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Patriots expect tougher time stopping Foster

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Patriots expect tougher time stopping Foster

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots found a way to turn Arian Foster from punishing runner into powerless bystander.

All they did was charge to a 28-0 lead, make the Houston Texans throw and keep the ball away from one of the most dangerous rushers in the NFL.

A month ago, the Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and routed the Texans, 42-14, as Foster gained just 46 yards on 15 carries.

Vince Wilfork, though, figures on a tougher challenge in Sunday's rematch on the same field in a divisional playoff game.

``I expect to see the best,'' the Patriots defensive tackle said Tuesday.

Something, perhaps, like Foster's brilliant performance in Saturday's 19-13 wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals - 140 yards on a season-high 32 carries, to go with eight catches for 34 yards and the game's only offensive touchdown.

That made him the first NFL player to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games.

Not bad.

``Last week, you saw why this guy is one of the top offensive players in the game, not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game,'' a rested Wilfork said after the team's bye week. ``The things that he can do with the ball in his hands, in the pass game and running it ... and he's a great blocker when they ask him to block. I mean he's a special player and we understand that.''

If he gets a chance to show it. He didn't on Dec. 10 at Gillette Stadium.

Foster rushed 12 times for 44 yards in the first half, which ended with the Patriots leading, 21-0. He had just three carries for two yards after that - and none after he scored on a 1-yard run with 6:12 left in the third quarter - as the Texans tried to preserve time by throwing the ball.

But New England (12-4) knew they would have to focus on that.

``Any time that you can get a team one-dimensional, that's a big plus. Every team tries to do that,'' Wilfork said. ``It just bottles up a bunch of things ... knowing when you can expect the pass, you can expect this and you can expect that.

``But when a team is on track and when they are running the ball good, and throwing the ball good, and the play action is good, and the special teams are good, it's tough.''

The Texans (13-4) can be dangerous when they go to play-action, as well, faking a handoff and then throwing. The Patriots know they can't fall for it and leave a receiver open while going after a runner who doesn't have the ball.

They must be disciplined.

``Just fundamentals. Just read your keys and just pay attention,'' linebacker Brandon Spikes said. ``Everybody has a job and my job is to pay attention to the run.''

That means focus on Foster.

He was sixth in the NFL with 1,424 yards rushing and eighth in yards from scrimmage with 1,641. He also was the leading scorer among non-kickers with 102 points - posting 15 rushing touchdowns as well as two on receptions.

``That was really a great example this past weekend of how they like to play football down there - be physical, be aggressive, run the ball, control the clock and really just do a good job of just handling the game,'' Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. ``The run game going the way they have it going, obviously it sets up the play-action pass game.''

For Wilfork, a key is recognizing when Houston's offensive linemen use cut blocks.

``That running back sees it and he hits it right off that cut block. So, up front it's going to be very important for us to try to stay on our feet,'' he said. ``Any team that runs the ball the way they run the ball and has the play-action and the bootlegs and all the stuff that comes after that, it's a big challenge for us.

``But we've faced it.''

The Patriots, the NFL's highest scoring team, will need their usual productive offensive game to offset that and force the Texans to throw.

They've already done it once, right?

``They didn't play their best game. They know that and we know that,'' Wilfork said. ``It starts with their running game. It starts with Foster. The more touches that he gets, in the passing game or on the ground, the better that team is.''

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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

The Howard University football program has moved a step closer to landing perhaps its highest-ranked recruit in years, if not ever.

Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman trimmed his college choice to seven on Wednesday evening, and the Howard Bison were on the list. The other six schools were Southern California (USC), LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Georgia.

In Foreman's tweet, he explained why Howard, a historically Black college (HBCU), was included in his list.

"I am a young black man that is happy and proud of my race," he wrote. "The Black Lives Matter movement is and forever will be powerful and definitely never forgotten. These are the schools I will now be focusing on the most. Set the standard and .. be different."

The news comes just a week after the Howard basketball program landed five-star Makur Maker, who chose the Bison over Division I schools UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. Maker was the highest-ranked recruit Howard basketball has landed in its history. Mikey Williams, a top-five basketball recruit in the 2023 class, has already hinted about potentially playing at an HBCU as well.

Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, is projected to commit to USC, according to 247Sports. Foreman is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect on 247Sports recruiting rankings for the 2021 class.

However, if the last few weeks are any indication, Howard can't be ruled out.

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