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Bengals, Colts win, forcing Patriots to win to earn bye 12.29.13 at 4:41 pm ET
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Giovanni Bernard and the Bengals eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention. (AP)

Giovanni Bernard and the Bengals eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots will have to earn their first-round bye.

The Bengals beat the Ravens, 34-17, in Cincinnati and the Colts beat the Jaguars, 30-10, at Indianapolis. Those two results mean the Patriots will have to beat the Bills to earn a weekend off when the playoffs begin next weekend.

If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will earn the No. 1 seed. If the Patriots win and Broncos win, the Patriots will be the No. 2 seed and still have next weekend off.

If the Patriots lose, the Broncos will be the No. 1 seed and the Bengals will be the No. 2 and both will advance to the divisional round and have next weekend off.

A Patriots loss would also ensure the Patriots would play the Chiefs next weekend in the 4-5 matchup at Gillette Stadium.

Cincinnati’s win also eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens from the playoffs as the Steelers won and the Dolphins lost.

A win over the Chiefs would put San Diego into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed while a Chargers loss would allow the Steelers to earn the final spot with an 8-8 record.

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Patriots Thursday injury report: Rob Ninkovich (ankle) added to report 12.26.13 at 5:17 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich was added to Thursday's injury report. (AP)

Rob Ninkovich was added to Thursday’s injury report. (AP)

The Patriots returned to the practice field Thursday outside Gillette Stadium and there was one more name on the injury report. Rob Ninkovich showed up for the first time this week with an injured ankle suffered in the Patriots’ win in Baltimore Sunday.

Meanwhile safety Steve Gregory (finger/knee) and running back Shane Vereen (groin) joined Ninkovich as limited Thursday and were among the 12 Patriots limited at practice. Gregory, Ninkovich and Vereen were all injured in the win over the Ravens. Vereen left in the first quarter and did not return.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) and safety Devin McCourty (concussion) were the only two players not practicing Thursday. McCourty (concussion) left Sunday’s game against the Ravens with a head injury in the second half, and did not return. In addition, Boyce has been nagged by an ankle issue he’s been dealing with since a loss to Miami earlier this month.

Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Josh Boyce (ankle)
S Devin McCourty (concussion)

Limited Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder)
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee)
DL Rob Ninkovhich (ankle)
OT Nate Solder (concussion)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
RB Shane Vereen (groin)

Full Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)

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Patriots practice Thursday: Devin McCourty (concussion), Josh Boyce (ankle) absent at 12:13 pm ET
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Devin McCourty makes a play on Baltimore's Bernard Pierce. McCourty would leave later with a head injury. (AP)

Devin McCourty makes a play on Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce. McCourty would leave later with a head injury. (AP)

FOXBORO — Devin McCourty and Josh Boyce were the only two Patriots players not in attendance Thursday as the Patriots returned to the practice field after having Christmas Day off. Both players also missed the light walkthrough inside Dana Farber Field House on Tuesday before getting the holiday off on Wednesday.

Both players were projected as not participating Wednesday if the team had held a practice. The Patriots were required to issue the report per NFL guidelines.

McCourty suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Ravens when he went low, trying to make a tackle on Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson.

Boyce missed the game on Sunday altogether with an ankle injury suffered on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter of the loss in Miami on Dec. 15.

The Patriots practiced in sweats and shells on the lower grass fields on Thursday and will practice again on Friday as they get ready for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the regular season finale. With a win, the Patriots would improve to 12-4 and clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming AFC playoffs.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Devin McCourty, Josh Boyce Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Josh McDaniels says Pats want to dictate offensive style ‘regardless of who we’re playing’ 12.23.13 at 2:25 pm ET
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Logan Mankins (70) pancakes Terrell Suggs (55) as the Patriots showed their dominance all day. (AP)

Logan Mankins (70) pancakes Terrell Suggs (55) as the Patriots showed their dominance all day. (AP)

FOXBORO — Kyle Arrington called it throwing the first punch. Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater said it was just matching Baltimore’s toughness.

On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots simply wanted to dictate and not be dictated to.

That’s how McDaniels summed up the somewhat head-turning decision to take it to the Ravens on the ground Sunday, choosing to attack Baltimore’s apparent strength on defense.

The Patriots ran the ball 34 times for 142 yards, averaging 4.2 yards a pop against a defense that was yielding just 102 yards a game coming in, seventh-best in the NFL.

“We certainly want to try to do things that we feel like we can do well regardless of who we’€™re playing, and then we also want to try to factor in the different variables in terms of matchups, personnel, all of the different things that go into each player, each series in the game, you want to factor into those things too, because they can certainly give you the best chance to be successful,” McDaniels said. “You’€™re not going to trick the Ravens. You’€™re not going to beat them that way, and so you’€™re going to have to stand in there, but you know it’€™s going to be a tough, physical game, you know it’€™s going to be a situation where you’€™re going to have to fight it out for four quarters, and I thought our guys did a good job of staying in there and slugging it out with them.

