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Danny Woodhead: ‘If people are shocked, they’re shocked’ 01.05.14 at 6:01 pm ET
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CINCINNATI — So many times in New England, Danny Woodhead was the silent little engine that could.

On Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, Woodhead – as he did so often in Foxboro – let his feet and hands do the talking in a 27-10 Chargers win over the Bengals that put Woodhead into familiar territory.

For the fourth straight season, the former Patriot finds himself in the AFC divisional playoffs. He figures to be another big weapon for Philip Rivers and the Chargers when they take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos next Sunday.

Sunday, he set the tone early with a five-yard TD run right up the middle, putting San Diego up, 7-0, and sending a message that the team that came within a bad call on an overtime field goal by Kansas City last week had come to Cincinnati with every intention of winning. The 11-5 Bengals, champions of the AFC North, were favored by a touchdown on their home turf in the rematch of the iconic “Freezer Bowl” in the 1981 AFC championship.

“We practiced all week with the idea of coming in here to win,” Woodhead said. “We were underdogs. If people are shocked, they’re shocked. There’s nothing we can do about that. Our job was to go out there and execute.”

That’s exactly what Woodhead, Rivers and the Chargers did against a Bengals team that didn’t lose all season at home before Sunday. The Chargers committed no turnovers in 56 snaps. Woodhead carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards and gained another 14 on two catches.

The Patriots let him go after the 2012 season and he signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Chargers in March, a deal that included a $1 million signing bonus. The Chargers wanted a threat in the backfield that would be hard to account for in open space. He was that and more Sunday as he cut through big holes his offensive line established.

“I just try to take advantage of every opportunity I’m given. Our offensive line was great today and set the tempo early,” Woodhead said. “We ran and ran and we just build momentum.”

Woodhead was there so many times on Sunday like he was in New England. Every time Rivers needed a big play to put the game away in the second half, it was Woodhead’s number that was called. He carried the ball three times on San Diego’s opening drive of the third quarter, which ended in a touchdown that put the Chargers ahead for good.

Now, as was the case in New England with Tom Brady, Woodhead is into the second round with a playoff-proven quarterback. Rivers was spectacular only in his efficiency Sunday, throwing just 16 passes and completing 12 for 128 yards and a touchdown and a 118.8 quarterback rating.

“Philip is a great quarterback who has done it in the past in the playoffs,” Woodhead said. “Everybody knows he’s a great quarterback. We went about our business and just executed today.”

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San Diego Chargers eliminate Cincinnati Bengals, paving way for Andrew Luck to play Patriots at Gillette Stadium at 4:15 pm ET
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Danny Woodhead and the Chargers beat the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati. (AP)

Danny Woodhead and the Chargers beat the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati. (AP)

CINCINNATI — The Patriots can get ready for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium next Saturday night.

Andy Dalton turned in another atrocious playoff performance while Philip Rivers managed a near-perfect road playoff game as the San Diego Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, Sunday at an appropriately dreary Paul Brown Stadium.

Dalton threw a pair of second-half interceptions and forced his own fumble on a scramble as the Bengals fell to 0-5 in the postseason under head coach Marvin Lewis. Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in all three seasons in the NFL but has lost in the first round each time.

Rivers finished 12-of-16 for 128 yards and a touchdown for the No. 6 seed Chargers, who advance to play the No. 1 seed Broncos next Sunday in Denver. The Chargers beat the Broncos, 27-20, in Denver on Dec. 12. The Chargers trio of Ronnie Brown, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combined for 196 yards rushing on 40, a 4.9 yard-per-rush average.

The Chargers dominated the opening quarter, grabbing a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard TD run up the middle by former Patriots back Danny Woodhead. The Chargers ran the ball 12 times for 57 yards, averaging 4.8 yards a carry and possessing the ball for over 10 minutes of the opening quarter.

The Bengals responded with a strong second quarter, holding the ball for 10 minutes, 34 seconds, tying the game on an Andy Dalton TD pass to Jermaine Gresham just as Dalton was hit by linebacker Melvin Ingram.

The Bengals appeared to be going in for the go-ahead touchdown when Dalton connected to Giovanni Bernard at the Chargers 10. But he was stripped from behind by Donald Butler and the ball was recovered in the end zone.

After the Bengals defense forced a punt deep in San Diego territory, the Bengals marched to the Chargers 28, thanks to a 13-yard pass to Gresham, who was pushed out of bounds with 11 seconds left. But the side judge ruled Gresham was tackled in bounds and the clock ran down to two seconds.

Both the Gresham catch and Bernard fumble resulted in long reviews by referee Jeff Triplette, the same referee who allowed a controversial TD run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Colts in early December.

Mike Nugent connected from 46 yards to give the Bengals a 10-7 lead at the half.

