Patriots

Gronkowski on Bengals chippiness: 'They're always baiting everyone'

Gronkowski on Bengals chippiness: 'They're always baiting everyone'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots let Cincinnati, and their emotions, get to them toward the end of their 35-17 win on Sunday. 

PATRIOTS 35, BENGALS 17: Perry's first impressions | Curran's Best and Worst | Game notes

Both Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount were tagged with flags for extra-curricular activity in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski's came after his final catch of the day, giving him a career-high 162 yards. Blount's came after he scored the final touchdown of the game and was celebrating with teammates when he found himself tangled with Bengals. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he didn't have a good look at Gronkowski's penalty since it occurred near the visitor's sideline, but his attitude toward those flags coming out late was predictable: "Bottom line, we need fewer of those."

Gronkowski seemed to take issue with a hit he took from Cincinnati corner Adam Jones over the middle when Jones dove at the big tight end's ankles. Words were exchanged back and forth, and the conversation continued moments later after Gronkowski's next catch. Or at least it appeared to continue. 

After the game, Gronkowski said he wasn't doing much in the way of talking. 

"There was really nothing really said," he said. "I was just bobbing my head, I think, and they gave me a personal foul."

Another similar penalty, by rule, would have forced officials to eject him from the game. Gronkowski made his way to the Patriots sidelines after the play, spoke to Belichick and then to tight ends coach Brian Daboll. They didn't appear to have much in the way of sympathy for the All-Pro, but Gronkowski came back onto the field soon thereafter, receiving a huge ovation from the Gillette Stadium crowd. 

Gronkowski indicated that he should have been aware that the Bengals may try to coax him into a bad decision. Their recent history -- most notably last season's Wild Card Round game with the Steelers -- suggests that they may try to bait opponents into playing a certain style.

"They do that every game," Gronkowski said. "They’re always baiting everyone to do that. That’s the style they play . . . I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty. Got to watch out for that."

Fellow tight end Martellus Bennett said after the game that Gronkowski was not pleased with a hit that Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict dished out away from the football in the fourth quarter. On a completion to receiver Danny Amendola, Burfict rolled into Bennett's legs. Bennett thought Gronkowski's emotional reaction may have been sparked by that questionable play. 

"We were just playing football, man," Bennett said. "It gets like that sometimes. We've got guys who don't back down from anyone and play hard throughout the whole game. That's just the way it is. We don't back down. We're not looking for trouble, but we don't walk away from trouble, either."

Blount, like Gronkowski, said he wasn't surprised by what the Patriots saw from the Bengals in the way of after-the-play decorum. 

"We know that they're an intense team," Blount said. "They're emotional. They're passionate. They love the game. Tempers flare whenever things aren't going their way. We just gotta continue to play ball, and we just gotta continue to stick to our game plan and try to win games."

Blount added: "You play football, it's a lot of guys, testosterone, egos, you know. You're losing the game. You're winning the game. You're celebrating. Everybody sees that you're having fun. Ultimately, when you have guys that are losing games, it's not easy to take. That goes for anybody. We just gotta keep our composure and continue to play football."

Here's where to watch or stream New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs, AFC Championship Game

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Here's where to watch or stream New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs, AFC Championship Game

The New England Patriots play the Chiefs in Kansas City for the AFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl 53 at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday, January 20. Here's NBC Sports Boston's coverage throughout the day, along with a list of where else you can catch the game. . . 

  • 4 p.m.: Opening Drive
    • with Jade McCarthy and Albert Breer in Burlington, and Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry in Kansas City
    • TV: NBC Sports Boston. STREAMING: NBCSportsBoston.com
       
  • 5 p.m.: McDonald's Pregame Live
    • with Michael Holley, Troy Brown, Jerod Mayo and Rob Ninkovich at Toby Keith's in Patriot Place at Foxboro, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry in Kansas City, and DJ Bean in Burlington
    • TV: NBC Sports Boston. STREAMING: NBCSportsBoston.com
       
  • 6:40 p.m.: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
    • TV: CBS. STREAMING: Game PassRADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
    • Live Stream: "Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial"
       
  • Halftime Live
    • with Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Ron Ninkovich at Toby Keith's in Patriots Place at Foxboro
    • TV: NBC Sports Boston. STREAMING: NBCSportsBoston.com
       
  • At game's end: Twin River Casino and Hotel Postgame Live
    • with Michael Holley, Troy Brown, Rob Ninkovich and Albert Breer at Toby Keith's in Patriots Place at Foxboro, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry in Kansas City, and DJ Bean in Burlington
    • TV: NBC Sports Boston. STREAMING: NBCSportsBoston.com

HARD TRUTHS

Tom E. Curran's Hard Truths on the game, presented by Plymouth Rock Assurance:

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This whole panel picked Patriots to beat Chiefs ... except Ray Lewis

This whole panel picked Patriots to beat Chiefs ... except Ray Lewis

Just as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, Ray Lewis will always pick against the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are road underdogs entering Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But after a demolition of the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional Round, many NFL analysts believe Tom Brady and Co. will keep rolling to their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

Lewis? He's not convinced.

Here's Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Steve Smith and Lewis making their picks for Patriots-Chiefs on Showtime's "Inside The NFL" -- with Lewis as the lone dissenter picking Kansas City to win.

What's Lewis' reasoning?

"I think there's a young lion that's sitting in Kansas City named Pat(rick) Mahomes, and he's heard this Tom Brady story too many times," Lewis said.

Simms then reminded Lewis that Mahomes doesn't play defense, but we'll give the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker credit where credit is due: Mahomes was the best quarterback in the NFL this season and will be an absolute handful for the Patriots' defense.

So, why did Lewis' coworkers all pick the Patriots to pull off the upset in Arrowhead Stadium, where they've won just one game since the stadium opened in 1972?

Simms likes the Pats because of their strong rushing attack and excellent screen pass game -- "the best in the NFL" -- which could be valuable weapons in the expected sub-freezing conditions. Smith believes New England is rallying around its "underdog" status, while Esiason has been all-in on the Pats since Week 1.

But considering Lewis once said he'd rather have Rex Ryan than Bill Belichick, we shouldn't be surprised with his selection.

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