Patriots

Patriots hold their breath, but Brady emerges none the worse for wear after another rushing TD

Patriots hold their breath, but Brady emerges none the worse for wear after another rushing TD

FOXBORO -- The reactions varied from player to player inside the Patriots locker room.

Some were thrilled to see Tom Brady put his legs to use to score a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown in the Pats' 43-40 victory on third down from four yards away, lunging head-first for the goal line when he got close. Others were concerned the way they might be concerned for a relatively fragile family member who got a little aggressive on the Slip-And-Slide on the Fourth of July. 

"I was pretty excited," Chris Hogan said. "I was just hoping that he didn't get hurt."

He didn't, though for the second time in as many weeks Brady paid the price for trying to break the plane of the end zone with the nose of the football. 

The 41-year-old took a shot from the Colts as he jumped and stretched across the line for six in Week 5.

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On Sunday night, with 5:25 left, he looked and looked and looked for a receiver but couldn't find one with the Chiefs dropping eight into coverage. 

"I don't know what happened," Brady said after. "They doubled three guys on the play. I'm just glad . . . Gotta watch it tomorrow, but I got close to the goal line and I just tried to get it in. We needed it."

The play made the score 37-33 and helped Brady -- who made some critical throws to win the game late -- atone for an egregious strip-sack that was recovered by the Chiefs deep in Patriots territory at the end of the third. 

But Brady's scramble-drill score almost never happened. He was in the grasp of outside linebacker Breeland Speaks, who couldn't wrap himself around Brady's legs firmly enough to bring the quarterback down. According to NFL Media's Mike Giardi, Speaks later blamed his inability to finish on his concern for picking up a roughing-the-passer penalty. 

For the offensive line surrounding Brady, it was a stressful play, and not just because Brady left his feet and was hit by two defenders at the end. In a scramble situation like that, with the Chiefs in a prevent coverage (or "P-coverage) and only rushing three, there's only so much Brady's blockers could do.

"I was kind of stuck in no-man's land," David Andrews said. "Think it was P-coverage. They only rushed three. I was going right with the protection. Tried to swing back when I saw there was only one guy coming right. I got to where the d-tackle went inside and Joe [Thuney] flushed him. I turn around and [Brady's] standing there. 

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"You don't know if you can go block downfield because he might flip it. You're just kind of watching. Unfortunately. I'm sure there's something I could've done better, but in the moment you're just kind of stuck there. You feel paralyzed almost because you don't want to get in his way, but you don't want to go downfield. Especially in that situation where we're so close to the goal line."

When Brady landed in the end zone, the Patriots had the lead again, and there were no apparent injuries to lament.

"Any time that happens [you worry], but he's tough," Andrews said. "And I guess he's pliable."

"Still got it," Matthew Slater said. "Forty-one, scampering around the gridiron. Looking nimble, agile. It's always fun when he uses the legs . . . and he comes up healthy. That's a plus."

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What friction? Bill Belichick lauds "very supportive" Robert Kraft

What friction? Bill Belichick lauds "very supportive" Robert Kraft

If you ask Bill Belichick in public, he'll tell you Robert Kraft gives him all the support he could ask for.

The New England Patriots head coach offered high praise (by his standards, anyway) for Kraft during a press conference Friday.

"We have a good set-up here," Belichick said. "He has been very supportive. Gives us a great opportunity to go out and compete every week. We’ve done that. Hope we can continue it for a long time."

The pretext to Belichick's answer: Monday will mark the 25th anniversary of Kraft's purchase of the Patriots on Jan. 21, 1994.

His return on investment has been incredible, as New England has compiled a 310-135 overall record under his ownership. Kraft has found even crazier success working with Belichick, bringing five Super Bowl titles to Foxboro along with eight Super Bowl appearances and 16 AFC East division titles since 2000.

If you believe the reports, though, their relationship hasn't always been smooth. The two reportedly weren't on the same page when New England traded Tom Brady's heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, during the 2017 season, and Kraft even acknowledged "tension" in the organization later that year.

But if any friction still lingers, Belichick certainly isn't admitting it three days before the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. And regardless of what happens Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the 66-year-old head coach seems intent on keeping the dynasty rolling for the considerable future.

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Chiefs vs. Patriots injuries: Eric Berry reportedly expected to play

Chiefs vs. Patriots injuries: Eric Berry reportedly expected to play

Both the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots will be at the full extent of their powers Sunday.

Chiefs safety Eric Berry is expected to play in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday.

The veteran safety missed Week 17 and last weekend's AFC Divisional Round win over the Indianapolis Colts due to a calf injury and has played in just two games this season. But Kansas City's decision to release safety Ron Parker earlier this week suggested Berry would be ready to go Sunday.

If the five-time Pro Bowler can shake off the rust, he could play a role in slowing down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Berry was responsible for covering Gronkowski during the teams' 2017 matchup and held the All-Pro tight end to just two catches on 33 yards in the Chiefs' 42-27 win.

Berry was a full participant in Kansas City's practice Thursday, as linebacker Dorian O'Daniel was the only player missing. New England had perfect attendance at its practice Thursday, meaning both squads look remarkably healthy entering Sunday's game.

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