Patriots

Chargers' Melvin Gordon to play vs. Patriots; Hunter Henry questionable

Chargers' Melvin Gordon to play vs. Patriots; Hunter Henry questionable

The Los Angeles Chargers should be at (nearly) full strength entering Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium.

The Chargers removed running back Melvin Gordon from their injury report Friday, meaning he's set to play in Sunday's AFC Divisional Round matchup with the New England Patriots.

Gordon sprained his knee last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens and missed practice Wednesday but returned to action Thursday. The Pro Bowl running back may not be 100 percent, but he'll at least be on the field barring some unexpected development between now and Sunday.

That Hunter Henry also could play Sunday is a surprise. The veteran tight end missed the entire 2018 regular season due to a torn ACL (as Stephen A. Smith is now aware) but was added to L.A.'s active roster earlier this week.

The Patriots are even healthier than the Chargers, as they had perfect attendance at practice Friday and appear to have benefited from their Wild Card Round bye. The only player listed as questionable is Deatrich Wise Jr., who's been limited at practice all week because of an ankle injury.

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Matthew Slater praises "vintage" performances from Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski

Matthew Slater praises "vintage" performances from Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO -- New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski have stepped up for their team in so many high-pressure postseason moments, and Sunday's AFC Championship Game win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium was yet another example.

Edelman tallied seven receptions for 96 yards, including a couple huge third-down conversions late in the fourth quarter and during the game-winning drive in overtime.

Gronkowski hauled in six receptions for 79 yards and also was dominant in the run game as a blocker. He also caught a huge third-down pass on the Patriots' last possession of regulation that set up the go-ahead touchdown by Rex Burkhead.

"I think that was vintage Jules and Gronk last night," Slater said Monday at Gillette Stadium. "Those guys have stepped up big in so many big moments for this franchise over the course of their careers. They don't flinch in those moments, and I think last night you saw them when we needed them the most, when our season was on the line, we saw those guys step up. They weren't afraid of the moment. They were looking to make plays. They've always been guys who've been willing to do whatever this team needs to win football games. Last night, we needed them to make plays, and that's what they did.

"I'm so proud of both of those guys. It's really an honor to have been teammates with Julian for 10 years now, and Rob for nine. I've learned a lot about being professional and respecting this game, and how to approach certain situations from the two of them. You have to tip your hat to them."

Edelman and Gronkowski no doubt will be focal points of the Patriots' gameplan for Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams.

Both of them have stepped up in previous Super Bowl appearances as well. Edelman caught five passes for 87 yards in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, including the most memorable catch of the game. He also tallied 109 receiving yards and the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX. Gronkowski has caught a touchdown pass in each of his last two Super Bowl appearances, including last year's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots will need similar performances from Edelman and Gronkowski on Feb. 3 to win the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy.

 

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Matthew Slater explains why he always picks heads for Patriots coin tosses

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Matthew Slater explains why he always picks heads for Patriots coin tosses

FOXBORO -- Matthew Slater doesn't know his all-time record in coin tosses before NFL games, but the New England Patriots special teams star has won the two that have mattered most in his career.

Slater picked heads before overtime of Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, and the Patriots won that toss. Pats quarterback Tom Brady proceeded to drive his team down the field for a touchdown that sealed a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Slater picked heads again before the extra period in Sunday's AFC Championship Game versus the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Once again, New England won the toss and Brady led the team to victory on the first drive of overtime.

Why does Slater always pick heads? It's not just personal preference. The reason actually comes from his father, Jackie Slater, the Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams.

“I remember as a child watching my father play in L.A., and him going out and doing the coin toss for the Rams," Slater said Monday at Gillette Stadium. "He always called heads. I asked him one time, ‘Why do you do that? What’s the story behind that?’ Anyone who knows my family knows faith is important to us. For him, he was always like, 'God is the head of my life, so I call heads.' That was something he came up with. I’ve kind of just embraced it and I’m glad it’s worked for us the last couple of times we needed it.”

Many Patriots fans expected Brady to march down the field and win the game when Slater won the toss Sunday night. The Patriots certainly had that confidence, too. 

"You always have a lot of confidence when (Tom Brady) is on your team," Slater said. "You always have a chance to win any game, no matter what the situation is. We feel pretty good about giving our offense the ball. They certainly did the job once they got it."

The Patriots are the visiting team in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, so all coin tosses will be called by Slater. If he has another call to make before an overtime, you can bet he's going with heads. And who could blame him?

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