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."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)