Patriots Beat Steelers For AFC Title, Reach NFL Record Ninth Super Bowl

In two weeks, no NFL team will have played in more Super Bowl games than the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are going to their league-record ninth Super Bowl after dominating the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

New England will meet the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 6 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Falcons routed the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship Game earlier Sunday.

The Patriots were led Sunday by their passing attack. Quarterback Tom Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Tom Brady sets a new career-high for passing yards in a game, passing his own franchise mark (367 vs. Baltimore 1/10/15). #PITvsNE

— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 23, 2017

Wide receiver Chris Hogan had the game of his life, hauling in nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

New England’s defense held the vaunted Steelers offense to just 17 points and forced two turnovers. Pittsburgh’s star running back Le’Veon Bell didn’t play in the second half because of a groin injury.

The Patriots now are 3-0 all-time versus the Steelers in AFC title games, and their overall record in AFC Championship games with Brady and head coach Bill Belichick is 7-4.

Early Super Bowl betting odds, spread >>

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: New England Patriots, NFL, Nicholas Goss, Super Bowl, Top Stories

NFL Betting Odds: Early Patriots Vs. Falcons Super Bowl Spread, Lines

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will battle in Super Bowl LI, and oddsmakers are expecting a pretty close game.

The Patriots, as expected are small favorites over the Falcons. Atlanta is making its first Super Bowl appearance since the 1998 season when it lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.

New England is making its seventh Super Bowl appearance in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era (2000 to the present) and an NFL record ninth appearance overall. Brady and the Patriots last played in the Super Bowl during the 2014 campaign when Malcolm Butler’s incredible interception sealed a win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Here’s the early spread for the Patriots-Falcons showdown. The line is provided by our friends at OddsShark.

Super Bowl LI (Feb. 6 at NRG Stadium in Houston
Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots (-3.5)

Thumbnail photo via Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: New England Patriots, NFL, Odds, Super Bowl, Top Stories

Patriots Pick Six: Tom Brady, Chris Hogan Lead New England To Super Bowl

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots are heading to Houston to play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI after a dominant 36-17 win in the AFC Championship Game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, are headed home to pack up their lockers.

The Patriots demolished the Steelers in what was expected to be a close game. Tom Brady had one of his best playoff games, and he’ll need more of the same in two weeks to beat the Falcons. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, these six players stood out in the Patriots’ win.

QB TOM BRADY
Brady rebounded nicely after his worst game of the season, when he threw two interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Houston Texans in the divisional round.

Brady went 32 of 42 for 384 yards with three touchdowns in this one. It was one of his best career postseason performances, and it came against a solid Steelers defense.

It was repeated over and over this week that if Brady had a good game, the Patriots should have no trouble beating the Steelers. That was indeed the case Sunday night.

WR CHRIS HOGAN
Hogan is playing his best football of the season when it matters most. He’s become a go-to receiver for Brady and caught nine passes on 12 targets for 180 yards with two touchdowns.

Hogan broke Deion Branch’s Patriots record for most receiving yards in a playoff game. He had four catches on four targets for 95 yards last week.

It seems the playoffs suit Hogan well. This is his the first postseason run of his NFL career.

WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman also is playing the best football of the season right now. He caught eight passes on 10 targets for 118 yards with a touchdown. Edelman is on an unbelievable tear since the Patriots’ midseason bye week.

He has 74 catches for 1,003 yards with three touchdowns in the 10-game span.

CB LOGAN RYAN
Ryan struggled early in the game, allowing five catches for 41 yards in the first half but finished strong and didn’t allow a catch in the third or fourth quarters. He had a third-down pass breakup in the third quarter and a touchdown-saving pass breakup later in the game.

CB ERIC ROWE
Rowe also had a strong game, allowing four catches on 10 targets for 71 yards with a pass breakup, interception and touchdown allowed. The 30-yard touchdown came in garbage time.

The Patriots had two turnovers on the game. Kyle Van Noy forced receiver Eli Rogers to fumble. It was recovered by Rob Ninkovich.

CB MALCOLM BUTLER
Butler didn’t shadow Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the whole game, but he allowed just three catches on five targets for 33 yards with a pass breakup.

Brown was largely neutralized, catching seven passes on nine targets for 77 yards. The Patriots played zone heavily in the second half after running back Le’Veon Bell departed the game with a groin injury.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories

Patriots Vs. Steelers Live: New England On To Super Bowl LI After Routing Pittsburgh

Final, Patriots 36-17: It’s official: The New England Patriots are headed to Houston to take on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

Tom Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Patriots past the Pittsburgh Steelers in one of the finest postseason performances of his career. Chris Hogan caught two of those touchdown passes and finished with nine catches for a career-high 180 yards in the blowout victory.

The Patriots are seeking their fifth Super Bowl title, which would tie the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for second all-time.

Fourth quarter, 3:36, Patriots 36-17: Cobi Hamilton atoned for his earlier called-back touchdown pass by hauling in a 30-yard scoring strike from Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger then found DeAngelo Williams on the two-point conversion.

New England still has a very comfortable lead, however, and will be able to officially finish this one off with a few first downs. — Z.C.