San Diego took their opening possession of the second half and marched 80 yards in 10 plays, taking the lead for good, 14-10, on a Rivers 4-yard TD pass to Ladarius Green.Dalton turned in an awful third quarter performance, capped off by a fumble on a head-first scramble that gave the Chargers the ball at the Cincinnati 46. The Chargers capitalized on a 25-yard field goal from Nick Novak, making it 17-10.

After another Dalton interception led to another Novak field goal, Ronnie Brown put the game away with a 58-yard TD run with just over two minutes left to send San Diego to Denver and Indianapolis to Foxboro next Saturday.

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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 hold on to No. 2 seed while pushing Ravens to brink 12.22.13 at 9:37 pm ET
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The Patriots not only wrapped up the Ravens but took a big step toward a first-round bye. (AP)

The Patriots not only wrapped up the Ravens but took a big step toward a first-round bye. (AP)

BALTIMORE — The Patriots’ 41-7 blow out of the Ravens wasn’t just window dressing on their fifth straight AFC East title that was clinched before the game even began.

With the win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Patriots held on to the crucial No. 2 seed in the AFC, which they can clinch next week with a win over the Bills at Gillette Stadium or a Cincinnati loss at home to the Ravens.

The Bengals routed the Vikings at home, 42-14, Sunday to improve to 10-5. Cincinnati clinched the AFC North when the Patriots completed their romp over the Ravens. The Bengals hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots by virtue of a 13-6 win at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 6. The 11-4 Patriots hold a one-game lead heading into the final week.

The top two seeds have a first-round bye in both conferences. Why is a first-round by so important? All five trips to the Super Bowl under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have occurred when the Patriots had a bye. The closest they have come to advancing to the Super Bowl without a bye was in 2006 when they won at home in the wild card round against the Jets and beat the Chargers on the road before losing to the Colts in the AFC championship.

The only time the Patriots have ever won three games to advance to the Super Bowl came in 1986 when they won in New York, Los Angeles and Miami before losing Super Bowl XX to the Bears.

The Patriots are 11-4 and control their destiny heading into the final week. The Patriots also have an outside chance at the No. 1 overall seed if they win and the 12-3 Broncos slip up and lose to the Raiders in Oakland. In that case, the Patriots would be the No. 1 and the Broncos would finish as the No. 2 seed.

If the Patriots lose to Buffalo and the Bengals beat the Ravens, the Patriots would finish as the No. 3 or 4 seed and be forced to play a home game in the wild card round Jan. 4-5 then heading out on the road. If that scenario unfolds, the Broncos and Bengals would receive the top two seeds and, with them, the two first-round byes. The Patriots would lose a tiebreaker with the Colts. The Patriots would finish as the No. 4 if they lose and the Colts win their season finale at home against Jacksonville.

The loss was a crushing one for the Ravens, who fall to 8-7 and saw their four-game win streak come to an end. The Ravens still can qualify for the playoffs, but their fate is no longer in their own hands. They must beat Cincinnati and hope that either Miami loses at home to the Jets, or the Chiefs beat the Chargers, or the Dolphins, Steelers and Chargers all lose.

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Setting the scene: Brutally cold winds in store for Patriots-Broncos at Gillette 11.24.13 at 5:45 pm ET
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Devin McCourty on the cover of Sunday's GAMEDAY program in military salute. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Devin McCourty on the cover of Sunday’s GAMEDAY program in military salute. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — The 14th edition of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady may very well come down to which quarterback can handle the brutal and hostile conditions throughout the night at Gillette Stadium.

The temperature at kickoff is expected to be 20 degrees but with winds howling out of the north at 25 MPH, wind chills will hover around 2 degrees for most of the night. The wind will be blowing in from the open (north) end of the stadium and could factor heavily into not only the passing game but the kicking game as well.

The game figures to be one of the coldest in the history of Gillette Stadium and could make many think back to the AFC divisional game with Tennessee on Jan. 10, 2004 when the Patriots had to hold on for dear life for a 17-14 win over Steve McNair and the Titans. That night, the game – also played in primetime for TV – was held in Arctic conditions.

The temperature at kickoff was 4 degrees with a wind of 15 MPH creating a wind chill of minus-14. That game still remains the coldest home game in Patriots history.

Tonight’s game is on NBC television and NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth will surely bring up the coldest game of his career. On Jan. 10, 1982, Collinsworth’s Bengals beat Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers, 27-7, in a legendary AFC championship game know as the “Freezer Bowl.” That game was actually played in the sunlight of Riverfront Stadium but the sun did little to provide comfort. The temperature that day in Cincinnati was minus-9 at kickoff with winds swirling outside, making it feel like 59 degrees below. It remains the coldest game ever played.

The “Ice Bowl” between the Packers and Cowboys was actually colder in terms of real temperature (-13) but the wind chill was officially only 48 below. Peyton Manning has not had much success playing in the cold. He is 2-5 in his last seven games played under 30 degrees, including the playoffs. But his numbers show he’s not as terrible as the record suggests.

