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Rob Gronkowski ready for ’emotional’ game, but ‘when emotions get rolling you have to put the team first’

01.14.15 at 2:48 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are both very emotional players. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are both very emotional players. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was an emotional game the last time the Patriots and Colts met on Nov. 16, especially for tight end Rob Gronkowski when he blocked Colts safety Sergio Brown 10 yards off the field and into a NBC camera station.

After the game he said Brown was, “yappin'” all game so he “threw him out of the club.”

It should be another emotional game Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, but Gronkowski knows while playing with emotion is good, he can’t have it turn into something that will hurt the team.

“You just have to go out there and play football. It’s definitely an emotional game and when emotions get rolling you have to put the team first,” said Gronkowski. “Got to play with emotion, play hard, be physical, be mentally ready. Emotions definitely come into play, but you have to be emotionally ready.”

Quarterback Tom Brady in particular has been known for being an emotional player — both high and low. Gronkowski said he loves playing with a player like that, as being very passionate is part of the game.

“€œThat’€™s always good to see a teammate like that –€“ it gets everyone fired up, it gets everyone passionate,” said Gronkowski. “I hope every player does that on the team, but definitely when you see Tom do it, it motivates you and shows how much passion he’€™s got going on at the moment. It definitely gets you going.”

As for going against Brown again, Gronkowski wasn’t going to go there.

“I’m just excited to go out there and play the game of football, no matter who it is [versus],” he said.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Rob Gronkowski, Sergio Brown, Tom Brady

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Tom Brady, Patriots for AFC title

01.14.15 at 2:37 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the AFC Championship between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts Sunday at GIllette Stadium. The game is a rematch of the Nov. 16 meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries in a 42-20 Patriots’ win. This is the second time Andrew Luck is facing Tom Brady in the playoffs, with the Patriots winning, 43-22, last year, a game that featured four Luck interceptions.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Chris Price, Indianapolis Colts

Rex Ryan says he will ‘build a bully’ with Bills

01.14.15 at 2:33 pm ET
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The Bills introduced Rex Ryan as their new coach at a Wednesday press conference, and Ryan made it clear that he will continue to be the same confident coach who had some success in six seasons with the Jets before being fired after a 3-13 season.

“I’m not going to let our fans down,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to do that. I know it’s been 15 years [since the Bills were in the playoffs]. Well, get ready. We’re going.”

Ryan famously proclaimed that he had no intention of kissing Bill Belichick‘s rings when he was named Jets coach in 2009, and he stated Wednesday that he hasn’t lost “his swagger.”

“We’re not afraid of anybody,” he said, adding later: “We’re going to go into games expecting to win, regardless of who we play.”

The Bills already have a defense that finished fourth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed this season and had a league-high 54 sacks. Ryan, known for his defensive focus, said the team can be better.

“Fourth in the league was probably a little disappointing,” he said. “I know we’ll lead the league in defense.”

As for the offense, Ryan said: “We’re going to be aggressive, and you’ll see that early. … We will not build our offensive game plan around our punter. We will not major in punting.”

Added Ryan: “We’re going to build a bully and we’re going to see if you want to play it for 60 minutes.”

Tom Brady explains why he gets ‘pretty edgy’ on weeks like this, even for Gisele

01.14.15 at 2:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Like many kids during exam week, Tom Brady is not a great guy to be around before a big game like the AFC championship this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

“I get pretty edgy,” Brady said during his Wednesday press conference. “I just think there’€™s a high level of pressure every week and the pressure is on from the moment… it’€™s like watching the games on Sunday, you watch the first game,€“ Cowboys-Packers, and it’€™s kind of fun. Then all of a sudden you watch the Denver game, Indy play, and as soon as that game ends it’€™s like, Boom! The clock starts. It’€™s a race to see who can prepare the best over the course of the week.”

Most of the time, Brady said, he’s chilled during the week before a game. He tries to relax and just bring it for the three hours on game day. But this week is different.

Brady even admitted that his supermodel wife Gisele Bunchden, has asked him about his mood leading up to games like Sunday. “[She says] what’€™s your problem?”

And like with kids getting ready for next week’s midterms, Tom Brady‘s tension is understandable. He is trying to get back to his sixth Super Bowl, which would be a record for a starting quarterback. He had a little time to enjoy Saturday’s win and watched Sunday’s Packers-Cowboys game. But then he reached a new level on Sunday afternoon as he was watching the Colts eliminate the Broncos.

‘€œThere are not many opportunities you get during the season to have a time where you don’€™t know who your opponent is,” Brady said. “Obviously after we won on Saturday, you have that little moment of time where you’€™re not really preparing for anybody. Then as soon as you know the opponent, the anxiousness starts building and building and building. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Gisele, Gisele Bundchen

Bryan Stork lone Patriots player not present at practice Wednesday in advance of AFC championship game

01.14.15 at 12:43 pm ET
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Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork

FOXBORO — After leaving Saturday’s game with a knee injury, rookie center Bryan Stork was the only Patriots player not present at the start of practice on Wednesday in advance of Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

The practice was held outside on the game field at Gillette Stadium in temperatures near 20 degrees.

