Chiefs vs. Patriots: Game Preview from The Mothership
"He's incredibly smart," QB
Alex Smithsaid of Conley. "I just think you get good at understanding how to prepare for these games and what a week of preparation looks like and I think he's done a good job of that all year."
Tamba Hali(knee and thumb), running back Spencer Ware(ankle) and WR Albert Wilson(hamstring) are also questionable. Expect to see former first-round pick Dee Fordand veteran Frank Zombofill in for Hali and Houston if need be.
Chiefs have created own way back from ruins of following the ‘Patriot Way' from The Kansas City Star
But other than some fleeting success in his second season, Pioli's Patriot act was a disaster for the Chiefs organization, which became defined by paranoia and chaos before Pioli was fired after the 2012 season.
As the Chiefs prepare to take on the Patriots in an AFC Divisional Playoff game Saturday at New England, it's because general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid have revived the franchise from the nightmare it had become.
And they did it by forging their own way - Dorsey as a first-time GM and Reid surrendering the dual role he had in Philadelphia - and seemingly coming together seamlessly based on a friendship they'd begun in Green Bay years ago.
In radical contrast to the Pioli-Todd Haley feuds, their alliance has made for enormous change in almost every way.
Chiefs' players draw on past experiences to not allow Saturday get too big from Chiefs Digest
There is no doubt the battle-tested New England Patriots have more recent playoff experience than the Chiefs, a team advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 20-plus years.
The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, after all, and have made the postseason in seven straight seasons, including two Super Bowls in that span.
Some could argue the postseason experience offers an edge when the Patriots host the Chiefs in the Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
But numerous Chiefs players are accustomed to playing in the spotlight of a high-profile game based on playing careers before the NFL, and Saturday's matchup shouldn't get too big on them.
In his years coaching the New York Jets and then the Kansas City Chiefs, Herm Edwards went up against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots several times.
So he knows how Belichick operates. Offensively, the Patriots look for a particular matchup they can exploit and then attack it with a vengeance.
"They're going to attack your weaknesses and take away your strengths, or at least try to, more than most teams you play,'' Edwards said. "They constantly find ways to get to or stay away from certain [defensive] players with their formations.
"They'll have a specific game plan for the Chiefs. They always do. You're always making adjustments against them because they explore what you're trying to do, and once they get you set how they're going to cover formations and personnel groups, they attack. They give you looks in the first quarter and see what type of defense you're playing against them.''
Chiefs-Patriots AFC Divisional Playoff scouting report from The Kansas City Star
Bottom line: Patriots 13-10
First of all, the red-hot Chiefs are fully capable of winning this game. They've won 11 games in a row, they're healthier and they haven't had the distractions the Patriots have had this week. Throw in whatever motivation Reid has to have for wanting to topple Belichick, and the upset is in play. But the rule of thumb in the playoffs is to always pick the team with the best coach and quarterback, and while Reid and Smith are darned good, Brady and Belichick are elite. Of course, that certainly doesn't guarantee a Patriots win. However, it does mean the defending Super Bowl champs should get the benefit of the doubt, at least from any unbiased observer.
Keys to the game: Chiefs @ Patriots from Chiefs Digest
This is the ultimate football chess match between Andy Reid and Doug Pederson taking on Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. Both sides will have something new designed just for their opponent. It then becomes a question of countermoves for the coaches.
The players have to produce when given a chance. Last Saturday, the Chiefs lost some 120 offensive yards when Alex Smith was a foot away from connecting with Albert Wilson on a big-play pass. Then, they lost Smith's 64-yard run when Wilson was called for holding. Against the Patriots, they need to be sharper in execution. The higher the stakes, the performance has to go up to match. That type of play has been sporadic from Smith and his offensive mates.
Always, the game will be decided along the line of scrimmage and the Chiefs offensive line - however it is constituted for this game - must be better.
Jeremy Maclin officially questionable against Patriots from Chiefs Digest
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (ankle) did not practice Friday and the Chiefs officially designate Maclin as questionable for Saturday's game against the New England Patriots.
Coach Andy Reid said Thursday that Maclin, who suffered the injury during the opening round of the playoffs against the Houston Texans, would be a game-time decision.
