Patriots enjoy big Super Bowl experience edge over Eagles

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) The Eagles are playing some of their best football heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup with the Patriots.

One thing Philadelphia can’t contend with is New England’s huge experience advantage in the big game.

On the 53-man active roster the Patriots brought to Minnesota, 32 players have a combined 60 games of Super Bowl experience.

Tom Brady alone has been to the Super Bowl seven times during his 18-year career, winning five.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

By comparison, the Eagles have seven players on their active roster who’ve won a Super Bowl. Two of those players, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long, won their rings last season with the Patriots. The others are Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe and Will Beatty. An eighth player, Chris Maragos, is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

It’s a huge gulf. By comparison, the 2015 Panthers that lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl that season had three players who had won a ring: Ed Dickson (Baltimore), Roman Harper (New Orleans) and Michael Oher (Baltimore).

But the Patriots say it’s nothing they will spend time talking about this week.

“I think it’s overrated,” said special teams captain Matt Slater, who will be appearing in his fourth Super Bowl.

Defensive end Trey Flowers said the coaching staff hasn’t mentioned last year’s Super Bowl win since it came up in film study prior to their regular-season meeting with Atlanta back in October.

“It’s a brand new team, so I wouldn’t say last year’s experience will have anything to do with the outcome of this game,” Flowers said. “This team has a lot of different guys from a year ago, so it’s something you’ve got to do all over again as far as experience goes.”

Yes and no.

New England actually returns 31 players who were on last year’s Super Bowl roster against the Falcons. That doesn’t include injured linebacker Dont'a Hightower or receiver Julian Edelman.

Two of the Patriots’ additions since then both played in the Super Bowl with other teams. Linebacker James Harrison won two rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois played on the San Francisco 49ers team that came up short against Baltimore in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

“We know what to expect, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to perform,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “So there’s really no upper hand. You’ve got to just play the game and get ready for it and play at a high level.”

He said that is because there is respect across the board for what backup quarterback Nick Foles has accomplished since Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14.

“Everyone wants to hate on Nick Foles, but he’s done a great job,” Van Noy said. “He’s still a high-caliber quarterback, like Carson Wentz. Nick Foles is a great quarterback who’s done a great job. They distribute the ball really well and their run game is at a high level.”

More than experience on either side, linebacker Elandon Roberts said the biggest challenge is not getting caught up in the emotions that come with playing in a Super Bowl.

“Obviously it’s all the marbles right here, but it’s everything you work for,” Roberts said. “So you’ve got to think back to what got you here: doing your job, not getting overwhelmed and what not. As long as we do that that takes away most of it.”

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Lewis scores twice, Patriots secure home-field with 26-6 win

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass, helping the New England Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the top seed in the AFC with a 26-6 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.

The win clinched the seventh 13-win season for the Patriots (13-3), which is second in NFL history to San Francisco’s nine seasons. It was also Bill Belichick’s 250th career regular-season win, moving him into a tie with Tom Landry for third all-time among head coaches.

New England has defeated New York in four straight meetings, and the Patriots (13-3) haven’t lost to the Jets (5-11) at home during the regular season with Tom Brady starting since 2006. Brady’s 13th win as a starter this season tied him with Brett Favre for the most by a starting quarterback at age 40 or older.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Lewis finished with a season-high 26 carries for 93 yards . Brandin Cooks had 11 catches for 79 yards and touchdown for New England, which will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was held without a catch for the first time this season. It was only the third time in his career that he was blanked for a game that he played in. It was also the first game in his career he was not the target of a pass for an entire game.

James Harrison, signed by New England last Tuesday after being cut by Pittsburgh, had two sacks – on consecutive plays to end the game – and finished with five total tackles and a forced fumble.

Temperatures dipped into the low-teens at kickoff, but it didn’t stop the Patriots from being aggressive at the outset.

They won the coin toss and elected to receive, going away from their typical decision to defer until the second half. Brady and the offense went to work, quickly moving 75 yards in just 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard TD run by Lewis. The drive included a fourth-down pass conversion, one of three hookups between Brady and Danny Amendola in the series.

Penalties on the Jets’ defense aided New England’s final two scores of the first half. Safety Marcus Maye was called for a 39-yard pass interference penalty early in the second quarter that set up a 5-yard TD pass from Brady to Cooks that made it 14-3.

Then just before halftime, New York cornerback Juston Burris was flagged for defensive holding on a Patriots’ third-down pass attempt. New England got into the end zone three plays later via another 5-yard TD pass, this time from Brady to Lewis.

The Jets’ offense was anemic throughout with Bryce Petty playing the entire game at quarterback after it appeared Christian Hackenberg might see his first regular-season action at some point in the finale. New York was 0 for 12 on third down and 0 for 1 in its lone trip into the red zone.

INJURIES

Jets: CB Morris Claiborne left briefly in the first quarter, but was able to return. … Maye limped off the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. … WR Robby Anderson left after a fourth-quarter hit from Stephon Gilmore to have his head evaluated. Coach Todd Bowles said after the game that Anderson suffered a concussion.

Patriots: LB Elandon Roberts was shaken up on a play in the third quarter.

ECLIPSING 1,000

The Patriots have three players with 1,000-plus scrimmage yards in the same season for the first time in franchise history: Lewis, Gronkowski, Cooks.

NO CATCHES

Gronkowski’s previous low this season was two catches, in the season-opening loss to Kansas City.

A three-time All-Pro, Gronkowski finished the regular season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns. ESPN reported that he was due to receive a $2 million bonus if he caught 80 passes, had 1,200 receiving yards or played in 90 percent of the team’s snaps (which he also fell short of). He would also earn the bonus if he is selected to The Associated Press All-Pro team.

FRIGID TEMPS

It was 13 degrees at kickoff, and the Patriots wanted to make sure their visitors knew it.

A thermometer was hung in the Jets’ tunnel on Sunday. New York players filed past on their way to and from the field before the game .

It was the coldest regular-season home game in Patriots history. They had a playoff games that was colder – a divisional round game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 10, 2004, when it was 4 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like minus 10.

BELOW 50

Brady’s 48.6 completion percentage (18 of 37) marked only the second time this season he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. He completed 44.4 percent (16 of 36) in the Patriots’ season-opening loss to Kansas City. Prior to that it hadn’t happened since Oct. 20, 2013 in a 30-27 road loss to the Jets.

UP NEXT

Patriots: Have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

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