Mankins makes Patriots mean-spirited

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Mankins makes Patriots mean-spirited

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - As the Patriots have ascended back to the top of the NFL's elite, you see a little bit more . . . chippiness in their games. In the blowouts, the ass-thrashing recipients turn scrappy. In the close games, the teams wanting to stand up to the Patriots know that they'll have to take and deliver a punch to do so. And, in getting back to where they were, the Patriots havere-embraced their "tougher than thou" mentality. A lot of it flows from left guard Logan Mankins, who rejoined the team Nov. 6 after staying away in a contract squabble."I think Logan is really a catalyst for what we do up there," said quarterback Tom Brady. "Hes a great player for us. Hes tough, hes physical, he brings really a mean spirit to the group. "Logan plays until the echo of the whistle," Brady said, meaning he plays past the initial blow of a referee's whistle. "It goes right up to the end, so he's always in the middle of some altercation or something like that. If there's a pile up, I know Logan's involved. That's just how he plays. That's his style, and I think he brings a great element of toughness to our offense."There's no doubt he'd also be described as dirty by some opponents because of his around-the-pile and post-whistle activities. But a lot of the best NFL linementhrough the yearshave had the same label applied to them - longtime Pro Bowl centerKevin Mawaebeing one of them. There's an enforcer role that offensive linemen have to fill and Mankins is adept at it. "You always want your team to play as one, for the 10 guys to support the 11th guy and all that," Bill Belichick observed. "That's what a unit is; it's out on the field. They're all playing together; they're supporting each other, both emotionally and from a functional standpoint, on the field."I know that there's stuff that goes on after the play at times," Belichick explained. "I think, as a team, you have to be able to stand up to that, not at the expense of getting penalties and personal fouls and all that, but to hold your ground and be able to play the game and not get pushed around out there."The Patriots have done an excellent job toeing the line between chippy and dirty(or penalizable). They have 65 penalties so far this season, fourth-fewest in the leaguebehind the Colts, Dolphins and Falcons (who have an amazing 49 penalties all year). Between keeping the ball in their possession, taking it from their opponents, turning mistakes into scores and playing within the rules, New England isdoing it better than anybody. And if a couple of coconuts need to get banged together along the way by Mankins and his buddies . . . so be it.

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

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)