Rookie wide receiver Chris Conley is the next man up in the event Maclin can't play.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: After missing Week 13 with a knee injury, Gronk managed to play the Patriots' final four games of the regular season. So it was bit of a surprise when he was a limited participant in practice Wednesday. The mystery grew when he missed Thursday's session entirely to get an injection in his knee, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Mike Reiss. And on top of all that, the Patriots tweaked their injury report on Thursday to add a back injury to the mix for Gronk. He was at the facility Friday for normal day-before-game work, according to Reiss. The Patriots think their star tight end will play Saturday, but it's fair to wonder whether he'll be at full strength.
Stopping Rob Gronkowski, Patriots' offense takes a village of Chiefs from The Kansas City Star
"He's a competitor," Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. "That, along with his size and ability ..."
Makes Gronkowski, who leads the Patriots with 72 receptions, a total package. Like many teams, the Chiefs expect to use different personnel and approaches to cover quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target, and Berry figures to be involved most often.
But at some point, seemingly every defender gets a crack at Gronkowski, and sometimes two or three on one play.
The idea of bracketing him - use a linebacker to jam Gronkowski off att the line, then have a faster defender pick him up after he begins his route - sometimes works. That is, until Gronkowski is split wide and forces single coverage by an undersized defender.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid calls the offensive plays, though he occasionally delegates to Pederson.
"Doug's so focused in on this right now,'' Reid said. "That's where his vision is. It was a great opportunity, I thought, for him to visit with a great organization, a phenomenal organization. And I think it was an honor for him to have that opportunity.
"Whatever happens, happens. That's not my business. But I'm happy that he had that opportunity to speak with [Eagles owner Jeff Lurie]."
Five major keys to a Chiefs win over the Patriots from The Kansas City Star
4. Establish the running game
The Chiefs seemed to find a good run-blocking offensive line last week, when left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Jeff Allen, center Zach Fulton, right guard Jah Reid and right tackle Donald Stephenson played with some nastiness and imposed their will on the Texans' defensive front while rushing for 141 yards in 37 carries...
...So yes, they've got a chance to again make some hay on the ground this week. They'll likely find the Patriots are stouter and more gap sound against the run than the Texans were, but playoff football is won in the trenches, and the Chiefs should not abandon the ground-based formula that served them so well during their 11-game winning streak.
Rumor is spreading that fire alarm was pulled Friday at hotel where Chiefs are staying from The Kansas City Star
Let the conspiracy theories begin.
There were reports on Friday night that a hotel in Providence, R.I., was evacuated when a fire alarm was pulled. Providence is less than a half-hour from Foxborough, Mass., so you may can guess what team was reportedly staying there.
Once-suspect Eric Fisher coming of age for Chiefs from The Kansas City Star
Fisher's manhood essentially was called into question, largely through a whisper campaign of unnamed sources that took full voice from former Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith, who remains connected in the locker room. He took to Twitter to ridicule Fisher, calling him a "chump" and saying he was "scared of" Watt.
All of which was prologue to at least a symbolically transformative moment last Saturday for Fisher, who has matured and improved all season as the Chiefs prepare to play Saturday at New England in an AFC divisional playoff game.
The striking snapshot from a 30-0 victory marked by Fisher and friends muzzling Watt to just one tackle (Watt had nine overall and six for loss in the opener) took place in the third quarter.
Fisher first fended off the rush of Watt, who was constrained by a groin injury that later would require surgery.
And when Watt went down, Fisher made sure he stayed there with an emphatic shove to the head.
With tightly knit Chiefs, notion of ‘family' goes deeper than words from The Kansas City Star
All around the room, Chiefs players are talking, laughing and joking. It's 1:48 p.m. Practice is over. Players are free to go home, yet many linger at their stalls, a hot plate of food in their hands, paid for by the team's defensive linemen.
Scenes like this are why the Chiefs have won 11 games in a row and are two victories away from the Super Bowl, starting with Saturday's AFC Divisional Playoff in New England. Every NFL team talks about being a family, and much of it is just that â talk. But there's more at play here in Kansas City.
