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NFL Week 2 Power Rankings: Patriots win down, dirty

The Red Sox will present Rivera with a gift Sunday, perhaps second base from Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

Then New York Jets offensive center Nick Mangold will sprint out of the dugout and take out Rivera at the knees when he walks off the field.

Or maybe not.

That lack of sportsmanship and class would be a nice follow to Mangold's attempted knee-capitation of Aqib Talib from behind at the end of Thursday night's miserable 13-10 victory over the Jets.

Talib picked off a Geno Smith pass and, like a wise NFL veteran, stayed bounds as long as possible before dancing his way off the field, icing New England's mathematical triumph.

This did not sit well with Mangold, who tried to do what that PED suspension couldn't do to Talib last year, namely end his career or put it on indefinite hold.

The teams came to blows in the aftermath of the play, with offensive lineman Willie Colon making contact with an official and D'Brickashaw Ferguson throwing a punch. It was the only punch provided by the Jets' offense.

The Patriots' offense was worse, especially since they actually have both a legitimate veteran quarterback and postseason expectations.

"I was tired of losing," Colon said. "And we just can't have it. I don't remember ... I was trying to get in there and help my brother and that is why I reacted the was I reacted."

Usually taking a swing at your opponent after the game is out of reach is usually considered one of the not best ways to respond to losing.

Pats Jets Mangold Globe - Barry Chin.jpgMangold's cheap-shot and the ensuing melee set off Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"I made the tackle. He was obviously along the sideline and I thought he was still in inbounds. I thought it was a good tackle and apparently it was not and that's how they saw it and it started a little ruckus," Mangold told the New York Daily News. "Obviously it's an intense game and an intense rivalry and tempers flare."

Patriots' lineman Logan Mankins, speaking on the CSNNE post-game Patriots' postgame show, had a much more concise and accurate assessment of the hit. "They took a cheap shot," he said in his weekly sponsored appearance. "It was on the wrong sideline to do that so we were standing up for our guy ... Since the Jets did it, was dirty. If I had done that, it would have not been dirty."

Welcome to the "No-Spin Zone."

Any official word on a possible fine for Mangold won't come until Monday at the earliest.

Cheapshots and childish antics have spread through the NFL and college ranks like PED usage or Johnny Manziel autograph signings.

Mangold's desperate dive was mild compared to some of the other lowbrow hits that have emerged in the league of late. The NFL's push to cut down on concussions via penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits or blatant head shots [see the league's $765 million legal settlement with its retirees] has created a new breed of "fake tough" players.

Many receivers and other skill players have lost the fear of going over the middle that they once had. And where defenders used to aim high to tackle, without necessarily using the helmet to hit the opposing player's head, they now the fear being penalized or fined for even incidental head-to-head contact. That means shots to the knees are becoming more common place even as offenses try to exploit these new rules.

"Wide receivers are crossing through the middle of the field and laughing," former Patriots' safety and All-Universe Cheapshot Artist Rodney Harrison, who now works for NBC, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. "It's a joke now."

Where defensive players once focused solely on hits, they now have to factor in fines. "Now their concern is looking up after every play and saying, 'I can't afford $30,000,'" Harrison said. "The entire league has realized these guys have had to change their temperament, and offenses have changed their whole approach."

That focus on the knees has snowballed and spread throughout the league.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, he of the infamous Thanksgiving 2011 head stomp and 2012 Matt Schaub groin kick, was fined $100,000 by the NFL for his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan following an interception last week. The flag cost the Lions a touchdown. He's appealing the suspension and Suh's agent says his player was just making a routine play. The play was in a different part of the field as the Mangold hit, but was similar in its childhood cheapness.

Harrison once said he suffered roughly 20 concussions in his NFL career, or at least that's what he remembers. The insidious nature of these injuries has left the NFL with little head room to maneuver when trying to balance the basics of the game, such as hard hits over the middle, with concerns for players' long-term health, litigation and public perception of the sports.

Perhaps a few knees are an acceptable price to pay.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews went right for the head and was fined $15,000 for his Week 1 on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Before last week's game, Matthews had spoken about putting "hits as early and often on the quarterback."

The NFL levied $321,750 in fines after Week 1.

While the Patriots continue to shift through the debacle that was Thursday's victory, they can at least take pride that they've avoided inclusion on the 2013 regular-season fine list.

Here are this week's rankings, listed with the team records and last week's records:

1. 49ers (1-0; 1) - Manziel did everything but win Saturday. No. 1 Alabama beat Manziel and Texas A&M 49-42. Johnny Football threw for 464 yards, amassed another 98 on the ground, completed 28 of 39 passes and connected on a pair of TD passes, including a 95-yarder. He even did some Kapernicking.

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