Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

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Dowling's upside intrigues Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Ras-I Dowling was projected as a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft but he decided to go back to Virginia for one more season. It was an on-field disaster.But in the end, the potential, old tape and character of Dowling seems to have carried the day as he wound up the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Patriots selected the 6-1, 198 pound corner with the first pick in the second round. The final straw for Dowling's final season came in the third-to-last game of the year. "He was on the field for six snaps, one of them resulting in a penalty," wrote Doug Doughty of The Roanoke Timesbefore he fell to the ground in front of UVa's bench. He was helped to the locker room, only to return on crutches and with his left foot in an orthopedic boot.Virginia coach, Mike London said that Dowling's injury was unrelated to the knee and hamstring injuries that have plagued him all season."I don't know if it's the same leg or not," London said, "but, it's bizarre."Dowling had played in five games for the Cavaliers (4-6, 1-5 ACC) and started twice. In one of his appearances, he was on the field for three plays against Eastern Michigan.London left the impression that Dowling's hamstring was more of an issue than the knee, which "bothered him a little bit, but he felt he could play through some things," London said.Dowling, who went to Deep Creek High School and spent a postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy, was projected as a possible second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft before deciding he would return for a fourth season at UVa."Obviously, that's probably the biggest recruit we'll get this year," said London, newly named as head coach when Dowling made his decision.Dowling finished this season with 15 tackles and one pass break-up."It's unfortunate because he's such a great young man, great captain, great leader," London said. "I just saw him a few minutes ago and Ras-I was upbeat. Ras-I is prayerful and his faith is very meaningful to him."Here's some video of Dowling in which Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid pledges undying love and respect to the young man. (Caution...hyperbole). So why Dowling? Look at the league and the competition, I guess. It's a passing league with every team owning long receivers. Between Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden and Dowling, the Patriots have corners who go 5-10, 6-1 and 6-1. Add in Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler - both in the 5-9 range - and you have guys that can cover outside and in the slot. A good tackler, a good special teams guy, it's like Devin McCourty out of the bargain bin. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

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2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.