Late strike


Late strike

NEW YORK GIANTS (5-2) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-2)Gillette Stadium, Foxboro

Up-to-the-minute information -- play by play, stats, scoring summaries and more -- when the game begins from's In-Game Live tracker.

The facts and figures for today's game:

KICKOFF: 4:15 p.m.

WEATHER: Clear, high around 54 at kickoff, dipping into the mid to low 40s by game's end. Winds out of the southwest at between 5-10 mph. Click here for NECN's complete weather forecast.


TV ANNOUNCERS: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

RADIO COVERAGE: 98.5 The Sports Hub, the flagship for the 37-station Patriots Radio Network.

RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Scott Zolak

COMCAST SPORTSNET COVERAGE Tom E. Curran, Mary Paoletti, Art Martone, Danny Picard

CSN TELEVISION: Mike Giardi, Kevin Walsh

SPORTS SUNDAY (7:30 P.M. SUNDAY): Michael Felger, Troy Brown, Ty Law

CLOSE CALLS: At home against the Dolphins a week ago, the Giants trailed for much of the game, but pulled out a 20-17 win on a 25-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with 5:58 remaining. Manning threw for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Giants did not commit a turnover for the second game in succession. The game was the fifth straight for the Giants -- and sixth of their seven in 2011 -- in which the score was within seven points at some point during the fourth quarter.

NO OFFENSE: Last week in Pittsburgh, the Patriots suffered through a second successive subpar offensive outing and lost to the Steelers, 25-17. The Pats' 213 total yards equaled their third-lowest output since 2005, as they managed only 20:38 total time of possession. Tom Brady threw two TD passes, but was held to season lows of 198 yards and 5.66 yards per attempt.

TOUGH TO LIVE UP TO: The Giants and Patriots last met for two memorable games in the 2007 season. The Patriots secured a perfect 16-0 regular season by beating the Giants in Week 17, 38-35, as Tom Brady (50 TD passes) and Randy Moss (23 TD receptions) established single-season NFL records. The G-Men turned the tables with a shocking 17-14 upset of the Pats in Super Bowl XLII, as Eli Manning threw a game-winning 13-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining. The Giants' game-winning drive covered 83 yards and featured David Tyree's 32-yard reception that moved the ball to NE territory

ELI'S COMING: Eli Manning is on pace for career highs in completion percentage (64.7), yards per attempt (8.83), yards per game (303.9) and passer rating (102.1). Manning has been intercepted just once in 95 passes on the road, after throwing 16 picks in eight road games in 2010.

SLOWING DOWN: After averaging 148.0 receiving yards per game in the Pats' first five contests, Wes Welker totaled only 84 yards in New England's last two games. Welker had 17 catches of 15 yards or more in the first five games, but had no catch longer than 13 yards in games No. 6 and 7.

TWO OF THE BEST: Tom Brady (104.4) and Eli Manning (102.1) rank second and third, respectively, in passer rating in 2011. They are two of four quarterbacks in the league averaging at least passing 300 yards per game. Including postseason, Brady ranks second among quarterbacks with 73 wins since 2005, while Manning is fourth in that span with 68 victories.

Check back often for the latest news.

Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game


Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots haven't had all of their receivers simultaneously healthy and in uniform since they acquired Michael Floyd on waivers last month. That appears as though it could change Sunday. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, wideouts Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Chris Hogan (thigh) are expected to play in the AFC title game. Tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) is also expected to play, per Schefter. All three were listed as questionable on the team's injury report. 

Mitchell has not seen game action since injuring his knee mid-way through the third quarter against the Jets in Week 16. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week, left the game in the third quarter and did not return. 

Patriots receiver Danny Amendola was also listed on this week's injury report with an ankle issue. Last week, he played in his first game since Week 13.

If Mitchell, Hogan and Amendola are all healthy enough to play, the Patriots will have their choice of five wideouts against the Steelers since Julian Edelman and Floyd are also physically able to suit up. 

Will they all be in uniform? That remains to be seen. The Patriots haven't taken five receivers on their 46-man game-day roster yet this season. However, because all five bring something different to the Patriots offense, perhaps Bill Belichick and his staff will find it valuable enough to activate all five.

If the Patriots opt to take the receiver-heavy route, they'll have to go lighter elsewhere -- perhaps de-activating a core special teamer -- in order to make room.

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense


Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test.