Brady, Patriots fall 20-18 to Broncos in AFC title game

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DENVER — Tom Brady isn’t perfect. Stephen Gostkowski? He almost always is.

While Brady made the best out of a less-than-ideal day, the single mistake Gostkowski made – missing his first extra point in nine years – played a big role in New England missing out on a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots’ reign as the NFL champions ended with a 20-18 loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game Sunday.

“At the end, we just couldn’t make enough plays,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Disappointing, disappointing result. There’s such a fine line today between winning and losing.”

The NFL wanted to spice things up by moving the extra point back this season. They certainly did at that.

With a chance to tie the game early, Gostkowski sent his extra point fluttering off to the right. This from a kicker who made an NFL-record 523 consecutive PATs. It put Brady and the offense in chase mode the rest of the way.

“I just feel terrible,” Gostkowski said. “All day, these guys put their bodies and lives on the line, and for me to come out here and miss a kick, it’s a nightmare scenario. I can’t even explain how I feel right now. It’s just a complete shock and I let a lot of people down.”

Not that his teammates were blaming the right foot of Gostkowski in a game where the Patriots (13-5) turned the ball over twice on interceptions and two more times on downs.

“You definitely shouldn’t put the heat on him. It’s a team game,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “You can’t put it on the hands of Steph. There’s no way.”

This was also far from Brady’s best performance. He was constantly hounded by Denver’s top-ranked defense, especially Von Miller as the linebacker finished with an interception and 2 1/2 sacks. Brady was 27 of 56 for 310 yards and two interceptions.

He led the Patriots on a TD drive in the waning seconds, hitting Gronkowski for a 4-yard score on fourth down. Pulling within two points at 20-18 and 12 seconds left, the Patriots went for the 2-point conversion.

Aqib Talib stepped in front of Brady’s pass and deflected it toward the sky. Bradley Roby made the pick.

The Broncos (14-4) recovered the onside kick and, after a knee by Manning, the celebration began. Manning is now 3-1 against Brady when it has counted the most – with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.

“I’m sure everyone can look at different plays throughout the game when it’s that close and say, `Man I wish I had made that play,”‘ Brady said. “But I’m proud of the way we fought and we certainly fought to the end.”

A big game decided near the goal line? The Patriots have certainly been in that situation before. They won the Super Bowl a season ago with an interception at the goal line in the final seconds against Seattle.

This time, they lost a chance at a return by throwing a pick at the goal line.

“You’ve just got to go out there and make more plays,” Gronkowski said.

Manning gave Brady a hearty handshake before No. 12 left the field. This town has been a house of horrors for Brady, who’s now 2-7 in the Mile High City.

“We just didn’t play well enough. You know, you get to the AFC championship and you get down, you’ve got to play well,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “You’ve got to play, really your best football of the year. Today, we just fell short. A couple of plays here and there where they made better plays really were the deciding factors of the game.”

The Patriots had several promising drives in the fourth quarter end when they gave up the ball on downs. The Patriots drove to the Denver 16, only to be stopped on a fourth-and-1 when Julian Edelman was tackled short of the first line after catching a floating pass.

Later, the Patriots faced fourth-and-6 at the Denver 14, but Brady missed Gronkowski over the middle.

Asked why he eschewed field goals, Belichick simply said: “‘Cause of the scoring situation in the game.”

“There were a lot of plays in the game, a lot of big plays,” Belichick added. “We had a chance at the end.”

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Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip


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


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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