These Chiefs say they rebounded from one of the most miserable starts in franchise history by caring about one another.
"We're a family, man, that's what we say," said Houston, the Chiefs' Pro Bowl outside linebacker. "No matter what goes on, we're just going to ride for one another."
With air of secrecy and a hint of cheating, Patriots draw ire of many from The Kansas City Star
Foxborough is the Pyongyang of the NFL.
Or so it seems that way through the eyes of many Patriots' opponents, their fans, and even a few NFL honchos on Park Avenue.
There is a clear dictatorship in the "outlaw" regime of Bill Belichick. The goings-on in the House of Kraft are often cloaked in secrecy. And what constitutes "news" at One Patriot Place is often bent and stretched through the prism of truth.
Spygate and Deflategate remain part of the team's narrative, even if both are conflations of truth and hyperbole.
Much of the "Cheatriots" narrative is unsubstantiated. Still, it remains an attempt by some to explain the long-term success of the Patriots. They are one win away from playing in their 10th AFC Championship Game since 2001.
Game Day Forecast from The National Weather Service
Today - Rain, mainly before 1pm. Patchy fog before noon. High near 42. Northeast wind 8 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Tonight - Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 27. West wind around 8 mph.
"Everything is pointing to us being at our best, optimum performance on Saturday afternoon, so that's what we're all pointing towards, that's what we're all working towards, and that's where we hope to be," Belichick said Thursday morning in his last press conference of the week. "We've had a good week of preparation and now we need to tie up some loose ends, some situational stuff and be ready to go."
Whether the team is ready to go and whether any number of players on both teams are really ready to go health-wise will be the overwhelming focus early on as Andy Reid's Chiefs look to continue to roll, while New England attempts to prove once again that championship football in the AFC still very much go through Brady, Belichick and the rest of the defending champs.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in this battle between one team that limped into the postseason and another that's as hot as any team in the game, the victor earning a spot in next Sunday's AFC Championship game:
Experts share their picks for Chiefs at Patriots from Patriots.com
Check out which team the "experts" are picking to win in the Patriots Divisional Playoff game against the Chiefs.
Curran's Patriots-Chiefs preview from CSNNE
The Patriots didn't have a healthy Gronk in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 postseasons and it cost them. Mix in the added distraction this week of the Chandler Jones imbroglio and an efficient Chiefs team on an 11-game winning streak and you realize just how tenuous the Patriots' edge in this one appears. At least until they start playing.
Five Chiefs keys to victory from The Boston Herald
Pound the rock
The Chiefs finished with the sixth-best rushing offense (127.8), and this was even after losing top back Jamaal Charles in Week 5. Their offensive line has done a great job all year opening holes for Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. If the Pats, who had trouble toward the end of the year containing the run, can't slow this unit down, it'll be a long day. It's an obvious choice, but stick to doing what you do best. The benefit here is keeping Brady off the field.
Five Patriots keys to victory from The Boston Herald
The Patriots are the only team this millennium to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and they're embarking on another journey with the potential to do it again. The Pats host the Chiefs today at Gillette Stadium in the divisional round with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line. If the Pats win, they'll either visit the Broncos or host the Steelers next week. To get that far, they'll have to overcome a strange week and a Chiefs team riding a league-best 11-game winning streak. Here are five keys for the Pats:
1). Somehow, the Patriots might be the healthier of the two teams. Both of Kansas City's edge rushers (Justin Houston and Tamba Hali) are questionable. Houston didn't practice Friday, and didn't look right in the AFC Wild Card round against Houston, his first game in over a month. His knee is clearly not 100 percent. Hali played only 15 snaps versus the Texans. This is a break for New England, as left tackle Sebastian Vollmer attempts to return from an ankle injury. The Pats' O-Line hasn't protected Tom Brady well over the past month, so it helps that they won't be facing a full-strength Chiefs defensive front.
One note, though: Dee Ford, the third edge rusher, is no slouch. He is a former first-round pick who will pose a challenge to either Vollmer or Cannon.
In the last two seasons, no tight end in the NFL, not even New England's own No. 87, has more yards after the catch than Kelce. According to NFL stats, Kelce has 1,045 yards after the reception while Gronkowski is just behind at 1,022 yards. Many of those yards involve breaking tackle after tackle.
