Talib to play a crucial role Sunday

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Talib to play a crucial role Sunday

FOXBORO -- There's one thing we know to be true about Sunday's AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium: The Baltimore Ravens aren't going to be afraid to take shots down the field.

That aspect of the Ravens' offensive arsenal makes the Patriots' in-season acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib that much more important.

The timing of New England's defensive improvements and the acquisition of Talib is no coincidence. His presence has improved the Patriots' secondary.

"Very positive," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday of Talib's impact on the defense. "He's a good football player. A good teammate. he's very well respected, because of his professionalism. He studies hard, he prepares well. He's tough, he competes well, both in practice and on Sundays. He's a smart kid. I like him. The team likes him. He's a good guy to be around. But he works hard and he competes well. And I think those are his most impressive qualities."

For a player's viewpoint into Talib's presence on the Patriots' defense, look no further than its longest-tenured starter, Vince Wilfork.

"He definitely made a big difference in what we do defensively," Wilfork said of Talib. "Anytime you can basically say, Hey you got this guy and we are going to cover everybody else, that's a good sign."

Linebacker Jerod Mayo knew Talib was "a football guy" well before Talib joined the Patriots. Both players were drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Mayo selected 10th overall. Talib selected 20th.

"I met Aqib through the whole draft process," said Mayo on Wednesday. "We were on several visits together. I might have met him at the combine, I don't remember. But he was a good guy, a football guy. He enjoys the game, and he's made this team better obviously. His physical abilities -- he's a tall guy, long arms, can do a lot of different things. But like I said earlier, he's a football guy. He's always in the film room, always trying to learn, give tips to guys. He's really improved this defense in the passing aspect."

That improvement will once again have to show on Sunday, because they're certainly going to be tested down the field.

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

After undergoing back surgery earlier in the day on Friday, Rob Gronkowski is back on his feet and cracking jokes.

The injured Patriots tight end posted a video of himself on his feet with the assistance of a walker captioned "Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

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In the video, Gronk takes a few steps and says, “Dance floor tomorrow night. . . here I come.”

Watch the video below [NSFW language from Gronk's dad]

Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

A video posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

BOSTON – You knew Boston’s dominance over the Sacramento Kings at the TD Garden was going to come to an end someday. 

Well that day won’t come around for at least another season as the Celtics’ forgotten man just a couple nights ago, Al Horford, came up with big plays at both ends of the floor that helped propel Boston to a 97-92 win. 

With Boston ahead 95-92 with less than 10 seconds to play, the Kings had one chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. 

They got the ball to their best player DeMarcus Cousins who tried to draw a foul against his defender, Al Horford. 

Cousins’ attempt to sell there being contact behind the 3-point line was not being bought by the officials. 

After his missed shot, Sacramento’s Garrett Temple fouled Horford with 4.8 seconds to play. 

Horford, who finished with a season-high 26 points, went to the line and made both of the free throws to seal the victory. 

The Celtics (11-8) have now won five of their last seven games overall as they hit the road where they’ve won four in a row away from the TD Garden.

Meanwhile the Kings (7-12) have now lost nine straight at the TD Garden.

Sacramento had swung the game’s momentum in their favor at the end of the third and early in the fourth, but the Celtics refused to go down without a fight. 

A shot by Horford tied the game at 76. And on the ensuing Kings possession, Horford came up with a blocked shot that ultimately led to lay-up for Jonas Jerebko to put Boston up 78-76.

Cousins suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

After a Sacramento time-out following Jerebko’s basket, the Celtics came up with another turnover – their 15thforced turnover of the night – that led to a lay-up by Kelly Olynyk.

On the ensuing Olynyk basket, Cousins took a blow to the head on the play that forced him to leave with 7:08to play. 

With no Cousins on the floor, the Celtics tightened up their perimeter defense and made a point of attacking the Sacramento interior immediately.

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, converted a three-point play at the 6:33 mark - 35 seconds after Cousins left the game.

The close finish was in stark contrast to how the game begin. 

In Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, Horford only took five shots from the field. 

After the game, head coach Brad Stevens said that should have never happened. 

Jae Crowder called it “unacceptable.”

Well it didn’t take Horford long to get five shot attempts – about five minutes actually. 

And the four-time all-star hit most of them as he helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before the Kings closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 29. 

Horford led four double figure scorers for Boston which included Thomas, Jae Crowder (16 points) and Avery Bradley (15 points).