Patriots

N'Keal Harry MIA after lone target is intercepted: 'I could've used my body more'

N'Keal Harry MIA after lone target is intercepted: 'I could've used my body more'

Tom Brady wanted his receivers to listen up. Even the most inexperienced lip-readers could see that from the NBC cameras that caught his sideline address

N'Keal Harry didn't quite get the message. The rookie wideout told reporters after the game he wasn't positive what Brady said in that moment early in the second quarter.

"I'm not exactly sure," Harry said, "to be honest with you."

And that seems to be part of the issue. Harry was one of several receivers — rookies and otherwise — who appeared to have what often fall under the category of "miscommunication" issues with their quarterback.  

On the second Patriots drive of the game, Harry ran a slant on third and four. He got a tug from Texans corner Bradley Roby as he broke inward, then stopped his route and fell backward. Roby got underneath Harry and intercepted Brady's pass.

After an unsportsmanlike penalty by Roby (he took off his helmet before leaving the field), the Texans were set up on the Patriots 21-yard line and were in the end zone three plays later. 

Brady's interception came on Harry's 12th snap of the game. He played 22 total, according to Pro Football Focus. He did see the field on the drive after Brady's interception, and he was on the field early in the second quarter. So he wasn't necessarily benched immediately after the pick, but he hardly played. Fellow rookie wideout Jakobi Meyers, meanwhile, played 60 snaps, per PFF. 

Harry wasn't interested in getting into many of the details of the play that seemed to earn him more time on the sidelines. It was his one and only target on the game.

"I'm not exactly sure what happened with that on film," Harry said. "I got to look at it on film first."

Was it something about his route?

"Not sure," he said. "I haven't watched it on film yet. I have to watch it first."

How did it feel, Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran asked?

"Um . . . I mean, I guess I could've used my body more," Harry said. "But like I said I haven't watched it on film. I gotta see it first."

Former Patriots quarterback and NBC Sports Boston analyst Matt Cassel explained after the game that Harry's route won't be one that ends up on a Monday morning meeting highlight reel any time soon.

"Your number one job [on that route] is to come down and keep coming," Cassel said. "The moment you start to slow down and throttle for that ball or slip . . . You gotta come out of that break and come flat. 

"It looked like a stumble. It's an honest mistake. Sometimes it happens. But that right there led to . . . You didn't see him the rest of the game."

On the next drive, Brady couldn't connect with Meyers on a scramble drill play when Brady expected Meyers to go down the sideline and he didn't. That led to Brady talking to his receivers on the sidelines, telling them they needed to play faster, quicker, more aggressively. 

Brady didn't get what he wanted from Meyers. He didn't get what he wanted from Harry on the previous drive. 

Now, one week after scoring his first pro touchdown on a pretty back-shoulder play against the Cowboys, it's worth wondering where Harry goes from here. 

The Texans game was one in which the Patriots offense should've put up numbers. Houston had the worst red-zone defense in football coming in. The Texans owned the 31st-ranked third-down defense in football coming in. Harry had a gaffe and couldn't find his way back on the field consistently at a time when the Patriots desperately needed passing threats. 

Harry seemed to have a relatively positive outlook on where he needs to go from here. But it looks like he's a long way from being the passing game answer a first-round pick might be expected to be.

"I know for me, I just gotta execute better," he said. "I gotta do a lot of things better. The little things. That's what I'll be focused on moving forward."

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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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