"Yeah, I mean he had like 100 yards after the catch against us last time we played him," Bill Belichick said this week in using some hyperbole to make his point, which obviously he's already made to his defense.
"Very athletic, he's got good speed. He's got good size, good balance. He's a hard guy to tackle for all those reasons. They throw him a lot of short passes, bubble screens, look passes, crossing routes and things like that, but he's also a vertical receiver as well. But on those short catch-and-run plays, he's really almost as dangerous as he is down the field. So tackling will be huge on him, and he's got a good skillset. He avoids guys, he runs over them."
Key matchup Bryan Stork, Patriots' interior linemen vs. Dontari Poe from The Boston Herald
Skinny: The Patriots' offensive line is going to be viewed as the underdog during every game they're alive in the playoffs, but the Chiefs are dangerous from the interior to the exterior. It's time for Stork to live up to the promise of his rookie season, and he could use some help from respected draft picks Jackson and Mason, as well as Kline, who earned a contract extension this season.
Tanguay: Patriots are too beat up to win from CSNNE
And, oh yeah, that Kansas City defense is pretty good. They are fourth in the NFL in 47 sacks and have forced 29 turnovers. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston have missed time this week and have been listed as questionable. However, this defense is not just about Hali and Houston. They have other guys that can make plays, such as Derrick Johnson, who led the team with 116 tackles to go with his four sacks.
The bottom line is the Pats have not been able to protect Brady and there is no reason to believe they will do so Saturday afternoon.
The obvious statement of the week has been, "If the Patriots were fully healthy, KC would not have a chance." Of course! But, this is not the case and Kansas City is a good team - not great - but good. Good enough to beat a beat up this Patriots team at Gillette.
Rob Gronkowski questionable, but will play from The Boston Herald
Gronkowski suffered a sprained and bruised knee in the fourth quarter against the Broncos and only missed one game before returning in Week 14. He wasn't on the injury report in Weeks 15-17, but has required maintenance for the better part of the past month and a half.
Also, wide receiver Julian Edelman (broken foot) and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (sprained MCL) will both play, sources said.
Left tackle Sebastian Vollmer (sprained ankle) said he'll try to play, but his injury hasn't fully healed.
It was an idea that had been crafted almost two weeks earlier. While the Patriots prepared during their bye week, Belichick called McDaniels, tight ends coach Brian Daboll and receivers coach Chad O'Shea into his office to come up with something different that might be able to help them if they needed it in the postseason.
After seeing the Titans use skill-position players at their guard and tackle spots during a desperation final play against the Jets in Week 15, and after seeing Alabama use a tackle lined up in the slot as an ineligible receiver against LSU, they had their templates. With a few adjustments, a pair of never-before-used plays had been born.
Without that meeting a little over a year ago, where creativity and an openness to new ideas were prerequisites, the Patriots franchise still may be waiting on its fourth championship ring.
Guregian: It's time for Tom Brady to step up the attack from The Boston Herald
So Brady's boys might still all return, which was the hope. But with Edelman now playing with a plate in his shoe to protect his broken foot, Amendola one wrong step away from tweaking his bad knee and Gronk seemingly a mess from head to toe, what can we realistically expect from the reunion?
Here's what can't happen. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels can't dial up the same offense from the final few weeks of the season. They can't do things like sit on the ball with time left on the clock before the half. They also can't begin the game with 16 straight running plays. They've got to go for more. They have to return to using their quick release offense from September and October.
They have to let Brady be Brady. They have to take off the chains.
"What that allows you to do is spread Gronk out, let him get into some one-on-one matchups so you can use his time wisely when he's on the field. If he is limited, let's put him in positions where we can get him the ball. If he's not getting the ball he's at least a threat so we can get other guys open."
Buckley: It's been an uneasy, queasy season for Patriots from The Boston Herald
But the misery began long before Jones announced to the world that preparing for the playoffs wasn't the top item on his to-do list. He may have been guilty of "a pretty stupid mistake," as he told reporters Thursday, but he's not the main reason Patriots fans have been on edge all season.
