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Rob Gronkowski apologizes for cramping up: ‘It was freaky that it did’ 01.25.16 at 1:20 am ET
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DENVER — There are lots of physical adjustments to be made playing at altitude in the mile high air.

Rob Gronkowski found that out the hard way in the second half of Sunday’s AFC championship loss to the Broncos.

Early in the third quarter, the Patriots tight end began taking himself out of the game and started gulping large quantities of water on the sidelines. At one point, the Patriots training staff took away his helmet for a brief time before giving it back to him.

Gronkowski battled with this into the fourth quarter before all the water started taking its desired effect.

“Yeah, I was cramping. I was actually just kind of disappointed in myself at that moment,” Gronkowski said. “I don’€™t know exactly why I was cramping. I prepared for this game like I have for every other game with hydration and all that, but it just got to me. I had to fight through it. The trainers did a great job. I had to just pound a couple of bottles of water on the sidelines.”

At one point in the fourth quarter, trainers began rubbing the back of his left leg up and down with a roller as he was stomach-down on the sidelines, taking in oxygen at the same time.

“I felt really full at some point, but I battled back through it,” Gronkowski said. “As an athlete, you just don’€™t want that to happen. I’€™m definitely going to take that consideration down the road to make sure stuff like that doesn’€™t happen again in games, but it just did this time. It was freaky that it did. It didn’€™t happen all year but battled through it, came back and I was fine after I pounded a couple of bottles of water.”

Gronkowski started pounding the water when he came out after being taken down by Aqib Talib on a 31-yard gain. He didn’t return in that series as the Patriots had to settle for 38-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.

On Dec. 28, Cincinnati nose tackle Geno Atkins, who had been recently diagnosed with sickle cell, had his snaps limited due to the dangers of dehydration at altitude associated with the disease.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
Tom Brady stands up for offensive linemen: ‘They hung in there all day’ 01.24.16 at 9:41 pm ET
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DENVER — Even though it might have been obvious to anyone watching in the stands or on television, Tom Brady was not about to throw his offensive line under the bus after Sunday’s loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship.

“They hung in there all day, and I think that’s the strength of their team,” Brady said. “Our strength was trying to get the ball to our skill guys and let them make some plays in space. It’s a tough front, and they’re good players.”

Instead of blaming his line consisting of tackles Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming, and the interior of Bryan Stork, Shaq Mason and Josh Kline, Brady chose to tip his cap to the likes of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

“They’re teeing off on cadence,” Brady said. “We’re trying to keep changing it up. And on defense, sometimes you’ve just got to get one play and you end the drive. So, I think they did a great job today.”

Miller set a new Broncos single-game playoff record with 2.5 sacks as the Broncos sacked Brady four times and hit him an astounding 20 times.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
Stephen Gostkowski: ‘I feel like I lost the game for the team’ at 9:05 pm ET
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DENVER — In the way of the shocking 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship, no one felt worse than kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

He missed an extra point after New England’s first touchdown of the day in the first quarter that turned out to be a pivotal point in the game. For Gostkowski, who holds the NFL record for most consecutive extra points made, it was his first miss of an extra point since 2006, his rookie season.

The Patriots came back and scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left in regulation but the Patriots were forced to go for two because of Gostkowski’s miss in the first quarter.

“I just feel terrible,” Gostkowski said. “These guys work a lot all day, put their bodies and lives on the line. For me to come out here, and us to lose by a point, and me miss the kick, it’s a nightmare scenario. I can’t really explain how I feel right now. It’s just kind of shock and feel I let a lot of people down. It’s just not a good feeling.”

With 1:49 left in the first quarter, the Patriots kicker came on for what is, for him, a routine 33-yard point-after try. But this wasn’t. The snap and hold seemed good but Gostkowski pushed the kick wide right.

“I didn’t hit a good kick,” Gostkowski said. “I’m not one to make excuses. I should’ve made it. I’ve made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of those. Sometimes timing is everything and I never would’ve thought missing a kick in the first quarter would be the difference in the game. That’s why you’ve got to be good all the time and that wasn’t the case for me today.

“I’m always upset when I have a bad play. It’s part of the job. I feel sorry for myself but I’m not expecting people to feel sorry for me. I work hard to be good. And I came up short today. I let a lot of people down, a lot of guys on the team, a lot of fans. All I can do now is stand up here and take it all on me. I feel like I lost the game for the team.

“I should’ve been out there kicking that tying extra point and helping us go into overtime. It’s a sinking in feeling. I can’t put it into words. Nothing I can do about it now. I had a good week of practice. Just sometimes things don’t fall your way.”

In the end, even with his teammates consoling him, he couldn’t help but feel awful.

“It’s a nightmare scenario,” he said. “You want to help the team win. You don’t want to be the reason you lose. It’s not a good feeling. I deserve all the blame that I get and I’ll try to hold my head up high. I’m not going to make an excuse. I should have done better. I’m sorry I couldn’t come through.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
Gary Kubiak on Rob Gronkowski: ‘He can take over a game’ 01.23.16 at 1:42 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski (87) runs for a touchdown in front of Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) on Nov. 29. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

Rob Gronkowski (87) runs for a touchdown in front of Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) on Nov. 29. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

DENVER — The Broncos are fully aware they’ll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski on Sunday.

The last time they faced him, the Broncos did a very respectable job, holding him to six catches on 10 targets from Tom Brady, totaling 88 yards. Still, Gronkowski had a 23 yard touchdown catch less than four minutes into the contest that seem to set the tone for the first three quarters.

After that touchdown, and before the fourth quarter hit from Darian Stewart that nearly ended the tight end’s season, the Broncos held Gronkowski to four catches and just 56 yards and no scores.

