Patriots

Vintage Brady in game's final drive

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Vintage Brady in game's final drive

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady had 2:31 to drive down the field and, at the very least, get into field-goal range.

Starting from their own 20, it wasn't an impossible task. And with Brady leading the way, thinking "touchdown" instead of a game-tying field goal wasn't outrageous.

Especially since Brady was determined to make up for the interception he threw two drives earlier, which led to a 26-yard field goal and a 16-13 Dallas lead with 5:13 left to play in the fourth quarter.

"Mistakes are going to happen in football," said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after the game. "And obviously we had a few too many turnovers. But we kept fighting, and it shows our team. You can't leave any time left on the clock. Because we'll keep fighting and winning."

And that they did.

The Patriots had one last opportunity to make something happen. The only concern was, New England's offense hadn't been too pretty all afternoon. The only sense of comfort was, Tom Brady.

And with one timeout left, Brady opened the drive with big passes to Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker, advancing the ball to the 50-yard line at the two-minute warning, while still possessing their lone timeout.

After the two-minute warning, Brady found Welker and running back Danny Woodhead with several passes. he even grabbed a first down of his own with a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-2.

On 1st-and-10 from the Dallas 14, Brady found Welker over the middle for a 6-yard gain to the 8. The Patriots then used their last timeout to stop the clock with 27 seconds remaining.

"You're down three, so you know you've got to get into field-goal range," said Brady after the game. "And once you get into field-goal range, you're thinking, scoring touchdowns."

On the very next play, Brady found Hernandez in the middle of the end zone to give the Patriots a 20-16 lead after the extra point, with 22 seconds left on the clock.

For the Patriots' quarterback, it was simply a better group of guys stepping up and being on the same page when they needed to.

"It was great protection, a great catch by Aaron," said Brady. "A lot of guys made big plays on that drive, when we needed it. We really kind of squandered some opportunities throughout the game.

"Your margin for error is very, very small," added Brady. "You can't not get the ball in the end zone. So the throws need to be more accurate, the routes need to be better, the protection needs to be better, and the entire offense needs to be better. It's something we work on quite a bit.

"I'd prefer to be up four touchdowns with two minutes left, but that wasn't really the case today, so we just had to keep playing, keep battling, keep fighting, until the clock says zero-zero at the end. And we did that today."

The game-winning drive took 10 plays, and marked the 32nd time in Brady's career that he led the Patriots to a victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. He's now accomplished that feat 26 times in the regular season, and six times in the playoffs.

"Coach Bill Belichick put us through a lot of things, a lot of different situations. That was one of them," said Deion Branch. "And I think all the guys showed a lot of resilience on that drive. Everybody was stepping up and making plays when they were called upon. And, you know, Tom doing his thing."

"When you got a quarterback like Tom, anything can happen, as long as there's time on the clock," said Hernandez after the win. "And he had enough time to get it done.

"We just knew it was time to step up," added Hernandez. "And with the type of players we have, everyone knows we have to step up. And all of us stepped up.

"We just came out to play at the end. We follow Tom's lead, and Tom was out there. We know he's going to put us in the right play at the right time. And all we've got to do is the easy part. Run the route, and he'll put it there."

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

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Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long is donating his salary

PHILADELPHIA - Chris Long is donating the rest of his year's salary to increase educational equality.

The Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end already gave up his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, he's using the next 10 to launch the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign.

"My wife and I have been passionate about education being a gateway for upward mobility and equality," Long told The Associated Press. "I think we can all agree that equity in education can help affect change that we all want to see in this country."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.5 million guaranteed. His base salary in 2017 is $1 million.

The charitable initiative encourages people to make donations to improve equal education opportunities. Long began his career in St. Louis in 2008 and played for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season. Long's foundation has selected four organizations whose missions focus on making education easily accessible to underserved youth while also providing students the support they need to develop strong social and emotional character.

The four organizations are based in the three communities in which Long has played during his NFL career. The city that raises the most money during the season will receive an additional $50,000 donation.

"There's a lot of opportunities to help out and they're wonderful organizations," Long said. "We have such a great platform as football players and hopefully fans get behind it."

Long grew up in Charlottesville and starred in high school at St. Anne's-Belfield before going to the University of Virginia. He was moved to start the scholarship program following the violent protests in Charlottesville in August.

"Our hometown is a wonderful place and I feel like people got the wrong idea about what the residents of Charlottesville are all about," he said.

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Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.

"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.

"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."

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Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.

"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."

Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks. 

"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."

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