Patriots

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Broncos block late FG, top Chargers, 24-21

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Broncos block late FG, top Chargers, 24-21

DENVER -- The rookie head coach iced the rookie kicker.

Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo's 44-yard game-tying field goal try with a second left and the Denver Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.

"It was a little too exciting," Von Miller said after presenting Joseph with the game ball in the jubilant locker room. "But a win is a win."

Koo nailed the kick moments earlier, but Joseph had called a timeout to ice the kicker.

"I had two timeouts and I wasn't going to leave with those in my pocket," Joseph said.

Derek Wolfe had bull-rushed the first field goal and told Harris, a third-year journeyman who made the team largely because of a rash of injuries along the D-line, that he'd get a chance to slice through this time because the guard would lean his way.

Sure enough, Harris got his right hand on the ball, which frittered short of the end zone as the Chargers looked on in dismay and the Broncos dog-piled Harris.

"It's too bad because Koo drilled the first one," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And they called timeout and I think he drilled the second one, too. At least, that's what it looked like to me because it was going right down the middle. And I think if we get to OT, we would have finished it off, but we didn't get that chance."

Harris got the start only because Jared Crick and Zach Kerr were out with injuries.

"I'm going to be real with you: I have no clue what happened," Harris said of his heroics. "I felt it. I just couldn't tell you where I felt it."

Koo was also at a loss to explain what happened.

"I was just focusing on the kick," he said. "I don't know how it got blocked. It felt good off the foot. I'll just have to watch film."

The ending was reminiscent of last year's opener in Denver, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 reunion when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.

Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter in this opener and the Broncos were feeling pretty good. And why not? The Chargers were 1-155 in their history when trailing by 17 or more in the fourth quarter and Denver was 175-0-1 with a fourth-quarter lead of 17 or more.

Then came a nightmarish eight-minute stretch in which they had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.

"The game was in firm control for about three quarters there and we felt good but you turn the ball over twice on the short side of the 50, it's going to be a problem with Philip Rivers," Joseph said.

Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.

The Broncos held Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned.

Rivers threw touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin following the takeaways to make it 24-21.

Back-to-back sacks of Siemian set up a 50-yard field goal try that McManus pushed wide right, giving L.A. the ball at its 40-yard line trailing by three.

But Koo's miss loomed larger in the final seconds.

DENVER'S DOMINANCE: The Broncos led 14-7 at halftime after Siemian threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Fowler and scored on a 1-yard keeper .

Los Angeles' only touchdown drive was aided by a 40-yard pass interference call on cornerback Bradley Roby before Rivers hit running back Melvin Gordon for an 11-yard touchdown toss. Safety Justin Simmons hit Gordon at the 2, but he just somersaulted across the goal line.

Rivers stayed away from the All-Pro tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., instead targeting Roby and safeties Darian Stewart and Simmons.

Roby atoned for his crucial penalty with an interception in the third quarter on a pass intended for Allen. That led to Siemian's 6-yard TD toss to Fowler that made it 21-7.

McManus kicked a 20-yard field goal on the last play of the third quarter, capping a 78-yard drive that ate up 8 minutes, 16 seconds.

HISTORIC OPENER: The game presented landmarks on the football field , along the sidelines and in the broadcast booth .

Not since 1960 had the Chargers represented L.A., where they played their inaugural season before bolting to San Diego.

Beth Mowins became the first woman to call an NFL regular season game since NBC's Gayle Sierens in 1987 when she handled play-by-play on the doubleheader nightcap alongside Rex Ryan, who made his debut as an ESPN analyst.

With Anthony Lynn also making his head coaching debut, this marked the first time two black head coaches worked their first NFL game against each other.

MCMANUS'S MILLIONS : McManus was the last restricted free agent to sign his tender this summer, waiting until June 15 to put his signature on a one-year, $2.75 million deal after making $600,000 last season. He did it in hopes of getting a long-term deal, which he finally got Monday just hours before kickoff when he agreed to a three-year extension worth $11.25 million.

BEEFY BRONCOS : The Broncos beefed up their depleted defensive line before kickoff by promoting rookie nose tackle Tyrique "Pot Roast Jr." Jarrett to their active roster and waiving Kyle Peko.

INJURY UPDATES: Chargers backup SS Rayshawn Jenkins left in the second half with a concussion. So did Broncos starting right guard Ronald Leary, who was replaced by second-year pro Connor McGovern. Leary will be in concussion protocol during the week as the Broncos prepare to face his former team, the Dallas Cowboys. Broncos rookie CB Brandon Langley left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and Stewart left in the closing minutes with a strained left groin after collecting six tackles.

UP NEXT: The Chargers host the Miami Dolphins, whose opener was scrubbed by Hurricane Irma. The Broncos are home again to take on the Cowboys.

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

OTHER ENTRIES IN THE SERIES

HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."