Patriots

Colts claim Chase McLaughlin, taking away good kicker option for Patriots

Colts claim Chase McLaughlin, taking away good kicker option for Patriots

The Indianapolis Colts have prevented the rival New England Patriots from adding the best available kicker.

The Colts claimed kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, the team announced. Indy now has McLaughlin and veteran Adam Vinatieri on its kicker depth chart. Teams don't need two kickers, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that an injury to Vinatieri could be the reason for the Colts claiming the rookie.

The Patriots need a kicker after waiving Kai Forbath after Sunday's Week 13 loss to the Houston Texans. McLaughlin was arguably the top kicker on the market and would have been a good pickup for the Patriots. The Colts were able to sign him first because they had a higher waiver priority based on team record. Teams with the worst records get first crack on the waiver wire, and since the Patriots have one of the best records at 10-2, they had to wait for most of the league to decide on McLaughlin.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network confirmed Wednesday the Patriots put a waiver claim in for McLaughlin.

McLaughlin most recently played in three games for the San Francisco 49ers while veteran Robbie Gould was injured, and the University of Illinois product made seven of eight field-goal attempts with the NFC West team. Before joining the 49ers, McLaughlin played four games for the Los Angeles Chargers earlier this season and converted on six of nine field-goal tries. He's connected on all 15 of his extra-point kicks between the Chargers and 49ers.

The Vinatieri angle is interesting as well. If McLaughlin proves to be more reliable than Vinatieri, would the Colts release the potential Hall of Famer? In that scenario, would the Patriots consider a reunion with the kicker that helped them win three Super Bowl championships?

Vinatieri has struggled this season, though. He's hit on just 17 of his 25 field goal attempts in 2019. The last time Vinatieri missed eight or more field goals in a single season was 2003.

The Patriots need to figure something out before the weekend or rookie punter Jake Bailey might have to kick field goals in Sunday's Week 14 showdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

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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.

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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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