Pats take 20-7 lead into fourth quarter

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Pats take 20-7 lead into fourth quarter

By ArtMartone
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- After a no-holds-barred first half in which the two offenses combined for 517 yards, things calmed down in the third quarter for the Patriots and Chargers.

The Pats' offense stopped almost completely, stalling at the Chargers' 37-yard line on its first drive and going three-and-out on its second. San Diego's offense was more productive, but Philip Rivers' second interception of the day -- this pick was by Sergio Brown at the New England 7 -- killed a Chargers scoring chance and enabled the Pats to take their 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

They'd built that lead on a pair of defense-to-offense scoring drives in the second quarter.

First:

The New England defense completed its secondsuccessful goal-line stand of the young season, as linebacker JerodMayo stopped Mike Tolbert at the 1-yard on a fourth-and-goal from the1, preventing the Chargers from scoring and allowing New England tomaintain its 10-7 lead.

The Pats then went onoffense, and within two plays -- a 12-yard pass from Tom Brady to WesWelker, and a 30-yard completion from Brady to Chad Ochocinco -- werenear midfield. From there,they marched implacably downfield until Bradyhit Rob Gronkowski with a 10-yard touchdown pass that put the Pats infront, 17-7.

And then:

TheChargers had driven to the New England 29 in the final minute of thehalf, but Vince Wilfork deflected and intercepted a Philip Rivers pass-- his first career interception - and rumbled 28 yards into San Diegoterritory. A block-in-the-back penalty pushed the ball back to SanDiego 47, but Brady hit two quick passes to Deion Branch, of 11 and 7yards, that moved the Pats to the 29 with one second left. StephenGostkowski then drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, givingNew England a 20-7 lead.

Brady completed 20 of 23passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in thehalf.

New England had broken a 7-7 tie on a 23-yardGostkowski field early in the second quarter to move ahead, 10-7. ThePats had a first-and-goal of their own, at the San Diego 4, but wereunable to punch it in.

The teams had traded longscoring drives in the first quarter.

A 14-yardBrady-to-Aaron Hernandez touchdown pass with 6:16 to play in the periodcapped a 12-play, 92-yard drive that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead. ButSan Diego tied it on its next possession, with a pair of acrobaticthird-down catches by Malcom Floyd -- one for 23 yards over the middleof the field that put the ball on the New England 40, and the other a36-yarder down the sideline that moved San Diego to the Pats' 10 -- setup a 10-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews, finishing off an 80-yardmarch.

ArtMartone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

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Goodell or Trump? Kraft fields question on who will visit Gillette next

FOXBORO -- With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Atlanta for the NFC Championship game, his second visit to Atlanta in the last month, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was posed an interesting question during his pre-game interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Who would make it to a game at Gillette Stadium next: Goodell or Donald Trump?

The newly-elected president, of course, is a friend of the Krafts and a Patriots fan who has visited Foxboro for games on more than one occasion over the years. 

"I'm gonna let you," Kraft said, "place the over-under on that . . . We're happy. Whoever wants to come can come. Donald has done this [radio] show before . . . He was great. He's a big Patriot fan."

Here are a few more quotes of note from Kraft during his interview with The Sports Hub's Marc Bertrand and Chris Gasper . . . 

On the Colts firing general manager Ryan Grigson, who helped spark Deflategate: "Who? Yeah. You'd have to ask Jim Irsay about it. He'd be the one to ask. That game might've been Ryan's pinnacle, I don't know. Jimmy can talk about what's going on with the Colts. We're fortunately playing football today."

On Rob Gronkowski, who was a guest at Robert Kraft's home for a pre-AFC title game party Saturday: "He's doing great. He was funny. He was engaging with the crowd . . . He looks great . . . He didn't look like a guy who was hurting."

On if the Steelers called to apologize for Mike Tomlin's comments last weekend, calling the Patriots a-holes: "No, but we wouldn't have expected them. There was nothing to apologize for."

On his memories of the Kraft family's first postseason game (Sunday's is their 40th) as owners of the Patriots: "We went to Cleveland. It was Bill [Belichick]. Bill eviscerated us. It's nice to have him on our side this time."

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

Patriots make Floyd a healthy scratch for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will go with four receivers against the Steelers as Michael Floyd has been listed as a healthy scratch for the AFC title game. 

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

The Patriots had all five of their wideouts -- Floyd, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola -- available to them for Sunday's matchup, but they're opted to use the four who are most experienced in the team's offense. 

Hogan (thigh), Mitchell (knee) and Amendola (ankle) were all listed as questionable going into the weekend, but all have been deemed physically ready to play as their team vies for a Super Bowl berth. 

Floyd had his worst game as a member of the Patriots last week in the Divisional Round against the Texans. On two routes, both slants, Floyd ran the pattern in such a way that there appeared to be some miscommunication between him and quarterback Tom Brady. One was picked off and the other was almost picked. 

Floyd admitted as much last week, saying that there are still intricacies to the Patriots offense that he needs to pick up -- including exactly how Brady wants certain routes run.

Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week but felt optimistic soon thereafter that he'd be good to go for the conference championship. Mitchell hasn't played since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 16. 

Other Patriots inactives for Sunday include quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back DJ Foster, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards and corners Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones.