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.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rams hold off 49ers for wild 41-39 win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Coach Sean McVay walked into the postgame news conference and immediately asked, "Anyone have a beer?"

He probably wasn't the only person who wanted a drink after watching a surprisingly thrilling Thursday night shootout between his Rams and the San Francisco 49ers that wasn't decided until Los Angeles prevented a potential game-tying 2-point try and then delivered a rare defensive stop after blowing the onside kick in a 41-39 victory.

"We talk about mentally tough, be your best regardless of the circumstance," McVay said. "I thought the players did that. They found a way in spite of some of the ups and the downs to come away with the win."

While the defense came up big late, it was the offense that carried the day for the Rams (2-1), who have gone from the lowest-scoring team in the NFL a year ago to a dynamic one through three games under McVay.

Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, Todd Gurley ran for 113 yards and scored three TDs and Robert Woods (108) and Sammy Watkins (106) each topped the 100-yard mark receiving in Los Angeles' second 40-point performance of the season. The Rams have 107 points in all so far, the second-most in franchise history after three games to the 119 by "The Greatest Show on Turf" squad in 2000.

"Since I've been here we haven't been able to do that," Gurley said. "Hopefully we can keep putting points together, keep working together and keep learning from this. I think we left a lot more points off the board."

This win didn't come easy as the Rams nearly blew a 15-point lead, giving up two late touchdowns, fumbling a kickoff return and failing to recover an onside kick. But Los Angeles managed to stop a potential game-tying 2-point conversion on a deflection by Troy Hill and then used an offensive pass interference penalty against Trent Taylor and a fourth-down sack by Aaron Donald to stop the Niners after the onside kick.

The 49ers (0-3) scored five touchdowns after failing to get any the first two weeks but still came up short in part because a missed extra point by Robbie Gould forced them to try for 2 on their late touchdown.

"I just rushed it, I missed it, I made a mistake," Gould said. "Obviously, I wish I didn't do that, or we'd probably be playing in overtime right now.""

This time it was a tired defense that hurt San Francisco. After facing 79 plays in a 12-9 loss at Seattle on Sunday, the 49ers appeared to run out of gas on the short week as Goff frequently had wide-open receivers, especially on third down.

The Rams were 8 for 12 on third down, including all three of Goff's touchdown passes.

The Rams needed all that offense on a night where Brian Hoyer threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.

QUICK START: The Rams took just 12 seconds to get on the board as Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted Hoyer on the first play from scrimmage and returned it to the 3-yard line. Gurley ran it in on the next play to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

"I just told him to start over," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Got to go back to work. We didn't change anything, went right on with the script. But it was a tough way to start out."

DROUGHT BUSTER: The 49ers came into the game without a touchdown on the season but broke through in the first quarter with some help from the Rams. After Blake Countess jumped offside on a punt, the Niners took advantage of the second opportunity and drove to score on Hoyer's 9-yard run 126:43 into the season. That was the longest it took a team to score its first TD since 2006 when both Tampa Bay (143:03) and Oakland (127:10) took more time.

FOURTH DOWN CALLS: Both teams drove to the opposing 1 on their opening drives of the second half with help from a Willie Mays-style basket catch by Watkins and a perfect toe drag on the sideline by San Francisco's Pierre Garcon. But the Rams opted to kick a short field goal, while the 49ers went for it and converted on Carlos Hyde's 1-yard run that cut Los Angeles' lead to 27-20. Hyde added a second 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter.

INJURIES: Rams S Lamarcus Joyner left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Los Angeles C John Sullivan injured his groin in the second half and Watkins and Tavon Austin left with concussions. ... 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (concussion), FB Kyle Juszczyk (neck), DL Tank Carradine (ankle) and LB Brock Coyle (concussion) all left with injuries in the second half.

UP NEXT: The Rams travel to Dallas on Oct. 1. The 49ers visit Arizona.

Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

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Boston Sports Tonight Podcast: Is there a blueprint to beat the Patriots?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST.

0:41 - Tom E. Curran breaks down the ‘blueprint’ to beat the Patriots and if the Texans have the talent to do it.

5:27 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving’s comments that he made on Early Edition about going back to Cleveland for the opening game. 

9:52 - We take a listen to what Malcolm Butler had to say about his role on the team and discuss how the cornerback keeps saying all the right things. 

15:18 - Michael McCann, Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated joins BST to talk about Aaron Hernandez’s brain found to have CTE and his family now suing the NFL and the Patriots.