For that, blame the National Football League. Whatever your own personal thoughts on the role (if any) Tom Brady played in Deflategate, we can all agree that the NFL's handling of this case has been horribly mismanaged. If the NFL's aim here was to ladle out a Hungry Man-sized bowl of comeuppance to the Patriots over perceived arrogance, rule-breaking and other transgressions, then . . . whatever.
But the kids always suffer when Mommy and Daddy fight, and that's precisely what has happened here: An entire region of hardcore fans is the collateral damage in a year-long squabble between the NFL and the Patriots.
Friday Bag: Patriots' Chief concerns from CSNNE
TC: I was able to confirm with two sources that Gronk still draws breath.
Alex Smith still standing tall with Chiefs from The Boston Herald
The label has slowly peeled off Alex Smith, the letters B-U-S-T once tattooed to his reputation are gone. Smith was stamped as such in San Francisco, his play not matching his top draft-pick status.
But three years later in Kansas City, Smith has distanced himself from the expectations he once shouldered...
...This season, Smith set career highs for both passing (3,686) and rushing (498) yards, directing the Chiefs through an 11-game win streak and into Foxboro to face the Patriots this afternoon. His reputation as a mistake-free, not-flashy game manager doesn't bother Smith, even if it's been a key to the Chiefs turnaround.
Boston Herald staff predictions for Chiefs-Patriots from The Boston Herald
Chiefs 34, Patriots 31: We've been trained for years to focus on that December record, and the record wasn't very good this time around. The Pats were designed to win the Super Bowl, but too many parts were lost in shipping between September and January.
Patriots 27, Chiefs 23: The Pats dealt with a major distraction involving sack leader Chandler Jones. So what else is new? They're the masters of handling adversity. This will have zero impact.
New England Is Abuzz (Oh, Is There a Game?) from The New York Times
As seems to be the norm in New England around playoff time, strange doings have focused the discussion not on who can score the most points, but on the onstage and offstage weirdness that seems to accompany the postseason at Gillette Stadium.
In an A.F.C. divisional playoff game Saturday, the Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won 11 straight games. They may pose a threat to the Patriots, losers of four of their final six regular-season games, the worst record over the last six games in Coach Bill Belichick's time in New England.
Last year, the Chiefs partnered with the American Indian Center of the Great Plains to help honor traditions, including blessing the war drum hit before each game. Now, Wildcat and others are hoping fans can change their ways.
"Those kinds of grotesque characters of who we are, are offensive to people who've struggled mightily in the United States to maintain cultural language, ceremony and song," said Wildcat.
Bars and restaurants at Power and Light have been busy preparing for all the fans that will flock to them on Saturday.
"We're expecting thousands of people out to watch our Chiefs. We've been getting our beer deliveries, our preps for the production, so we've been doing a lot of work," said P&L Marketing Director Rachel Waller.
Even workplaces are decked out in their best Chiefs garb.
"I've given all my gear up. They're all wearing my gear," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp.
Jackson County Sheriff's Department employees are encouraged to wear their Chiefs attire as long as the team remains in the playoffs.
From deputies and dispatchers to the office staff, the sheriff's office is supporting the community they love and serve.
"This is something that connects all of us as a group. One big community is what I see with these sports teams. They've helped do that for us," Sharp said.
NFL Divisional Round Picks: Chiefs Are Best Bet to Pull Upset from The Wall Street Journal
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, 4:35 p.m. ET, Saturday
Vegas: Patriots by 5; M/P Line: Patriots by 2.9
M/P says the week off for all the home teams this round is worth 1.5 points above the 2.5 points generally awarded for home field advantage. The Patriots win probability is assessed at 59.5% by M/P, the lowest among the four home teams. Tom Brady, in a year where revenge (over Deflategate) has been seen as a driving force, will seek to pay the Chiefs back for last year's savage beating in Kansas City, 41-14, the second-worst loss of Brady's career (surpassed only by a 31-0 loss to Buffalo in 2003). Brady's offensive line has been patchwork all season and will have to somehow hold firm against a fierce Chiefs pass rush led by LB Justin Houston, who has 22.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions in is last 22 games (including playoffs). M/P pick: Patriots 25, Chiefs 22.
