Patriots

Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41

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Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

Patriots coach Bill Belichick would have liked to have spent Sunday preparing for a trip to Dallas to coach in next week's Super Bowl.

Instead, he spent the day patrolling the AFC sideline during a typically light-hitting, but particularly uninspired, Pro Bowl game in Hawaii.

His AFC squad turned the ball over six times and fell to the NFC, 55-41.

The Belichick-led side -- which fell behind 42-0 in the second quarter -- was short on highlights, but the seven Patriots players involved provided a few relative bright spots:

Cornerback Devin McCourty capped off his accomplished rookie season by mostly holding his own against a slew of the NFL's best receivers. He covered Atlanta's Roddy White, Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Dallas' Miles Austin in the game. He also recorded his first-ever Pro Bowl interception.

On the first play of the second quarter, Atlanta's Matt Ryan tested McCourty and tried to hit Austin deep downfield. McCourty, in single coverage, out-jumped the Cowboys receiver and came down with the AFC's only interception of the game.

McCourty was burned for a touchdown by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, but he also recorded four tackles and defended two passes.

Wes Welker couldn't reel in any of the bombs thrown his way in the second half as the AFC attempted a comeback, but he tied for the team lead in receptions with 5 for 34 yards.

Welker had one of the AFC's lowlights of the game when in the second quarter, he was stripped by Washington's DeAngelo Hall at the AFC 34-yard line. Hall scooped up the fumble and scored to put the AFC down, 27-0.

In Jerod Mayo's first Pro Bowl game, the All-Pro linebacker finished with seven tackles, which was the second-most on the team.

Safety Brandon Meriweather chipped in with three tackles.

The game was devoid of hard-nosed play in the trenches, meaning it was a fairly uneventful day for Patriots offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork's day was spent mostly leaning lackadaisically into NFC offensive linemen and raising an arm to try to block passes thrown over his head.

Interestingly, Mankins and Light finished the game with as many tackles as Wilfork; each player had one.

Light tackled London Fletcher after the Redskins' linebacker intercepted San Diego's Philip Rivers in the first quarter. Mankins got his name in the box score by tackling Hall, the game's MVP, after he intercepted Rivers on the AFC's next possession.

Rivers started in place of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was voted in as the AFC's starter. Brady elected not to make the trip to Hawaii, opting instead to have foot surgery Jan. 20 to repair a chronic stress fracture.

Kansas City's Matt Cassel was named to the AFC team in Brady's place. He went 5-12 for 95 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: