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Patriots reportedly in talks with Adrian Clayborn

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Patriots reportedly in talks with Adrian Clayborn

According to ESPN's Vaughn McClure, the Patriots are among the teams interested in signing free agent defensive end Adrian Clayborn. 

The 20th pick of the 2011 draft, the now 29-year-old played four seasons for the Bucs before spending the last three seasons with the Falcons. His 9.5 sacks were a career high; prior to that he had not yet repeated his mark of 7.5 from his rookie year. 

Clayborn has seen two of his seven NFL seasons significantly shortened by injury; he was limited to just three games in 2012 by a knee injury and played in only one game in 2014.

Falcons owner not happy with Patriots' Super Bowl rings

Falcons owner not happy with Patriots' Super Bowl rings

The Patriots Super Bowl 51 rings contained 283 diamonds. 28 and 3, get it?

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Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, whose team famously surrendered that 28-3 lead, gets it and isn't happy about it.

He told the New York Times that he expressed his displeasure about the ring design to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

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“I said to Robert, ‘You didn’t have to do the 28-3 in the ring,’” Blank said to the Times' Mark Leibovich. “It kind of pissed me off.”

Pro tip: Probably not a good idea to be dancing in the owner's box (see below) when you have that big lead if you don't want those 283 diamonds coming back to bite you. 

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'You've got to play a damn near perfect game against them'

'You've got to play a damn near perfect game against them'

Opponents tend to freak out against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick just when they're about to conquer the New England Patriots' dynastic duo. 

The pair have built such a reputation of coming through in the clutch that foes often outthink themselves with conservative, uncommon or unconventional calls against the five-time champs.

Think Seattle in Super Bowl 49 and Atlanta in Super Bowl 51.

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The Patriots have built an extreme confidence through five Super Bowl-winning seasons under Brady and Belichick and are disciplined when other teams get discombobulated, like last month when they sniffed out Ben Roethlisberger's fake spike and intercepted him in the end zone, reshaping the AFC playoff picture.

"You're basically talking about experience and knowing that no matter what the score is, it's not insurmountable," said ex-NFL quarterback Joe Theismann.

He pointed to Brady's habit of making a few plays every game that swing momentum and Belichick's knack for coaxing his counterparts into beating themselves - like the Indianapolis Colts did with their fake punt fiasco in 2015.

"The New England Patriots find a way to make a play when no one else seems to be able to do that," Theismann said. "Teams that haven't been in that situation don't really understand the ability of New England teams to be able to overcome darn near anything."

Like the 25-point second-half deficit Brady rallied the Patriots from in last year's Super Bowl or the 10-point fourth-quarter hole he dug them out of against Jacksonville in the AFC championship last week.

"You've got to play a damn near perfect game against them," lamented Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson.

Therein lies the trap.

The Jaguars were on the verge of knocking off New England when a flurry of follies in Foxboro aided Brady's two-TD rally that sent the seemingly impervious Patriots back to another Super Bowl.

"You can never have a safe lead with (No.) 12 at the helm," Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. " . . . That's Tom Brady, the greatest to ever lace up the cleats at the quarterback position."

And Belichick, arguably the best to ever roam the sideline.

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The Patriots may need no assistance but that hasn't stopped teams from helping them out like Jacksonville did last week with a delay penalty coming out of a timeout and a rushed punt that essentially gave Brady an extra timeout before halftime.

"I think why the Patriots are so good is because they capitalize off people making those mistakes," said Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson. "They don't make mistakes, hardly. They're well-coached. You don't necessarily have to be the most talented team. You saw last year they weren't the most talented team. Yet, they're the best team because they function together well and they're coached well."

New England safety Duron Harmon said the Patriots never panic like so many other teams because they rehearse adversity so well and so often in practice.

"We go over every type of situation that you can think of," Harmon said.

Theismann said Belichick is simply the best at teaching "if somebody's going to beat us, they're going to have to beat us; we're not going to beat ourselves."

"What New England does is New England preaches discipline and understanding your job," Theismann said, singling out lieutenants Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia in addition to Belichick, who, along with his personnel assistants, identifies coachable players who fit in.

"Think about it: You never see Bill Belichick run up the sideline and call a timeout because the time clock's running out," Theismann said. "You don't see Bill's players making those kids of errors. I mean, I was very fortunate to play for Joe Gibbs and Joe was the same type of game manager, where he was aware and he made me aware of all the possible circumstances and situations that you deal with.

"For example, when you're coming out of your own end zone, if you're backed up inside your own 3-yard line, it's a great time to run a hard count because you're only going to get a yard-and a-half penalty. Instead of first-and-10, it's going to be first-and-11. But you do have the possibility (of drawing the defense offsides and) making it first-and-5."

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Which is exactly what the Pats did to clinch Super Bowl 49. They were pinned at the 1-yard line after Malcolm Butler's interception and had to get out of the shadown of their own goal posts. Brady drew Seattle's Michael Bennett offside with a hard count, moving the ball out to the 6 and allowing the Pats to take two knees on the final snaps, ending the game.

"There is a game within the game that the Patriots play better than anybody," said Theismann.

They have a fistful of rings as a result.

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