Herzlich fought to make it to the Super Bowl

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Herzlich fought to make it to the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mark Herzlich would play the tape back over and over again, remembering how healthy and strong he had once been.

In his Pennsylvania Hospital room he watched video of himself making plays as a linebacker at Boston College. They were the plays that helped make him the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 -- athletic, dynamic, punishing.

He watched it during his worst days of suffering while being treated for Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He watched it to remember who he could be. During his illness, in 2009, on the days in which he would undergo hours of chemotherapy after radiation sessions, he did not feel like the guy on his highlight tape.

Now, two years later, he's back on the field. A reserve linebacker for the Giants, he spoke on Media Day today about his fight against cancer and his journey to the Super Bowl.

"Playing football again was that goal, and that really pushed me," Herzlich said. "After six hours of chemotherapy, youre sitting there and your body just feels drained. You dont want to move, but I said, I am going to be playing football again in eight months, so I need to go and workout. I need to go ride a bike, get some cardio in. Thats what I did. I made a highlight video for myself from my 2008 season. The real bad days, I would put that in the chemo room and watch that kind of on repeat over and over again just to kind of see myself succeeding. Thats something that as you go through things, you learn that you have to see yourself succeed, whether mentally or actually in person. That can help you do it.

Herzlich returned to Boston College in 2010 to play his senior season. He went undrafted, but signed with the Giants before this season. On Tuesday he reflected on the long journey he's made in a relatively short amount of time. He stood on the Lucas Oil Stadium field, in uniform, sporting a mohawk, but the memories of the suffering he endured as a cancer patient were still fresh.

The physical pain was intense," he said. "The pain that I would get in my leg and in my lower back felt like knives being stabbed into my legs. It was just completely random. It didnt happen when I was running, necessarily. It didnt happen when I was just sitting down, necessarily. It would be on and off. I think that was one of the hardest parts about it. The pain coming after the surgery where I had to get the scar tissue kind of kneaded out with massage and stuff, that was probably the worst pain Ive ever been in because they had to actually tear the muscle off the bone and tear the scar tissue away. It was painful. I was screaming on the massage table.

When he stepped off the Giants plane in Indianapolis, the gravity of the moment hit him. He remembered all he went through, and he took to Twitter.

2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The SuperBowl. TakeThatShtCancer, he tweeted.

The message quickly went viral. Though playing in a Super Bowl after beating cancer is sweet, inspiring others to fight the disease made it even more so for Herzlich.

"Obviously, this week is all about football and all about playing," he said. "But there are people out there who are going through cancer right now who see that and say, Hey, if he is doing it, I can do it.

A record-setting day for Tom Brady

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A record-setting day for Tom Brady

There was no postseason clunker for Tom Brady Sunday. In fact, his performance Sunday was one of the best of his NFL record 24 playoff wins. 

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. His passing yard total is a Patriots postseason record. 

No. 12’s dominance helped Chris Hogan set a Patriots postseason record with 180 receiving yards on nine catches. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker in the second quarter. 

The previous Pats' postseason record was held by Deion Branch, who had 153 receiving yards in the Patriots' divisional round loss to the Broncos in the 2005 season.

Hogan’s performance ranks tied for 17th all-time in terms of receiving yards in a postseason game. The record is still safely held by former Bills receiver Eric Moulds, who had 240 receiving yards on Jan. 2, 1999 in a loss to the Dolphins. 

Hogan wasn’t the only Pats receiver to finish with gaudy numbers. Julian Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. 

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 36-17 victory over the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game:

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

-- The Patriots are headed to their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. The Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers have each been to eight.

-- The Patriots are now 9-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 6-1 in games played in Foxboro and 5-1 at Gillette Stadium.

-- The Patriots are now 3-0 against the Steelers in AFC Championship Games, and 4-1 overall against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

-- The Patriots are 31-19 in postseason games, including 20-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 17-3 at Gillette).

-- The Patriots won their 31st postseason game tonight, moving them past the 49ers into fourth place on the list of all-time playoff victories in NFL history. They trail the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).

 -- The Patriots' .620 winning percentage (31-19) in postseason games is now second-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652). The Packers' loss today drops them to third (34-22, .607).

-- The Patriots have now won eight conference championships with Robert Kraft as owner, setting an NFL for most conference titles in the Super Bowl. Kraft had been tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.

-- Bill Belichick is now 25-10 in postseason games as a head coach and is in a tie with Bill Walsh (10-4) for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.

-- Belichick is advancing to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, most in NFL history. He had been tied with Don Shula at six. Belichick's Super Bowl record is 4-2, Shula's is 2-4.

-- Tom Brady had his ninth three-touchdown-pass postseason game, tying Joe Montana for the NFL record.

-- Stephen Gostkowski, who entered the game with 142 career postseason points, scored 12 points today and moved past Gary Anderson into third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.