“I think Bryan has done a good job for us,”€ said coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday’s conference call. “€œWe finished the game without him last week and if he wasn’€™t available then we’€™d be in a similar situation this week. Whether it would be the same [personnel] or different, I don’€™t really want to get into that. He’€™s obviously done a good job for us, he’€™s grown along the way.”

Brandon Browner, who left Saturday’s game and didn’t return, was present at the session.

The Patriots will release their first injury report of the week later in the afternoon.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bryan Stork,

Ray Lewis: ‘The only reason we know who Tom Brady is [is] because of a tuck rule’

01.14.15 at 11:08 am ET
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He’s not playing anymore, but Ray Lewis still is a thorn in the side of Tom Brady.

The former Ravens linebacker took at shot at Brady during an appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s radio show this week, implying the tuck rule enabled Brady’s success.

Smith and Lewis were discussing the catch by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in Sunday’s game against the Packers that was overturned on review when Lewis turned the discussion to Brady and the controversial overturned fumble call in the AFC divisional playoff game against the Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002.

“Honest to God, the first time we created something called a tuck rule is the only reason we know — I’m just being honest — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule,” Lewis said. “There’s no such thing as a tuck rule. If the ball is in your hand and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways — however it’s coming out, that’s a freakin’ fumble. But guess what we created? We created a freakin’ tuck rule. … Man, there are certain rules that should not be allowed to be in this game of football.”

Pressed to clarify his comment about Brady, Lewis didn’t back down.

“They don’t go to that championship game if that ball [isn’t] called a tuck,” Lewis said. “That’s a fumble. That man clearly fumbled the ball. And they named it a tuck rule — something we never heard in today’s game. So now you’ve got to ask yourself: When did the legacy really start?

“See, look, man, I’m a football historian. I love moments. I love moments. See a lot of people watch just the TV from the game and say, ‘Oh, that’s wrong, that’s wrong.’ Go back to the moment to when things started. That’s what I’m telling you.”

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Read More: Ray Lewis, Tom Brady,

Reversal of fortune: Why Tom Brady finally could be poised to post big numbers in an AFC title game

01.14.15 at 12:45 am ET
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Tom Brady has occasionally struggled in AFC title games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has occasionally struggled in AFC title games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

If there’s a playoff round when Tom Brady struggles, it’s the conference championship. The question is if the Colts are capable of exploiting that potential weakness in this Sunday’s AFC title game.

Tracing the quarterback’s statistical postseason arc since 2001, he’s had little problem lighting up opposing offenses in the divisional round, and, to a lesser extent, the Super Bowl. He’s 12-4 in those stages of the playoffs, with nearly three touchdowns for every interception, and a passer rating topping 93 at both levels.

It’s the conference championship where he’s most likely to post a stinker, with eight touchdowns, nine interceptions and a playoff-low passer rating of 77.4. As good as he has been in the divisional round — posting nearly perfect passer ratings against the Jaguars (2007) and Broncos (2011) — he has been that bad in AFC title game, losing to the Ravens and Colts, and barely outlasting the Ravens and Chargers. (Following the win over the Ravens in the 2011 AFC title game, Brady sheepishly told a national TV audience he had “sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us.”)

The good news for Patriots fans? The 2014 Colts might have the worst defense of any team the Patriots have faced in the AFC title game. At the very least, they’re the statistical equal of the 2006 Colts, who were similarly middle of the pack. The Ravens regularly give Brady fits, whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season. The 2007 Chargers were fifth in the league in points allowed (17.8) and ranked in the top half of the league in most major defensive categories. The same was true of the 2001 and 2004 Steelers, particularly the ’04 club, which led the league in scoring defense, run defense and yards allowed.

It’s a different story for this Colts team. Indianapolis has yielded an average of 23.1 points per game, 19th in the league, and is mediocre at best in most major defensive categories. Indy’s pass defense is slightly better than average — it allowed an average of 229 passing yards per game (12th). Beyond cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Mike Adams, the Colts are bereft of potential playmakers in the secondary — Adams leads the team with six interceptions, including two off of Brady in the contest between the two teams back in November. Meanwhile, Davis remains the best cornerback on the roster, and has built an impressive resume in his six full seasons in the league.

But the Colts certainly don’t appear to have an effective counterpoint to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown when the teams met in the regular season. In addition, they lack a premier pass rusher. Indy had 41 sacks over the course of the regular season, but the Colts don’t overwhelm you with talented edge rushers the way they used to. Linebackers Jonathan Newsome (6.5 sacks, 5 quarterback hits) and Erik Walden (6 sacks, 16 quarterback hits) provide the bulk of the pass rush.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
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