harris was inactive four times and dressed but did not play on two other occasions this fall, his first in New England. ... DT Alan Branch (knee) was inactive for the third straight game to close out the regular season after missing practice all last week. ... LB James Harrison made his Patriots debut five days after signing with New England. The former Steelers star played 27 of 59 defensive snaps, finishing with five tackles including two sacks on the final two meaningless plays of the 26-6 Patriots win. ... LB Elandon Roberts was tended to by trainers with an apparent left arm/shoulder injury against New York, but the second-year defender returned to finish the game.

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