Curran: Offense continues to roll

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Curran: Offense continues to roll

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - There was a point in the first half when my former Providence Journal colleage, Steven Krasner, leaned over and said, "It looks like the Patriots just have more guys on the field."And it did. New England rolled up 274 yards of offense and Brady threw for 240 as the Patriots leaped to a 20-7 halftime lead over fellow AFC power San Diego. Brady went 20-of-23, including two big throws to the maligned Chad Ochocinco (15 and 40 yard completions). He also hit six other receivers in the half as the Pats scored on each of their four possessions (touchdowns to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski; 22 and 47-yard field goals by Stephen Gostkowski). The Chargers got their share as well, putting up 243 yards of offense (196 passing yards from Philip Rivers). But the Patriots came up with an outstanding goal-line stand capped by a fourth-and-goal stop by Jerod Mayo on Chargers' battering ram Mike Tolbert at the goal line. New England promptly went 99 yards the other way on a 10-play drive to make it 17-10. San Diego was moving the ball until, with 19 seconds left and San Diego at the Patriots' 29, Rivers tried to loft a pass into the flat and Vince WIlfork came up with his first-career pick. Starting at the Chargers 47 with nine seconds left, Brady hit Deion Branch with two darts that gained 18 yards in six seconds and Gostkowski pounded through his second field goal as time expired.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

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Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?