FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Late on Saturday night, long after the New England Patriots' divisional round victory that was keyed, in part, by keeping Andrew Luck in check, Chandler Jones stood at his locker here and smiled at the question presented to him.
Yes, he'd just spent much of the night in the Indianapolis Colts' backfield making Luck uncomfortable, despite plenty of attention from the offensive line. And yes, his 2013 season saw him record 11.5 sacks, 79 tackles and emerge as a game-breaker on the Patriots defense.
The 6-foot-5, 265 pound defensive end has become everything New England hoped he would be when it drafted him in the first round out of Syracuse in 2012. He's developed into one of the premiere pass rushers in the league and a player who could greatly impact Sunday's AFC title game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
So, Jones was asked, are you becoming the most successful athlete in the family, surpassing oldest brother Arthur III, a defensive end for the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and, most notably, middle brother Jon, the current UFC light heavyweight champion and pound for pound toughest man in the world?
"Jon is the most successful in the family," Chandler said. "He's the champion of the world individually by himself, so I don't think there is much I can do.
"We are always competing though," he continued. "We are very competitive and maybe we'll see."
Jones was still smiling at the thought. He didn't mind the possibility of the question because there are two sides to this, two sides to everything the Jones family does.
The first is that competitiveness. It's relentless. They grew up under two discipline-first parents, Arthur Jr. and Camille. There was no cable television, no cell phones, nothing like that in their home in Rochester, N.Y. The boys were kept inside, or in the yard, as much as possible to avoid trouble on the streets.
The result was internal family competition. From board games to basement wrestling matches to front yard tackle football.
"Being very sheltered as children, we weren't allowed to have sleepovers, weren't allowed to do anything like go out to parties or anything like that," Arthur III said last year. "Sports were pretty much all we knew. We were ingrained into sports, and that helped us stay focused and maintain our focus on what's in front of us."
It was so often brother vs. brother vs. brother that a guy such as Jon – despite standing 6-foot-4 with a walking around weight of about 225-230 (he fights at 205) – was nicknamed "Bones." That's what happens when you're constantly compared to two future NFL defensive linemen.
As such, the brothers offer no quarter to each other internally. Games between the Patriots and Ravens – Baltimore won both last season, including the AFC title game – are not just heated, but lead to intense bragging rights. And while no one wants to mess with Jon anymore, back in the day the battles were real. Eventually their dad had to install wrestling mats wall-to-wall in the basement to prevent injury (or the house getting knocked down).
So, sure, deep down Chandler Jones wants to be considered better than his brothers. Why wouldn't he?
You're just never going to get him to say it. None of the brothers will say it. Outwardly, the family is deferential to their siblings, tending to say someone else is the best.
"We are very supportive of each other," Chandler said.
So neither you nor Jon nor Arthur will give an honest answer?
"No, we won't," Chandler said laughing.
Besides, as Chandler points out, football is a team game. Even when he records a sack, some of the credit goes to his teammates, from other linemen to cornerbacks.
When Jon steps into a caged Octagon, he's the only one there. It's all on him. It's only nature he gets more glory.
"I don't think it's possible [to be considered better than an individual athlete]," Chandler said. "I don't think there is a way."
As big as the UFC has gotten however, it isn't pro football. Many consider Chandler and Arthur as Jon's brothers. The career arc that Chandler is on may change that, however. He's that young and that talented. There may be 50-60 million people watching on Sunday.
It's against the Broncos his value will be pronounced. As complex as Denver's offense can get and as sophisticated of a talent as Manning is, the simplest way to stop him remains putting pressure on him. Manning is a pocket passer and making him force throws, rush reads or just putting him on his back is critical.
If Manning is allowed to stand around all day and wait for one of his weapons to get open, Denver almost assuredly is going to the Super Bowl.
New England revamped its defense the last few years after the glaring lack of playmakers became impossible for even a high-powered, Tom Brady-led offense to overcome. It selected both Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the first round of the 2012 draft. It brought in shutdown corner Aqib Talib from Tampa. In the 2013 draft, linebacker Jamie Collins, who had six total tackles, a sack, an interception and a pass break-up against the Colts, plus versatile cornerback Logan Ryan (five picks on the season) were taken. Meanwhile, players such as defensive end Rob Ninkovich and cornerback Devin McCourty continued to develop.
It's a whole new deal, even with a slew of injuries. If New England makes it to another Super Bowl, it may be because of defense – kind of like the old Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law days.
"Peyton Manning is a very smart quarterback," Jones said this week. "His knowledge of the game – when you play [against] someone like that, everyone has to be sound, everyone has to be in position and everyone has to do their job."
The lone goal for Jones is to help New England win and advance to the Super Bowl, where he'll have the chance to match Arthur as a champion. That's all he's thinking about. Not anything about himself.
Still, the opportunity for a star turn is there on Sunday for Chandler Jones. Maybe it's not enough to surpass his brother, the UFC world champ, but this family competition – publicly acknowledged or not – isn't over yet, either.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Chandler Jones
- New England Patriots
- Peyton Manning
- Andrew Luck