Patriots

No Huddle: Patriots-49ers postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-49ers postgame sound

FOXBORO -- Well, that was a wild one.

I don't know about you, but New England's 41-34 loss (complete with 28-point comeback!) to the Niners raised some questions for me.

Among them: What, if anything, does this game say about the league's conferences in light of last week's dismantling of Houston, the AFC's top team? Was the steady rain a factor on both sides? Is Alex Smith the saddest man in America?

The post-game sound from both locker rooms provided a few answers.

Let's get to it.

Head coach Bill Belichick on San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's performance:

BB: "They won, give them credit. Im more worried about our team. Talk to Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh about his team. We just didnt do a good enough job."

Needless to say, Belichick was not happy. But someone should talk about Kaepernick.

The second-year quarterback completed 14 of 25 passes for 216 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed twice -- one scramble for 19 yards, the other run for 10 -- on the touchdown drive right before halftime. Though he fumbled four times (yes, four; we'll get to that in a second) he lost none of them.

Fumbling is part of why I was wondering about the rain.

At least two, if not all four, of Kaepernick's fumbles appeared to come on the snap. When it happened on San Francisco's first drive of the third quarter (which started at the New England 3 after the Patriots fumbled), it looked like Kaepernick was trying to pitch the ball right to running back Frank Gore. Whatever the design, the fumble got flipped enough in Gore's direction that he recovered and took the ball in for a touchdown.

Was the weather an issue? Ask the man, himself.

Kaepernick on fumbling a few snaps:

CK: "It was just a wet ball mishandling it. It was a hundred percent my fault."
Ok, then.

On whether or not putting on a glove helped:

CK: "Yes."

Good to know. One of his teammates didn't share the same view of the elements, however.

Niners tight end Vernon Davis on the wet conditions:

VD: I dont think the weather did anything to me. My own challenges were keeping up with Colin Kaepernick, because Alex Smith has always been around, I guess we got to get used to one another.

Interesting.

With the way San Francisco hung on to beat New England on the road in December (the Patriots previously held a 43-5 record in the month since 2001) all but blew up any remaining quarterback controversy for the Niners.

As a seven-year veteran of the Bay Area, Davis has dealt with Smith -- with San Fran for eight seasons -- in some capacity each year. That capacity has greatly diminished in the last six weeks.

Smith suffered a concussion against the Rams on November 11. He was medically cleared to play just 12 days later, but head coach John Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick. San Francisco has gone 4-1 behind their new starting quarterback. In light of that record, it might be easy for some to forget the transition for the 49ers offense; Davis' quote should be a reminder that it's still a work in progress.

That said.

On feeling confident with Kaepernick as quarterback:

VD: I feel very confident with Colin being Quarterback, and Im sure everyone else is as well.

Swell.

Cornerback Aqib Talib on if the Patriots made a lot of sideline adjustments:

AT: We made adjustments and we made a good job of making adjustments. We just didnt do a good job of executing. We made adjustments and we just didnt execute. We let too many balls get deep on us.

The Patriots defense has allowed the most completions of plus-20 yards, with 68. I hesitate to attempt math, but after 14 games, we're looking at 4.9 long passes surrendered per game. Sunday night's effort against San Francisco saw more of the same as Kaepernick had five big ones: 38 yards to Michael Crabtree, 34 yards to Delanie Walker, 27 more to Crabtree, 26 to Gore, and 24 and a touchdown to former Patriot Randy Moss.

Four of those were good for touchdowns.

Speak of the devil....

Moss on the game:

Cricket

I include this so you know he wasn't forgotten, he just didn't speak.

After the game Moss got dressed at his locker while reporters crowded around behind him. Properly garbed, he put on his headphones, ducked past reporters, and left Gillette Stadium with his team.

His attitude was businesslike from the start.

Moss didn't come out on his own during warmups to meet any former Patriots teammates and slap backs at the 50-yard line. He came out in a big group of 49ers and immediately fell into receiving drills. The only exchanges I saw before kickoff were handshakes with Matthew Slater and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

No; no bear hug with Tom Brady.

Now, this isn't his first time back at Gillette since trading Moss in 2010. And he might have gotten a coffee with Brady before the game for all anybody knows. But it was clear Sunday night Moss didn't want to make a big deal out of his return to Foxboro.

I think it's a show of respect to both his old team, and the new.

Niners safety Dashon Goldson on the fake punt:

DG: They showed us that side of the football field and the coach put it in my hands and made the call. I just took advantage of it. We ran it some in practice and I took a look and saw the look that I had seen in practice and took it and it worked. I was hoping they would show us that look so we could run it and they did. When we called it then it came out successful.

San Francisco ran this play in the first quarter. The score was 7-0 Niners and there was a little less than five minutes to play in the frame. Kapernick's third-and-10 attempt to Crabtree fell incomplete and the team got into its punt formation. That's when Goldson got the fourth down ball and ran for 31 yards. The Patriots were stunned.

Why bring this up?

I wrote a story Saturday about the importance of New England's scout team to its weekly preparation. You'd think I wouldn't be surprised to hear a player, regardless of who he plays for, say, 'Oh, that fake punt on fourth-and-10? We practiced it a bunch. Hoped it might come up and it did. How 'bout that!' But that's what happened.

Did San Fran know its opponent better than the Patriots? Looked like it on that play.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich on the outcome of the game:

RN: I think this is a good lesson for us. Id rather take it now than down the road. Obviously, they are a good team. You have to give them credit. You cant take anything away from what they have done on the field. They came in, they had the turnovers, they made the plays that they needed to make. So that one is on us."

Don't think him flip for seemingly finding a silver lining. To Ninkovich's point, there isn't much road left to travel. Better to lose and learn something in Week 15 than lose in the playoffs and have a whole offseason to think about where things went wrong, right?

It depends on your point of view.

Another way to think is, maybe the Patriots aren't as good (and the Texans not as bad) as we saw last Monday night. Maybe the NFC is the stronger conference, by however much. Maybe, considering how we keep seeing teams topple just as they reach some kind of pinnacle, there just isn't one truly dominant team in the NFL this year.

All of that combined is making a large part of the playoff race stretch to the very end of the regular season.

Did the Patriots lose the No. 2 seed with the loss to San Francisco? Not necessarily. If Denver doesn't win out (by losing to the Chiefs and Browns? Ehhh.) , New England still has a chance to avoid wild-card weekend.

But it sounds like Ninkovich and his teammates don't much care. The Patriots won't stress do-or-die until they get to the postseason.

His attitude in the postgame was just slightly different from receiver Wes Welker.

Welker on if there were positives to take after facing the Niners:

WW: Not really. We still lost the game

It's nice when Patriots players wrap stories up so neatly for me.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

HOT TEMPERS: The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

LONG DRIVE: After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

DEEP CONNECTION: Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

KICKING WOES: The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.