Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated

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Dowling lands on IR; Faulk, Deaderick activated

PITTSBURGH - Batten down the cornerbacks. The Patriots are just heaving them overboard this week.

On Friday, came the surprise release of Leigh Bodden. Saturday afternoon, it's rookie Ras-I Dowling being placed on season-ending injured reserve with what the Boston Herald reports is a torn tendon in his leg.

The loss of Dowling, a second-round pick whose time at Virginia was marred by myriad injuries, leaves the Patriots with just four active cornerbacks heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers - Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams.

Molden and Adams are players the Patriots signed after they were released by the Texans and Niners, respectively.

The Dowling move puts the release of Bodden in a different light. Even though Dowling has been injured, it figured he'd be good to go in the near future. Why else would they release Bodden with so little depth? But the fact Dowling's season ended a day later makes the Bodden release a standalone move.

Whatever was said in the Friday morning meeting Bodden had with Bill Belichick, it's clear the two sides believed they were better off without each other and - given Dowling's situation - the Patriots had apparently had it with Bodden.

Bodden was never a visible disruption in the locker room and, quite often, you can sense a player who's discontented by his actions.

The Patriots have two practice-squad corners they could elevate to the roster next week. Meanwhile, Asante Samuel has been voicing his discontent in Philadelphia with his role on the Eagles. A trade for their former Pro Bowler seems a stretch from a "locker room fit" perspective. Samuel, while a very good performer, isn't what you'd call a team-first guy and he left a sour taste in Foxboro.

As for the activations, it will be interesting to see what extent the Patriots rely on Kevin Faulk as the 35-year-old returns from last season's knee injury. Brandon Deaderick will help provide some depth on the defensive line, which is needed since Myron Pryor and Mike Wright have both been IR'd.

Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

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Brady on Hogan after record-setting night: 'He's been incredible'

FOXBORO -- Someone told Chris Hogan before the AFC Championship that it would be a game he'd look back on 30 years from now and remember in perfect detail. 

That may be difficult for him given the sheer volume of plays he made in Sunday's 36-17 win over the Steelers. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets, surpassing Deion Branch for the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game. 

"It'll be something that definitely I'll remember for the rest of my career," he said, "and probably for the rest of my life . . . I'm happy for everyone in this locker room, all these guys in the locker room, the coaches. We've worked so hard to get here, and I was just happy that I was able to help this team get a win tonight."

Hogan did more than that. He was pivotal during New England's first touchdown drive of the night, catching passes on three consecutive plays for a total of 41 yards, and then reeling in an easy 16-yard touchdown when the Steelers defense lost track of him in the right half of the end zone. 

"I moved a little bit to the left because they were pressuring up the middle, and the pocket kind of collapsed," Brady said. "So I kind of slid to the left and I had good vision. They kind of bit down on Julian [Edelman] pretty hard, and then Hogs just was standing there in the back of the end zone."

Hogan's other catches were generally more contested than that one, but several were made without a Steelers defender harrassing him. And when they let him be, he made them pay. 

The flea-flicker pass that resulted in Hogan's second score of the day was a kick in the gut for the Steelers defense, putting the Patriots ahead, 17-6. Brady initially needed a reminder of how Hogan scored his second touchdown of the night, saying, "Oh, the flea-flicker. How could I forget that?"

"We ran one earlier in the year against, I think it was Baltimore, and it worked," Brady added. "I hit Hogan on that one too, on a crossing route. Those were well-executed plays. It's nice when you can take advantage of some of those plays, nice to gain some chunks that way when you kind of get some misdirection or double-pass, flea-flicker, something like that. It's a big spark for the team."

At that point Hogan already had racked up a career day. He had never scored multiple touchdowns in an NFL game coming in, and he set his own career-high for receiving in the postseason with 117 yards. In his first and only playoff game the week before, he had 95 yards on four catches. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury in that game that limited him in practice and made him questionable against the Steelers. But he played, and he gave his team an early boost, helping force the Steelers to play catch-up for the vast majority of the night.

And the injury didn't appear to slow him down all that much. Though there were times when he was slow to get to his feet after being tackled, he showed the kind of speed that allowed him to put himself near the top of the list in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-catch (18.7). Among  receivers with at least 20 catches, he trailed only Sammie Coates (20.7) of the Steelers. 

"He's been incredible," Brady said. "I mean, to lead the league in average yards per catch is spectacular. He's made big plays for us all season. He made big plays in the biggest game of the year for us."

It's one that he'll remember for a long time, but he's hoping to add to that happy memory in two weeks.

"We've grinded throughout this entire year, this is what we worked for, and this is what we wanted to get to," Hogan said. "It's a special moment for all of these guys in this locker room. We'll enjoy this and get back to work because we've got one more."