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.”

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

Don Ohlmeyer, longtime network TV executive, dies at 72

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Don Ohlmeyer, the “Monday Night Football” producer who came up with the phrase “Must See TV” in leading NBC to the No. 1 prime-time spot, died Sunday. He was 72.

“It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,” Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement. “Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.”

Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Peabody Awards.

Ohlmeyer became producer of “MNF” in 1972, teaming with director Chet Forte and the on-air crew of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. In 2000 in his second “MNF” stint, Ohlmeyer put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth.

Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a gofer while studying at Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on “Wide World of Sports.” Along with his “Monday Night Football” work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created “The Superstars.” Later at NBC Sports, he produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.

After running his own Ohlmeyer Communications Company, he returned to NBC in 1993 as president of its entertainment division. He came up with “Must See TV” in the 1990s, when NBC’s rating soared with such hits as “Seinfeld,” ”Friends,” ”ER” and “Frasier.”

Watch Live: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys on NBC

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The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in a battle of NFC East rivals on Sunday Night Football.

Despite going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year, the Cowboys lost twice to the Giants in 2016, including a loss in Week 1. Dallas hopes to not have a repeat of last year and will rely on sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Don’t be surprised if Elliott gets even more carries in this game because there is a possibility his six-game suspension is upheld and he will have plenty of time to rest up before he sees game action again.

The Giants will rely on their strong defense led by DB Landon Collins and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to try and get after Prescott and bottle up Elliott. On offense, New York is all about Eli Manning and the passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to suit up, but it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have after injuring his ankle in the preseason. As a result, look for new additions WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, to go along with sophomore WR Sterling Shepard to step up for Manning.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Giants vs. Cowboys

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app