Patriots

No Patriots kneel during national anthem prior to game vs. Panthers

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No Patriots kneel during national anthem prior to game vs. Panthers

One week after 16 players took a knee, all Patriots players stood for the national anthem prior to Sunday's game against the Panthers at Gillette Stadium.

The Panthers, who did not kneel last week, again stood on Sunday.

The national anthem remains in focus a week after the number of players kneeling went up following criticism from Donald Trump. Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills all took a knee ahead of the Dolphins' loss to the Saints in London. 

Patriots see room for improvement in run game despite success vs. Chargers

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Patriots see room for improvement in run game despite success vs. Chargers

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots dominated the Los Angeles Chargers on the ground in last Sunday's AFC Divisional Round win at Gillette Stadium.

The Pats, led by their offensive line and tight end Rob Gronkowski, opened up huge holes for running backs Sony Michel, James White and Red Burkhead. The result was a whopping 155 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries (4.6 yards per rush).

Despite the enormous success in the running game, the Patriots still see areas for improvement entering Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I think we’ve done a good job of getting the ball rolling," Patriots guard Shaq Mason said Thursday. "There’s definitely stuff we can do better, but I think overall we came together as a group and have done a good job moving the football and running the ball.”

The play of Michel was notable. The rookie running back has battled injury throughout the season, but he looked very fresh against the Chargers. The Georgia product ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Patriots take control with a 35-7 halftime lead. 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught only one pass from Tom Brady in the win over the Chargers, but he was exceptional as a blocker in the run game. Like Mason, Gronkowski likes the progress the Patriots have made running the football, and he is particularly impressed with the improvement Michel has made in his rookie campaign.

"I feel like overall we’ve done a good job," Gronkowski said. "There’s always room for improvement, always room to get better in the areas that we’ve been doing well too. It’s been great just working with the offensive line and seeing Sony (Michel) just the development he has had throughout the year since training camp. You see it every other week and just how he’s been approaching practice, coming out, trying to get better every single week and it shows. He’s been doing a great job. The offensive line’s been doing a great job and it’s just cool to be a part of it."

We should expect the Patriots to run the ball a lot against the Chiefs. Controlling the clock and keeping the Chiefs' high-scoring offense off the field as long as possible will be critical, and the KC defense gave up 5.1 yards per carry in the regular season -- the second-highest in the league. A ground-and-pound attack would be a good strategy for the Patriots as they try to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIII.

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Stephon Gilmore "not surprised" Patriots' Brian Flores is head coaching candidate

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Stephon Gilmore "not surprised" Patriots' Brian Flores is head coaching candidate

FOXBORO -- New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores was a popular head coaching candidate during the team's playoff bye week and reportedly interviewed with several teams.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, citing sources, reported last Sunday that the Miami Dolphins are "waiting for the Patriots' season to end, so they can finalize a deal with Brian Flores to become their next head coach."

Patriots players, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore, were not surprised to see Flores draw head coaching interest from teams around the league.

"He's done a great job," Gilmore said Thursday. "He can be a friend, he can be a coach and get on you. He can do everything for you. He really cares for the players. He pushes everybody every week and gets the best out of his players. I'm not surprised (Flores is drawing interest). He's a great coach. He pushes everybody to get the best out of them."

Patriots safety Patrick Chung gave Flores similar praise when asked about the 37-year-old coach Thursday.

"He's done a great job -- we're in the big games," Chung said. "He's definitely a good coach. He likes to mix things up, so it keeps guys off-balance."

Flores has perhaps his toughest challenge of the season coming up Sunday when the Patriots go on the road to play the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs were the highest-scoring team in the regular season with 35.3 points scored per game, and they put up 40 points on the Patriots defense when these teams played at Gillette Stadium back in Week 6.

Helping create a game plan that leads to the Patriots beating the Chiefs for the second time this season would be an impressive bullet point for Flores' to add to his coaching resumé. 

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