“It wasn’€™t always pretty, but in the end it was effective enough for us. I thought the important things were we took advantage of the opportunities that we had in the red zone, we didn’€™t turn the ball over, and then the guys really stayed committed to making yards in the running game and giving us an opportunity to stay ahead on the sticks, and then did a good job of finishing the last drive.”

Logan Mankins said after Sunday’s game that the offensive line was very aware of the commitment to the run and wanted to give McDaniels every reason to keep grinding away on the ground.

The other area that had to make McDaniels and Bill Belichick happy was their execution in the red zone. The Patriots were a perfect 3-for-3, LeGarrette Blount running it in twice while Tom Brady found Shane Vereen in the flat for the third.

“Obviously it’€™s good to score touchdowns when you’€™re down there,” McDaniels said. “I think we only had four plays down in the red zone, maybe five, and we had three trips and only four or five plays I think total. We were fortunate to run it in twice, once on the goal line, and guys did a good job.

“That’€™s always a tough situation against a good defense. You’€™re trying to get a yard and you just bang it out, and guys did a good job of letting LeGarrette [Blount] get to the line of scrimmage, then he muscled his way in there. And then we were able to come up with a play in the passing game there with Shane [Vereen] where the guys executed well, and then we were running the ball effectively on that last drive and got it into the red zone and just stayed with that formula, and they got it in there too. Each week in the red area, it’€™s its own game. Statistics from the past, they don’€™t really determine what’€™s going to happen from one week to the next, they just kind of tell you what happened in the past. This is a week to week thing, and we’€™ve got to do a good job of preparing now for a very good Buffalo defense, and the challenge will be a little different in terms of maybe the scheme or the players this week, but again, if we do a good job then we’€™ll give ourselves a great chance, and if we don’€™t and Buffalo executes better than we do, then you could find some struggles. The guys did a good of executing, and they deserve the credit.”

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Logan Mankins really loves to stick it to so-called ‘experts’ 12.22.13 at 10:24 pm ET
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Logan Mankins (70) pancakes Terrell Suggs (55) as the Patriots showed their dominance all day. (AP)

Logan Mankins (70) pancakes Terrell Suggs (55) as the Patriots showed their dominance all day. (AP)

BALTIMORE — The smile on his face said it all.

In the afterglow of a 41-7 romp over the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, Logan Mankins was asked if he thought the Patriots and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels proved a point with their physical, pounding running game on Sunday.

“When he called the runs, we did a good job of encouraging him to keep calling them,” Mankins said of McDaniels. “If you go out there and get stuffed on the line of scrimmage every time, it’s hard for him to call it again. But if you’re productive, then it makes it easy for him to keep calling it.”

The Patriots ran the ball 34 times for 142 yards – a 4.2 yards per carry average. They passed just 26 times. Mankins started his first game of the season at left tackle in place of Nate Solder and contained Terrell Suggs all day.

“Well, the experts, I know they always have all the answers,” Mankins beamed. “They really had them when they picked the winner of this game. So, when they don’t mention us as physical I always say, ‘Just go ask the guy that lines up from us if we’re physical.’”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Josh McDaniels, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Quick Hits: Mike Petraglia, Chris Price break down Patriots’ blowout of Ravens at 9:23 pm ET
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Devin McCourty will not return with head injury at 6:36 pm ET
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Devin McCourty makes a play on Baltimore's Bernard Pierce. McCourty would leave later with a head injury. (AP)

Devin McCourty makes a play on Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce. McCourty would leave later with a head injury. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Devin McCourty suffered a head injury early in the third quarter on a tackle on Ravens tight end Ed Dickson and will not return.

On the play, McCourty went low to take out the bigger tight end and appeared to bend his neck awkwardly upon contact. He went to the ground and tried to get up but nearly fell over as he made it to his feet. The Patriots medical staff rushed onto the field and ushered him off to the locker room. Only a few minutes later, the Patriots confirmed the injury and that he would not return.

McCourty has been the most dependable safety in the Patriots secondary this season and a key component of the secondary.

The game, completely dominated by the Patriots, has taken a physical toll as Shane Vereen left with a groin injury in the first quarter while Dont’a Hightower and Steve Gregory both left with injuries before returning later.

Then, on the play before Stephen Gostkowski‘s 42-yard field goal, starting center Ryan Wendell appeared very wobbly coming to the sideline.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Devin McCourty, New England Patriots, nfl Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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