Game-changing tight ends propel Patriots

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Game-changing tight ends propel Patriots

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 261 total yards and four touchdowns in Saturday night's 45-10 playoff win over the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski was catching passes. Hernandez was doing the same, plus, rushing the football like a running back.

Needless to say, the Patriots are getting the most out of their pair of young, versatile, and athletic tight ends.

Their production is so astounding, it has Patriots veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters thinking that they've changed the offensive game in the NFL.

If you decide to take away one, that opens things up for the other," said Waters after Saturday's win. "You add the fact that we have receiving threats and some good guys at the running back position. It limits the things you can do defensively as far as trying to take one person out of the game. Thats something that we are able to take advantage of.

Ill tell you what, these two Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are changing the game," added Waters. "I think that youre going to see tight ends get drafted that would have been fourth or fifth round picks will probably be drafted higher because of what these guys are able to do. Youre going to see other teams try to match guys with their receiving tight ends by trying to match them with a guy that can do some of the things that our tight ends can do. So I think these two are changing the game.

Bill Belichick was also asked if he's ever seen a pair of tight ends this good, and had to go back in time.

"Honestly there wasnt a lot of two-tight ends in the mid-70s, there really wasnt," said Belichick after Saturday's win. "There was one tight end in the game and occasionally teams used two tight ends in short-yardage, but thats kind of where the two tight ends and one back. And then Don Coryell and San Diego and so forth, it became a little more prevalent. But when we had Charlie Sanders and David Hill at Detroit, those two guys were pretty good.

"Rob and Aaron have both done a good job for us," said Belichick. "They complement each other well, they compete well with each other, they push each other and theyve been very productive for us. They both do a great job. Were fortunate to have them."

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

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Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

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Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.