Chung's ability to limit Ertz key to Patriots Super Bowl chances

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Chung's ability to limit Ertz key to Patriots Super Bowl chances

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Patrick Chung's tweet was a mere 50 characters long, but it spoke volumes. 

The Patriots safety had just helped his team beat the Jaguars in the AFC title game the day before. He made seven total tackles and was used heavily in the box, sometimes aligned as a linebacker, to lend a hand in stopping Jacksonville's bruising running game. Chung was also busy running with tight ends, and he had a pair of second-half pressures that were key in swinging momentum in favor of the Patriots. 

The following day, he felt the residual effects of his big day. 

Hope Rappoli is a masseuse who has worked with multiple Patriots, including Chung and fellow safety Devin McCourty. She tends to muscles, tendons and ligaments "through kneading, myofacial stretching, cross fiber friction and trigger point release," according to her website. 

After two weeks off since the Jaguars game, Chung should be fresh enough to give the Patriots one more all-out effort. Bill Belichick is among those who've become accustomed to seeing on Chung to lay his body on the line week after week. 

"Pat's really a tough kid," Belichick said. "There's really never any question about that. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Pat and his physical and mental toughness. Things he's been asked to do over the last few years, we've asked a lot of him, and he's always delivered for us.

"He plays a lot of plays. He plays a lot of plays on the kicking game, a lot of plays on defense, and they're hard plays too. He doesn't get many plays off. He's got a big responsibility on almost every play. We count on him pretty heavily, and he's just done a tremendous job for us."

Against the Eagles, Chung will have a critical role once again. When Philadelphia opts to run, he'll be counted on to help stop running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. When the Eagles deploy a run-pass option play, Chung -- as a hybrid player who can rush, cover and play the run -- could factor into the equation the Patriots use to try to confuse quarterback Nick Foles' reads. And when it's time for Philly to make a big throw, Chung will probably be attached to Foles' No. 1 option on money downs: Zach Ertz.

Chung has been New England's primary cover man for opposing tight ends, and in Ertz, the Eagles have one of the best pass-catchers in the league at that position.

Ertz is third among tight ends, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, when it comes to first-down receptions this season (46). He's also third among NFL tight ends, behind Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, when it comes to catches inside an opponents' 20-yard line (11). He's tied for fourth among tight ends with four catches inside an opponents' 10-yard line. He's second among tight ends when it comes to first downs on third-and-seven-or-more plays (6).

Bottom line: When the Eagles need a big catch, Ertz is perhaps their most reliable receiver.

That means that Chung will have a lot of responsibility on his hands at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. And Belichick wouldn't have it any other way.

"He's an outstanding player," Belichick said of Chung. "He's got a great football instinct, whether that's in the kicking game, or defensively. He knows how to play. There's a lot of things he does, sometimes they're not the way you drew them up, but he sorts them out, figures them out, and makes a lot of good decisions."


Kyrie Irving, Tom Brady on list of ESPN's most famous athletes

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Kyrie Irving, Tom Brady on list of ESPN's most famous athletes

ESPN posted its annual list of the 100 most famous athletes Tuesday, a study that combines how often they're searched online, how much they make in endorsements and what their following is on social media. 

As such, Tom Brady, whose social media presence is rather limited, was not the most famous Boston athlete. He was one of only two players currently on Boston teams to show up on the list. Kyrie Irving ranked No. 27, while Brady came in at No. 38. 

Isaiah Thomas, now a free agent and two teams removed from his Celtics days, ranked 92nd. 

The top five, in order, consisted of Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Roger Federer. 

Report: Brady, Gronk at TB12 despite skipping OTAs

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Report: Brady, Gronk at TB12 despite skipping OTAs

We can rule out travel for the reason as to why Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have been missing OTAs. 

According to the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian, both Brady and Gronkowski were at TB12 Monday, which is located at Patriot Place right next to Gillette Stadium. 

Brady's absence from OTAs is notable, as the quarterback has not only gone to them in years past, but stressed their importance as it relates to preparing for the season. The two skipping out on OTAs does little to quell concerns about rifts between the Patriots and their star players.