Last Saturday afternoon, Nigh and I watched the Chiefs' wild-card game. Coming full circle, the Chiefs played the Texans. When Knile Davis ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, we cheered. When Texans' fans booed their own quarterback in their own stadium, we scoffed. And when Maclin went down in the third quarter and was carted off the field with tears streaming down his face, we were sad; not because of the points we wouldn't earn, but because he's an incredible player. The Chiefs shutout the Texans and won their first playoff game since 1994.
I know fantasy football isn't going anywhere, and as long as Nigh is a part of my life, it will be a part of mine. But right now, that daydream I had four months ago about the Chiefs having playoff potential is a reality. And tomorrow, when they play the New England Patriots, Nigh and I will watch the game and cheer on the Chiefs together -- as real fans.
Stoughton police chief accepts friendly bet from Kansas City from The Stoughton Journal
The last time he put on a Chiefs jersey, Paul Shastany said he was holding back his gag reflex.
It came in light of a bet between himself and the police chief in Garden City, Missouri, who he has known for about four years.
The New England Patriots, on the road, were stifled by the Kansas City Chiefs, 41-14, in that late September 2014 game.
But Shastany, the Stoughton police chief, said Saturday will be different. It will be the first time the two teams have played since that game and he expects a win.
Won't be easy, but Pats win from The Eagle-Tribune
This won't be easy. The Chiefs won 11 in a row, albeit against a lot of the mighty mites, but they are tough and play with an edge.
The two keys for me are this:
The Patriots defense is due to take control of the game, keeping one of the NFL's top game managing, from managing to get the ball in the end zone. Field goals will be allowed. The Patriots, particularly without a bonafide and trusted deep threat, due to the injury to Jeremy Maclin, will struggle to get the big play.
The other key is Edelman. Outside of the red zone, which is where Brady does his best work, he is Brady's favorite target. He moves the chains, particularly on third down, which has been missed.
H. Roe Bartle: The Chief (and mayor) who drew the Chiefs to Kansas City from The Kansas City Star
That voice boomed, promoted and amused, earning Bartle hefty fees as a public speaker. But never did he use it more effectively than when pitching his city to a visiting football executive named Lamar Hunt.
Bartle acquired his nickname "the Chief" through his many years as a Boy Scout executive. When Hunt moved his Dallas Texans team to Kansas City in 1963, "Chiefs" popped up time and again in a name-the-team contest.
Hunt's general manager Jack Steadman said years later: "I finally told Lamar, ‘There's just no other name we can select.' "
Luring professional football to town is among many achievements that make Bartle's shadow over Kansas City longer even than his given name, Harold Roe Bennett Sturdevant Bartle.
The deal was this: LIFE photographer Bill Ray would be the only photographer allowed in the Kansas City Chiefs' locker room during the first Super Bowl, then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. He would have unrestricted access to the action off the field that day, but LIFE could only publish the photos if the Chiefs won. They lost to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, 35-10, and the photos never ran.
Now, as the NFL Network prepares to air complete footage of that game for the first time since the original broadcast on Jan. 15, 1967, Ray tells the stories behind those rarely seen photos.
Quarterbacks backpedaling on dropbacks and wide receivers lining up in three-point stances were the norm in Super Bowl I. It's rare to see either today, but a few other norms in the style of play have become less common.
- There were no shotgun snaps in Super Bowl I (or II or III). There was one shotgun snap in Super Bowl IV, but it didn't return again until Super Bowl X. Nearly 62 percent of NFL plays in 2015 featured shotgun or pistol sets. Every team utilized shotgun or pistol sets at least 10 times in every game this season.
Derrick Thomas had eight children in all, and five of them reside here in the metro. Derrion Thomas says his legendary father would be proud of what's happening in Kansas City nowadays, especially with his beloved Kansas City Chiefs. The last time the Chiefs advanced this far in the playoffs, Derrick Thomas was starting at linebacker under Coach Marty Schottenheimer.
"A lot of him lives within me. I learned a lot from him, but I'm kind of building my own path."
And he's honoring his family's legacy as he chases his own goals.
