Vintage Brady in game's final drive

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Vintage Brady in game's final drive

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady had 2:31 to drive down the field and, at the very least, get into field-goal range.

Starting from their own 20, it wasn't an impossible task. And with Brady leading the way, thinking "touchdown" instead of a game-tying field goal wasn't outrageous.

Especially since Brady was determined to make up for the interception he threw two drives earlier, which led to a 26-yard field goal and a 16-13 Dallas lead with 5:13 left to play in the fourth quarter.

"Mistakes are going to happen in football," said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after the game. "And obviously we had a few too many turnovers. But we kept fighting, and it shows our team. You can't leave any time left on the clock. Because we'll keep fighting and winning."

And that they did.

The Patriots had one last opportunity to make something happen. The only concern was, New England's offense hadn't been too pretty all afternoon. The only sense of comfort was, Tom Brady.

And with one timeout left, Brady opened the drive with big passes to Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker, advancing the ball to the 50-yard line at the two-minute warning, while still possessing their lone timeout.

After the two-minute warning, Brady found Welker and running back Danny Woodhead with several passes. he even grabbed a first down of his own with a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-2.

On 1st-and-10 from the Dallas 14, Brady found Welker over the middle for a 6-yard gain to the 8. The Patriots then used their last timeout to stop the clock with 27 seconds remaining.

"You're down three, so you know you've got to get into field-goal range," said Brady after the game. "And once you get into field-goal range, you're thinking, scoring touchdowns."

On the very next play, Brady found Hernandez in the middle of the end zone to give the Patriots a 20-16 lead after the extra point, with 22 seconds left on the clock.

For the Patriots' quarterback, it was simply a better group of guys stepping up and being on the same page when they needed to.

"It was great protection, a great catch by Aaron," said Brady. "A lot of guys made big plays on that drive, when we needed it. We really kind of squandered some opportunities throughout the game.

"Your margin for error is very, very small," added Brady. "You can't not get the ball in the end zone. So the throws need to be more accurate, the routes need to be better, the protection needs to be better, and the entire offense needs to be better. It's something we work on quite a bit.

"I'd prefer to be up four touchdowns with two minutes left, but that wasn't really the case today, so we just had to keep playing, keep battling, keep fighting, until the clock says zero-zero at the end. And we did that today."

The game-winning drive took 10 plays, and marked the 32nd time in Brady's career that he led the Patriots to a victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. He's now accomplished that feat 26 times in the regular season, and six times in the playoffs.

"Coach Bill Belichick put us through a lot of things, a lot of different situations. That was one of them," said Deion Branch. "And I think all the guys showed a lot of resilience on that drive. Everybody was stepping up and making plays when they were called upon. And, you know, Tom doing his thing."

"When you got a quarterback like Tom, anything can happen, as long as there's time on the clock," said Hernandez after the win. "And he had enough time to get it done.

"We just knew it was time to step up," added Hernandez. "And with the type of players we have, everyone knows we have to step up. And all of us stepped up.

"We just came out to play at the end. We follow Tom's lead, and Tom was out there. We know he's going to put us in the right play at the right time. And all we've got to do is the easy part. Run the route, and he'll put it there."

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)