Brady gave Gilmore the shirt off his back

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Brady gave Gilmore the shirt off his back

After Stephon Gilmore helped secure the AFC Championship for the Patriots with his breakup of Blake Bortles' fourth-down pass with less than two minutes to go, his quarterback had a little something for him.

Tom Brady gave Gilmore his game-worn jersey, Gilmore revealed in a Twitter Q&A on Saturday. 

Other Gilmore revelations: Receiver Brandin Cooks is the funniest Patriot. 

The Lions' Golden Tate is the most underrated receiver in the NFL.

What part of his game does he need to work on? 

Offseason plans?

Gilmore offered no insight on Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl benching (he wasn't asked to). And those reports of a tense atmosphere in New England?

Bruins on Patriots success: 'We would love to be that'

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Bruins on Patriots success: 'We would love to be that'

BRIGHTON, Mass. - The Bruins are clearly in a much different place now with a young, up-and-coming group, but they certainly have hopes and aspirations to build something similar to what the Patriots have in place in Foxboro.

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The Pats are headed to Minnesota looking for their third Super Bowl title in four years to go along with the three Super Bowls in four years at the start of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Era. Plenty of Bruins players were on hand in Foxboro on Sunday with the day off from practice. Torey Krug even posted a picture on Instagram with Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, Paul Postma, Matt Grzelcyk, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask all ready to cheer on the Patriots in a truly entertaining AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

#letsgo

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Clearly, the Bruins semi-recently had a nice run of their own with seven consecutive seasons of playoff appearances and two Cup Final appearances between 2011-2013, but the Patriots’ current dynastic run is something that’s never been seen before in modern professional sports.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy makes no bones about being a fan of the Patriots and the way they play and said it’s something that inspires him and should inspire his team full of players as they roll through a very good season of their own.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it,” said Cassidy. “I’ve been in New England ten years, and you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots away. It’s not just one time. So they’re in people’s heads...I don’t care what anybody says.

“There are conversations, probably less about their own game and more about what the Patriots can do. On a game day, they’re probably focusing less on themselves. It’s an amazing quality that team has, the character, the culture they’ve created and the identity. We would love to be that. We’re coming at you, we’re coming at you, and it doesn’t matter what happens right to the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes, but you’ve got to be champions to do that. There are guys in this locker room that were [champions] and would love to be again, and with the younger guys hopefully, it’s something that they embrace.”

For those Bruins that have won before, the ongoing excellence of the Patriots, who've been dominant for close to two decades, becomes the truly amazing accomplishment. Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid have been through one cycle of dominance earlier in their B’s careers, but before getting on that upward trajectory again, they needed to hit a rough patch for a couple of seasons that included a housecleaning of their GM and coach.

That’s something the Patriots have never really had to do since the arrival of Belichick and Brady, and it’s something that blows away those veteran Bruins who have watched it all unfold. 

“It’s not easy. You see it in every sport that the one season you win, and then the next season you don’t even make the playoffs,” said David Krejci. “The Patriots year after year they’re always a top-four team and last season they won the Super Bowl. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks and watching the game, especially given the way they played with the injuries they had with [Julian] Edelman and Gronk getting hurt. It was fun to watch [on Sunday].”  

If nothing else it’s inspiring for the younger Bruins to simply see how focused the entire community gets supporting one of the local teams when they reach the championship level and just how bonkers the Boston area will become if the Patriots take it to the Super Bowl house for a record-tying sixth time in NFL history. 

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Who will be Patriots unsung hero Sunday?

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Who will be Patriots unsung hero Sunday?

FOXBORO -- We've hit on Tom Brady's hand. Over and over. And over again. We've also dissected just how good this Jaguars defense really is, and how Rob Gronkowski might be able to exploit it

But what about the games within the game? What about the so-called bit players who could make a significant impact in the AFC Championship Game? 

It seems to happen every year in the biggest games. No one predicted James White would put together an MVP-level performance in Super Bowl LI. No one saw Malcolm Butler coming - least of all Russell Wilson - in Super Bowl XLIX. And who would have guessed that Marquis Flowers, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise would've had key roles in helping the Patriots dominate the Divisional Round against the Titans?

Let's try to get out ahead of those storylines before the Jaguars and Patriots meet at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Here are five of our under-the-radar keys to the game: 

1) James Develin's incorporation into the game plan could seemingly pop up out of nowhere like a neck roll.
But if you've been following along this week, you know that it would be a good idea for the Patriots try to throw out of formations that employ their fullback. If Josh McDaniels figures out a way to keep Jacksonville's base defense on the field, that should give Brady all kinds of room to throw. That means getting Develin onto the field with Dion Lewis. It could also mean having Dwayne Allen (or Jacob Hollister) on the field with Rob Gronkowski. Two-back sets and two-tight end sets should have the same effect: The Jaguars will respond by leaving an extra linebacker and an extra defensive tackle on the field. (In all likelihood, run-stuffing linebacker Paul Posluszny would remain, as would defensive tackle Marcel Dareus. In sub situations, those players are more likely to come off, bringing nickel corner Aaron Colvin and pass-rusher Dante Fowler on.) That bigger stop-the-run grouping makes the Jaguars slower. When they're slower, they're less-equipped to defend the pass. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars allowed a quarterback rating of 99 and an average of 9.6 yards per attempt against offensive groupings with two backs, two tight ends, or both. Against three-receiver sets, they're much more effective, allowing a rating of 73 and an average-yards-per-attempt of just 4.9. One issue with Develin's usage could be - wait for it - Brady's hand. If it's clear Brady can't take snaps from under center, then the Patriots will either simply have to huddle up with Develin in the mix and align in some sort of spread look when they break, which they've done in the past. Or they could concede the threat of running behind Develin is non-existent if Brady can't get under center, and then you may simply see more two-tight end looks. Using tempo with this bigger personnel could also be wise. If the Patriots get defenders on the field they want to throw against, they could prevent the Jags from subbing by hurrying to the line of scrimmage. 