On Friday, Gary Kubiak, who was Baltimore offensive coordinator in 2014, admitted the huge challenge of trying to repeat the defensive effort his linebackers and safeties put forth on Nov. 29.

“€œHe’€™s something special. I saw it firsthand in our game,” Kubiak said. “I saw it firsthand last year when I was with Baltimore. He can take over a game. He beats corners, he beats safeties, he beats linebackers and he’€™s going to play all over the place. A lot of respect for him. We’€™re going to have to find a way to somehow contain or do a good job against him because he’€™s going to make some plays. I mean they’€™ve got some great players, but we’€™ve just got to do the best job we can possibly do.”

Broncos corner Chris Harris Jr. said the game plan was to him Gronk “in the knees” on Sunday. But before he gets up a head of steam, Gronkowski’s path could cross the path of inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan.

“€œYou definitely want to be physical, I think within the five-yard mark,” Marshall said. “You don’€™t want to get a flag, but you want to put hands on him because the guy is like a freight train running at you. He’€™s a big body, so you want to be physical and you want to be on him. It’€™s a tough matchup, but I think we’€™re all equipped for it.”

Earlier in the week, it was Marshall who said that Gronkowski uses that “freight train” body to push off and get an advantage.

“I didn’€™t think that they would blow up like that,” Marshall said of the reaction on social media. “I definitely wasn’€™t aware that all the Patriots fans would be in my Twitter mentions and calling me all kind of explicit names. I’€™m sorry, I’€™m €”whatever, I don’€™t want to say the names. I didn’€™t think that would happen, but I mean I said what I said. I can’€™t take it back. I just have to be ready to cover him.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan
‘It Is What It Is’ podcast: Chris Price, Mike Petraglia explain why Patriots have big advantages in AFC title game 01.21.16 at 6:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Chris Price and Mike Petraglia break down why this AFC championship in Denver should be a much different story than two years ago, and even different than Nov. 29, when the Patriots blew a 21-7 fourth quarter lead and lost in overtime. With Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman at full strength for Tom Brady, the game could come down to how well the Patriots stop the run.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Chris Price, Denver Broncos
Bill Belichick on third-down defense: ‘Giving up 60 percent on third down is not good enough’ 01.17.16 at 3:15 pm ET
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Jason Avant (81) makes an acrobatic third-down catch against Logan Ryan (26) Saturday. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

Jason Avant (81) makes an acrobatic third-down catch against Logan Ryan (26) Saturday. (Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBORO — Winning can mask a lot of ugliness.

And ugly is one way of characterizing the Patriots’ ability to get their defense off the field on third down Saturday during a 27-20 AFC divisional win over the Chiefs.

The Patriots allowed first downs on Kansas City’s first four third-down tries on the Chiefs’ opening drive before holding on the fifth try and forcing the Chiefs to a field goal. Through three quarters, the Chiefs had converted 10 of 15 on third down, and finished 12 of 20.

Most alarming to Bill Belichick were the conversions of five yards or more. On the first drive, Alex Smith converted third down tries of seven and 13 yards.

In the third quarter, there were more alarming moments. Three plays in, they allowed Smith to scramble, avoid the rush and throw a quick dart to the right sideline to Jeremy Maclin for 12 yards on third-and-10. They were bailed out when Chandler Jones stripped Knile Davis from behind and created a turnover.

But leading 21-6, the Chiefs were given new life on their very next possession. With a third-and-7 at their own 23, Smith was about to be sacked, avoided pressure, stepped up and then threw across his body and found Jason Avant, who dove and caught a 26-yard pass on Logan Ryan at the Chiefs 49. That drive ended with a Smith touchdown pass to Albert Wilson.

Of the 12 third-down conversions the Patriots defense yielded, six were more than five yards in distance. They also gave up a fourth down on fourth-and-8.

“I’€™d say a combination of a number of things,” Belichick said. “At times it was not enough rush, at times it was a good rush and not enough coverage or losing leverage on coverage. There were some obviously good plays by the Chiefs.

“They ran some good routes, made some tough catches in traffic. [Alex] Smith made some good throws. We were close on a few of those but not close enough, but it was good execution on their part so I’€™d say a combination of all those things but giving up 60 percent on third-down is not good enough.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick continues to deflect on deflation, focused only on Super Bowl game plan 01.20.15 at 2:13 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is focused only on getting ready for the Super Bowl against Seattle. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick is focused only on getting ready for the Super Bowl against Seattle. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick has no time for any “Deflategate” questions, nor does it appear he will in the next two weeks.

Asked Tuesday during a conference call if the NFL has contacted him about the ongoing issue surrounding deflating footballs, Belichick deflected to the league office on Park Avenue in New York.

“Any questions on that you should talk to them about,” Belichick said.

Belichick and his coaching staff are busy right now putting together a game plan for Seattle to give to the players when they return from their two-day break on Thursday.

Belichick was asked how the team is going to handle this week in terms of how much of the game plan will be in place prior to leaving for the Super Bowl, likely on Sunday.

“We’€™ll work through that the next couple days and be ready for the players when they come back on Thursday. We’€™ll have it figured out by then,” Belichick said.

Naturally, “Deflategate” has dominated the conversation following the Patriots’ 45-7 win in the AFC championship against the Colts. It was learned earlier on Monday the NFL was looking into the matter, and now we reportedly know where it all originated.

According to Newsday, it all started following Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s interception of Tom Brady in the second quarter. Jackson gave the ball to a member of the Colts’ equipment staff who thought the ball was under-inflated. The staff member then told coach Chuck Pagano.
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Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, Deflategate
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