Fourth quarter, 6:24, Patriots 36-9: The Patriots’ lead is up to 27 points after Stephen Gostkowski’s third field goal of the night. — Z.C.

Fourth quarter, 10:14, Patriots 33-9: The Steelers’ latest drive lasted exactly one play. Ben Roethlisberger threw a woefully inaccurate pass that was intercepted by Eric Rowe.

Big Ben never saw him…

PICKED. @Patriots get the ball back. #PITvsNE #NFLPlayoffs https://t.co/9iPbOh8O2X

— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2017

Tom Brady heads back onto the field looking to pad the Patriots’ cushion. — Z.C.

Fourth quarter, 10:26, Patriots 33-9: Ryan Allen’s first punt since the first quarter gave the ball back to Pittsburgh at its own 35-yard line. — Z.C.

Fourth quarter, 13:06, Patriots 33-9: The Steelers drove the ball deep into Patriots territory, but once again, they could not find the end zone.

Ben Roethlisberger’s would-be touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton on third down was called back because Hamilton stepped out of bounds before catching the ball, and Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Hamilton on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs. — Z.C.

Fourth quarter, 15:00, Patriots 33-9: The Patriots now are 15 minutes away from a Super Bowl berth. — Zack Cox

Third quarter, 1:35, Patriots 33-9: It might be time to play with a running clock.

Brady hit Edelman for an 18-yard catch to open the drive and ended it with a 10-yard completion to his favorite target for a TD.

Third quarter, 2:36, Patriots 27-9: That was a short series. Roethlisberger hit Eli Rogers for a 3-yard completion. Rogers immediately fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Rob Ninkovich. Patriots ball.

Third quarter, 2:44, Patriots 27-9: The Patriots are in good shape late in the third quarter. They lead by three scores, and the Patriots’ defense has been stingy so far.

The biggest play of the drive came on a 39-yard hookup between Brady and Hogan. He now has nine catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back LeGarrette Blount scored the TD on this drive. He carried a huge pile 18 yards to get to the 1-yard line then pounded the ball in on the next play.

Third quarter, 6:36, Patriots 20-9: The Patriots let up a couple more first downs but ultimately halted the Steelers, forcing a punt. The Patriots have the ball on their own 12.

Third quarter, 9:59, Patriots 20-9: The Patriots increased their lead to two scores on a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The Steelers helped get the Patriots down the field on a 15-yard penalty, when linebacker Ryan Shazier hit Edelman helmet-to-helmet on an incomplete pass.

Hogan has eight catches on nine targets for 141 yards with two touchdowns so far in his career night.

Third quarter, 13:10, Patriots 17-9: The Patriots forced a three and out on the Steelers’ first drive of the second half. Cornerback Logan Ryan broke up a pass intended for Eli Rogers on third down.

End half, Patriots 17-9: The Patriots couldn’t get anything going on a final drive. The Steelers will receive to start the second half.

Second quarter, 1:39, Patriots 17-9: It appeared the Patriots had let up a touchdown that would have pulled the Steelers to within four points, but the automatic review showed tight end Jesse James was down at the 1-yard line.

The Patriots then sent the Steelers back 4 yards on two consecutive runs. Roethlisberger’s third-down pass was incomplete to Eli Rogers, and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

The Patriots now have time to potentially drive down the field.

Second quarter, 7:43, Patriots 17-6: It seems as though Chris Hogan’s thigh isn’t bothering him too much.

Hogan just caught a 34-yard touchdown from Brady on a flea flicker. Hogan has seven catches for 117 yards with two touchdowns. Brady is 15 of 19 for 209 yards with two touchdowns so far.

Second quarter, 11:31, Patriots 10-6: Logan Ryan had a tough time in coverage as the Steelers drove down the field for a field goal. He allowed receptions of 16, 9, 8 and 6 yards. The Steelers scored on a 6-yard run by DeAngelo Williams. Chris Boswell missed his extra point.

Steelers starting running back Le’Veon Bell is questionable to return with a left groin injury.

First quarter, 2:47, Patriots 10-0: On a drive in which Chris Hogan got up in agony after a tough tackle, the Patriots wide receiver found himself wide open for a 16-yard touchdown.

Brady is 10 of 12 for 128 yards so far as he’s straight up picking apart the Steelers’ defense. Hogan leads the team with four catches for 57 yards with a touchdown. Edelman has two catches for 47 yards.

First quarter, 7:23, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots allowed a first down but still forced the punt on their second defensive series. Cornerback Malcolm Butler made a third-down pass breakup over Antonio Brown.

The Patriots have the ball on their own 20 after the punt.

First quarter, 10:06, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots responded with a messy second drive, going three and out. LeGarrette Blount was stopped for a 1-yard loss, then Brady threw incomplete to Mitchell on a broken play. On third down, Joe Thuney was beat badly on a sack by Javon Hargrave.

The Steelers have the ball on their own 39-yard line after the putn.