In Manning’s last eight games under 40 degrees, he is on a streak of seven straight games where he completed at least 70 percent of his passes. He has completed 177 of 243 passes (72.8%) for 2129 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a 105.5 QB rating. He is 4-4 in those eight games and his offenses have averaged 26.5 points per game.

The winds were so strong that they forced the Patriots to cancel a pre-game ceremony in which they unveiled an American flag that covers the entire field.

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Danny Amendola: ‘It was good to get back out there’ 10.06.13 at 10:19 pm ET
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Danny Amendola. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Danny Amendola. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

CINCINNATI — It was not the return Danny Amendola envisioned but the fact the wide receiver was able to get through his first complete game with the Patriots in rainy weather on a slippery track is a good sign. He may not be at full strength but Sunday was an indication that he is certainly on his way.

Amendola didn’t start the game but he did enter on third down of the game’s first drive. He wasn’t targeted until the second quarter but wound up finishing with four catches on nine targets for 55 yards. All of this after missing the last three games with a groin injury.

“It was good to get back out there,” Amendola said. “We didn’t get the job done today, just have to get better.”

Trailing 13-3, the Patriots appeared to have scored a touchdown that would have drawn them within three points and extended Tom Brady’s touchdown streak to 53 games.

Amendola caught a pass from Brady at the Bengals 1 and tried rolling over backwards into the end zone. But Amendola was ruled to have been touched down at the Cincinnati 1 after a touch by Bengals safety Chris Crocker. The Patriots stalled over the course of the next three plays and had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski 19-yard field goal.

“I caught it. I knew I was close,” Amendola said. “I tried to roll in. I thought I was going to be in but it didn’t roll that way.”

Then, Patriots had two chances in the final three minutes to get the game-tying touchdown. After Gio Bernard fumbled, the Patriots went three-and-out, including an Amendola drop on second down.

“It was just a play I need to make, a big play on the drive, a big play in the fourth quarter. Regardless, I’ve got to get that. Just get it next time.

“They did everything we expected them to do, really. It really came down to making plays. We just need to get better, look at film get better for next week.”

Amendola said he can’t wait to get back on the field with Brady next week at home against New Orleans.

“It’s the second game I’ve played with him,” Amendola said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him next week.”

The rain in Cincinnati provided a good test for Amendola before the game when he sprinted out onto the field just after 11 a.m. after being cleared to play.

“It was just something that was day-to-day all week and just felt good enough to play. I felt good to get back out there. It felt like I could run like I wanted to and move around. Just obviously didn’t end up like we wanted to but have to get back to work.”

Then, late in the fourth quarter, torrential rains returned and Amendola felt confident that his groin would not be compromised.

“It was raining but that’s something we practice,” Amendola said. “We anticipate playing in the rain. We just need to get better. It’s not something I wanted to think about during the game. I was full-go. Weather was weather. You can’t control that. I feel good right now. I felt like I could play better.”

Amendola was not alone in that regard Sunday.

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Logan Mankins: ‘I think we really let [the defense] down’ at 7:08 pm ET
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Sunday was a rainy mess for Logan Mankins (70) and the Patriots. (AP)

Sunday was a rainy mess for Logan Mankins (70) and the Patriots. (AP)

CINCINNATI — No one would blame perennial Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins if he had bad flashbacks to the Super Bowls against the Giants on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals, led by Pro Bowl nose tackle Geno Atkins, disrupted and dismantled the Patriots offensive line all day, resulting in four sacks, five tackles for losses, eight hits on Tom Brady and seemingly countless other hurries. Atkins just signed a five-year, $55 million extension before the season began. On Sunday, the Patriots got a good dose of why Bengals owner Mike Brown invested the money.

“They’ve got a good front,” Mankins said. “Geno Atkins, he’s the real deal, that’s why he’s getting paid a ton. He’s an all-pro guy. You have to do your best against him. They’ve got some good ends. They complement each other well.”

The Patriots defense kept the Bengals out of the end zone with the exception of one 93-yard scoring drive but the offense could never get into gear, something that Mankins said he felt bad about after Cincinnati’s 13-6 win.

“We practice together all week,” Mankins said. “Offensively, it comes down to making plays, the line blocking, backs running, receivers catching, quarterback making good throws and making the right reads. We’re just not getting enough of that right now.

“Today the defense played great, as they have all year. I think we really let them down.”

On the first two drives, the Patriots called play-action passes and both times the Bengals defensive line snuffed it out and sacked Brady.

“I think the first half we ran the ball pretty good,” Mankins said. “The second half, we didn’t really run it very many times. We just threw the ball pretty much. Maybe we just got into the [pass blocking] groove a little bit better there. Some of those pressures in the first half were play-action passes that I think their defense did a good job of scouting those. They played them perfect where we didn’t have a chance to block them in that scheme. They’re getting paid, too. You have to chalk it up to them sometimes.”

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Geno Atkins, Logan Mankins, New England Patriots Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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