Bill Belichick pays Marcus Cannon rare praise for playing sick

Bill Belichick pays Marcus Cannon rare praise for playing sick

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick did something he rarely does on Sunday night: He extended his postgame press conference longer than it had to be.

The reason? He couldn't let the moment pass without explaining just how impressed he was by his sick right tackle. So sick was Marcus Cannon, that the Patriots held him out of warmups. They held him out of eight plays during the game. Still, he played the vast majority of his team's snaps against the Cowboys and held his own. Belichick had to say something.

"I’ll just say one final thing then in closing that one of the real top efforts today would have to go to Marcus Cannon," Belichick said after his team beat the Cowboys, 13-9. "Marcus was, three days, just feeling under-the-weather. I honestly didn’t expect him to play today. We talked before the game, and he felt like he’d be able to work through it, so we tried to help him out a little bit there at the half.

"But, I would say overall, it was one of the top efforts I’ve seen. For a guy who just barely had enough strength to put on his uniform, went out there and played against multiple good football players."

The early returns from Pro Football Focus had Cannon down for just two pressures allowed against a formidable Cowboys defensive line that included former Patriot Michael Bennett as well as Demarcus Lawrence -- both of whom worked on the offensive right side Sunday.

"I thought he played very, very competitively," Belichick said. "Played tough, and is the kind of leadership and toughness that we have on this team, so that was a great job by Marcus."

"Marcus is one of the toughest guys around," said left guard Joe Thuney. "You can just feel how much he cares for this team. He wants to give it his all. It's great because he just gives everything he has. He's been here for nine years, and he's set an example for everyone since I got here. Great teammate, and an even better guy."

Of course, Cannon wasn't about to pat himself on the back after the game. Judging by how he looked, leaning on a chair in front of his locker stall, he probably didn't have enough energy to do that anyway.

Plus, that's just not how offensive linemen operate. Certainly not Patriots offensive linemen, who take their cues from their position coach Dante Scarnecchia, an old-school football boss if there ever was one. Their corner of the locker room is a self-promotion-free zone.

When Cannon was approached by a reporter after the game, he was asked how he was feeling.

"Great," he said, congested, his eyes swollen. "We got a win."

Cannon popped up on the injury report Friday with an illness -- the nature of which, of course, he didn't want to reveal. Whatever it was, how did Cannon put it out of his mind in order to play?

"Just like any of my teammates would," he said. "They'd do it for me so I'd do it for them. Go out there. Everybody's working together. I got Shaq [Mason] next to me making sure I'm all good. Tight ends are chipping and helping. Lotta help."

And that was just on the field.

"It took a lot of people," Cannon said. "Great training staff. Training interns, picking me up, driving me. My family. My wife. All of them are sick now. My teammates. But it was a big effort. I'm just thankful for everyone that helped me. Just love them all."

Cannon said he was "blessed" to be able to play. But his teammates weren't necessarily shocked to see him out there.

"Ah," Thuney said, thinking for a moment. "Not too much."

That's . . . just . . . Cannon.

"Yeah," Thuney said. "Pretty tough guy."

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NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

NFL conference championships see ratings drop without Patriots

Love 'em or hate 'em, the New England Patriots garner the attention of the masses.

That was evident during last year's AFC Championship game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, when an average crowd of 53.9 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots win in an overtime thriller and advance to Super Bowl 53.

To put that into perspective, this year's late-window matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers drew only 42.7 million viewers, per Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily.

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Of course, much of that discrepancy has to do with Pats-Chiefs being far more competitive than Packers-Niners. Plenty of viewers likely tuned out of the latter matchup when San Francisco led Green Bay 27-0 at halftime.

Even so, it just goes to show how much more attention is paid to the NFL playoffs when Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of New England is involved. This year's AFC Championship featuring the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs marked the first without the Patriots since 2011, and it was the smallest audience (41.1 million) for an AFC title game in 11 years.

In comparison, the early game in 2019 (Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints) averaged roughly 44 million.

The Chiefs and 49ers will meet in Miami for Super Bowl 54. It'll be interesting to see how those ratings compare to last year's Patriots-Rams matchup.

Perry: Examining the state of the offensive line

George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle celebrated Super Bowl berth with hilarious Jimmy Garoppolo shirt

George Kittle had a little fun with his quarterback after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers in Sunday night's NFC Championship Game to clinch a berth in Super Bowl LIV.

The All-Pro tight end showed up to his postgame press conference with a custom t-shirt that included a shirtless photo and autograph of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Check it out in the tweet below:

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Garoppolo was asked by reporters about Kittle's shirt, and he couldn't hold back his laughter.

“I got him earlier in the week with a shirt, showed it to the media and everything, so he had to get me back a little bit," a smiling Garoppolo said, per 95.7 The Game. "I thought it was a nice shirt he had on. Maybe we’ll get them in the team store soon.”

Garoppolo is no stranger to the Super Bowl. He made two Super Bowl appearances with the New England Patriots as Tom Brady's backup, and in two weeks he'll make his first start on that stage.

The 49ers quarterback hasn't had to play at an elite level for his team to reach the Super Bowl, but that should change in Miami on Feb. 2. The AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs have an offense that looks unstoppable right now, so Garoppolo likely will need to play one of his best games as a pro to give San Francisco a strong chance to win its sixth Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

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