Mind games between Patriots-Broncos before big game Sunday

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Gronk pushes off. Brady whines.

If it’s AFC championship week, somebody must be complaining about the New England Patriots.

This time around, it’s the Denver Broncos, who have delivered a few hits through the media – both traditional and social – in a not-so-subtle attempt to get inside the heads of both the Patriots and, quite possibly, the officials who will call Sunday’s game.

The biggest pokes have, not surprisingly, been directed at Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, with the Broncos suggesting he likes to push off and how it’s really best to tackle him by going after his delicate knees. Gronk didn’t appreciate that and responded in R-rated fashion on Twitter.

Tom Brady took some shots, too, labeled a crybaby for complaining to refs.

“Just talk. Just talk,” Broncos tight end Vernon Davis said. “I don’t think they would say anything to target anyone on the Patriots side.”

These early week doses of trash talk have calmed down now that the real preparation has begun. Still, they’ve made for a decent story line to go beside the hundreds of different takes on Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, Part 17.

The highlights:

– Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall weighed in on Gronkowski, saying he uses his big frame to push off.

– Defensive lineman Antonio Smith didn’t hold back on Brady with his comments: “I’ve never seen any quarterback look to the referee right after he gets sacked more than Brady. Every time he gets sacked he looks at the ref like, `You see him sack me?”‘

But the comment that caused Gronk to throw a flag was mention by several Broncos of going after his knees, since he’s so hard to bring down. Gronkowski responded with a tweet that let his feelings be known in a comical, yet not exactly fit for print sort of way. He added a few emoji for good measure.

“I was just having a little fun with it, hoping to get a little laugh, which I think it did,” Gronkowski said. “It’s just all fun and games with that.”

Still, linebacker Danny Trevathan didn’t exactly find Gronkowski’s tweet endearing. He took it as more of a stab at his defense.

Trevathan insisted the banter stokes the fire.

“I’m glad they feel confident in themselves. I think people are looking for attention,” Trevathan said. “It’s not my job to give it to them until Sunday. My job is to shut them down when they come here, keep his mouth closed as much as I can.”

Broncos defensive back Bradley Roby finds all the back-and-forth highly entertaining. It’s juicy stuff.

“We’re not worried about the trash talking, just makes it more exciting,” Roby said. “Brings more attention to the game.”

As for the assertion that Brady lobbies more than most for penalties with the officials, well, the iconic QB took the high road. He said he’s “not sure” if he works the referees more than other quarterbacks around the league.

“If the refs want to throw the flag, I love when they throw flags on the defenders, absolutely,” Brady said. “It advances our team, so that’s just part of football.”

So is trying to get under a team’s skin. Davis experienced the same sort of thing when he was with San Francisco and preparing to face rival Seattle.

“Everyone is talking – you can say this, you can say that – but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words,” Davis said. “When it comes to the talking, I stay away from it.”

Hard to ignore social media barbs, though. Unless, of course, you’re offensive lineman Ryan Harris.

“I don’t even know what Twitter is. What’s Twitter?” Harris deadpanned. “Whoever is going to win this game, it’s going to be decided on the field this Sunday, not on some social media site, or some quotation that may or may not have been taken out of context.”

Online: AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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