2) Joe Thuney's ability to handle power rushes on the interior could determine how smoothly the Patriots offense runs.
The Jaguars front is their biggest threat to Tom Brady. Jacksonville's coverage players are talented, but there should be windows to throw. If Brady doesn't have time to find the windows because of a dogged pass-rush, though, it won't matter. Thuney could be the key. Why? Calais Campbell, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, has seen 58 percent of his pass-rushing snaps come from the defensive right, according to Pro Football Focus. If that continues, he'll see his fair share of Nate Solder and -- in sub situations when he kicks inside -- Thuney on the offensive left. Along with the vastly underrated Yannick Ngakoue (12 sacks and a league-high six forced fumbles, but he's not a Pro Bowler or All-Pro), who rushes off the defensive right 77.5 percent of the time, Campbell helps form as imposing a duo as Thuney and Solder have faced all season. Campbell is the real-life response to the blue beings in James Cameron's "Avatar." He's 6-foot-8, with 36-inch arms, and if he can extend on Thuney, that's a one-on-one matchup that doesn't favor the Patriots. Thuney, who carries around a green notebook full of secrets to help him on game days, has been solid of late. He hasn't allowed a sack or a quarterback hit in his last three games, but he'll have to put together one of his cleanest performances of the season to keep Brady upright Sunday.  

3) Johnson Bademosi will have big shoes to fill in the kicking game. 
When Jonathan Jones suffered a season-ending injury against the Titans, that should thrust Bademosi - who was a healthy scratch last week -- back into the mix as a kick-coverage player and reserve corner for the Patriots. The Jaguars have a talented return man in Jaydon Mickens, and as a gunner, it could be on Bademosi's shoulders to make sure that the Patriots don't allow Mickens to make a game-changing play. With the focus on Matthew Slater, that should leave Bademosi with some one-on-one matchups to win on the outside. Why, you ask, is this important? The Jaguars are not a threat to consistently string together scoring drives offensively, so -- aside from scoring defensively, which they've been known to do -- they may need to exploit a breakdown in the kicking game in order to have a shot. "Mickens," Bill Belichick told Patriots.com this week, "as a returner, very explosive player...He's very, very explosive in the open field...They're a very explosive special teams unit."

4) For the second consecutive week, Marquis Flowers could play an important role in the defensive game plan.
His two best games with the Patriots have come against mobile quarterbacks, and Blake Bortles -- though not as athletic as Tyrod Taylor or Marcus Mariota -- would qualify. The Jaguars quarterback has recorded 123 yards rushing on 15 carries (an average of 8.2 yards per run) in two playoff games this season, and against the Bills in the Wild-Card Round, he actually ran for more yards (88) than he picked up through the air (87). Flowers has shown a knack for being able to mirror passers as he spies them from the second level, and it would come as no surprise if he was asked to do so again this weekend. The Patriots are a man coverage team. If you've watched closely, you've noticed they've played less true Cover-2 this season than they have in some others, partly because their corners are better-suited for man-to-man assignments than covering zones. By deploying Flowers (or Kyle Van Noy or someone else) as a spy, that allows Patriots defensive backs to play man-to-man on the back end. Without a spy, that would typically require more true zone in the secondary so that defensive backs could have their eyes in the backfield and spot when a quarterback takes off. If Flowers is tapped to spy again this weekend, he allows his teammates in coverage to play their game: Lock-down man-to-man.

5) Let's stick with the Patriots linebackers for this final key.
Discipline at the second level will be of vital importance against the Jaguars. Matt Patricia's unit should have little trouble stopping the run. It's a numbers game in the box, and if the Patriots commit enough resources to stoning Leonard Fournette, they should have success. Especially with the way Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Ricky Jean Francois and Trey Flowers have been playing of late. But the Jaguars are adept at using an opponent's aggressiveness against them. Whichever Patriots are at the linebacker level -- whether it's Elandon Roberts, Van Noy or Patrick Chung -- will have to be sure they read their keys and remain patient. Leaving Bortles wide-open throwing lanes is one of the few ways the Jaguars will be able to create chunk plays on Sunday, and if the Patriots are too eager to step up and fill lanes against the run, they could open themselves up to be stunned by the 23rd-rated quarterback in the NFL this season. The Jaguars passed on three of their first four plays from scrimmage against the Steelers in the Divisional Round. They picked up 53 yards on those three throws due in large part to Bortles' use of play-action. 

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