First quarter, 11:27, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots forced a three-and-out on their first defensive series. Le’Veon Bell ran the ball twice for 9 yards. Eric Rowe had nice deep coverage on Sammie Coates on third and 1 to force an incompletion.

First quarter, 13:08, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots marched down the field quickly but couldn’t convert on third and 1 inside the red zone. Tom Brady’s pass clanged off Malcolm Mitchell’s hands and was almost picked. The Patriots settled for a 31-yard field goal.

The big play of the drive was a 41-yard completion to Julian Edelman. The Patriots went four wide often on their first drive.

First quarter, 15:00: The Patriots won the coin toss and chose to receive. Let’s go.

 

6:07 p.m.: 

Patriots starting D in warmups
DL: Nink, Branch, Brown, Flowers,
DB: Butler, Ryan, Chung, McCourty
LB: Hightower, McClellin, Roberts

— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) January 22, 2017

5:50 p.m.: Edelman and Amendola are returning punts in warmups. LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, James White, Patrick Chung and Matthew Slater are back for kickoffs.

5:10 p.m.: Here are the Patriots’ inactives:

QB Jacoby Brissett
RB D.J. Foster
WR Michael Floyd
OT LaAdrian Waddle
CB Cyrus Jones
CB Justin Coleman
S Jordan Richards

— All seven players listed as questionable by the Patriots are active.

5:05 p.m.: Wide receiver Danny Amendola is on the field in game pants, so it appears he’s playing. Now the questions is whether Michael Floyd will be active. We’ll find out in five minutes.

3:20 p.m.: The AFC Championship Game is just three hours and 20 minutes away. Not that we’re counting or anything.

Got ourselves a game here tonight. pic.twitter.com/vXYdmHJ9VL

— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) January 22, 2017

11:15 a.m.: Bennett, Mitchell and Hogan are expected to play, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Sunday morning. The final inactive spot likely will come down to Floyd and Danny Amendola. Amendola has more versatility, with the ability to return punts, so he would be my choice to be active.

8 a.m. ET: The New England Patriots are one game away from their ninth Super Bowl appearance, and winning won’t come nearly as easy as it did last week.

The Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at 6:40 p.m. in the AFC Championship Game. Because the Patriots earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the conference title game will be played at Gillette Stadium.

The Steelers will pose the biggest threat to the Patriots since the Seattle Seahawks came to Foxboro, Mass. in Week 10 and beat New England. The Patriots’ defense has a chance to silence critics by shutting down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s offense. The Patriots ranked first in the NFL in points allowed this season, but they also played the league’s easiest schedule.

The Patriots listed seven players as questionable to play Sunday night: wide receivers Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola, tight end Martellus Bennett, running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Jabaal Sheard. There’s been no indication so far that any of those players will be out.

If all of them can play, it’s likely quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back D.J. Foster, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones and safety Jordan Richards will be healthy scratches. Wide receiver Michael Floyd could be the final inactive if Hogan, Mitchell and Amendola can play.

Stay here for updates and analysis throughout the game, which airs on CBS. Here are the Patriots’ keys to victory.

Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Patriots Live Blog, Top Stories

LeGarrette Blount’s ‘Silencer’ TD Celebration Gains LeBron James’ Approval

FOXBORO, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots running back and noted NBA fan, paid homage to one of basketball’s biggest stars Sunday night.

Blount helped put the nail in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coffin in the third quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game by plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run, which he set up with a muscle-flexing, 18-yard rush on the previous play.

.@LG_Blount carrying the ENTIRE PIT defense with him.

And he gets the TD on the next play! #PITvsNE #NFLPlayoffs https://t.co/CBgc5sYiDw

— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2017

Blount took a page out of LeBron James’ playbook after the score by celebrating with “The Silencer,” the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s trademark move. Apparently King James was watching, and he liked what he saw.

I see you @LG_Blount! Hit em with “The Silencer”

— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 23, 2017

That’s one way to get yourself on the NBA’s radar.

Blount had plenty of reason to celebrate, as the score was his eighth career postseason rushing touchdown, tying him for 11th on the NFL’s all-time list.

Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: Darren Hartwell, New England Patriots, Top Stories

Travis Kelce Jokingly Writes Check For $25K Fine, Stands By Criticism Of Referee

Travis Kelce certainly spoke his mind following the Kansas City Chiefs’ divisional-round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A holding penalty on Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher thwarted a game-tying 2-point conversion in Kansas City’s 18-16 loss, and Kelce certainly didn’t agree with the call. The tight end sounded off on head official Carl Cheffers after the game, saying: “Ref No. 51 (Cheffers) shouldn’t even be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn’t even be able to work at f—ing Foot Locker.”

Kelce was fined a total of $21,615 for his actions, but the punishment didn’t seem to faze the two-time Pro-Bowl selection. Appearing on ESPN’s “NFL Countdown” on Sunday, Kelce said he stands by the comments he made about Cheffers and then proceeded to jokingly write a check for $25,000.

While it’s evident that Kelce doesn’t view Cheffers as a good referee, the same cannot be said about the NFL. It’s reported Cheffers will be the head official for Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston.

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images

Filed under: Adam London, NFL, Top Stories