Former UMaine star Mike DeVito ready to face Patriots from The Portland Press Herald
But strength has never been in short supply for the former University of Maine defensive lineman.
DeVito found it while pushing his body alongside Kansas City Chiefs teammate Derrick Johnson, who had suffered the same injury in the same game, the 2014 season opener. He found it while pumping iron back home in Maine with Matthew Mulligan, his best friend and former Black Bears teammate.
By February, he was healed. By September, he was ready to embark on one of the best seasons of his nine-year NFL career, picking up 19 tackles and a career-high three sacks to help the Chiefs reach the playoffs.
On Saturday, DeVito will take the field at Gillette Stadium, with 20-30 family members there to cheer him on, as Kansas City tries to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in an AFC divisional playoff game.
AFTER PASSING TEST, CHIEFS' OFFENSIVE LINE TAKES ON NEW CHALLENGE IN PATRIOTS from Today's Pigskin
But where the Patriots stepped up in a major way in 2015 comes with the pass rush production, racking up 49 sacks, the most New England's put up since Bill Belichick took over.
It's the Patriots' defensive line that paced that production, putting up all but ten of those 49 sacks. Malcom Brown evolved into the Vince Wilfork-type of role, absorbing double teams and opening up space for Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to wreak havoc. Havoc is exactly what Jones and Ninkovich have created on a week to week basis, combining for 96 tackles and 19 sacks between them. Those combined numbers look more like what Watt racks up by himself, but having two talents on opposite ends of the line that can impact the backfield on any given play takes out strategy that Kansas City used against Houston and Watt.
With Brown occupying space in the middle, Kansas City's zone-read rushing game will be the only way they can attack the Patriots on the ground, and it'll require Alex Smith to operate it against the stellar Patriots defensive line just as well as he did against a top-heavy Texans defensive line.
It's 'win or go home' time for lagging Patriots vs. red-hot KC Chiefs from The Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Momentum and distractions.
The Patriots currently have none of the former and, well, they've had plenty of the latter per square inch going all the way back to this time last year.
How any of that impacts their efforts in an AFC divisional-round playoff game that gets under way at 4:35 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 4, 98.5 the Sports Hub) against the white-hot Kansas City Chiefs at wet and windy Gillette Stadium remains to be seen. The Fickle Foxboro Faithful anxiously awaits answers.
So far, Bolts rival wins big in risk game from The San Diego Union-Tribune
A Chargers rival is reaping big rewards for drafting two "character risk" players, raising the question of whether the Chargers should make similar calculated gambles in their quest for impact talent.
The Kansas City Chiefs have won their first playoff game in 22 years, while also stretching their winning streak to 11 games with ample contributions from recent "yellow flag" draftees Travis Kelce and Marcus Peters.
Kelce is a Gronk Lite tight end, very elusive yet also a decent-enough blocker to force defenses to honor the run. Coming off a deceptively good 2014 season, Kelce is now perhaps the best player on an offense that lost star running back Jamaal Charles in Week 5. The Houston Texans couldn't keep up with him in Kansas City's 30-0 Wild Card victory Saturday, with Kelce catching eight passes for 128 yards.
Peters is an All-Pro candidate as a rookie, having tied for the NFL lead in interceptions this past season. In the playoff opener, he picked off his ninth pass. He's played in all 17 games.
In college, both Kelce and Peters ran far afoul of team rules.
Former Tiger Spencer Ware's long journey back to the playoffs from Death Valley Voice
Sure enough, Ware struggled to find playing time as a rookie, rushing for 10 yards on just three attempts before suffering from a season-ending ankle injury.
On January 12th, 2014, just hours after the Seahawks had defeated the the New Orleans Saints en route to the NFC Championship Game, Ware was pulled over and arrested for a DUI. Later that morning, Ware was released from Seattle's King County Jail. The charges were eventually dropped.
Unfortunately for Ware, he was unable to make Seattle's 53-man roster in 2014, and was cut from the team during training camp. Ware worked out for several teams, but failed to make his way onto the field in 2014. On New Years Eve 2014, Ware caught a break and signed a future contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
To the victors go the spoiled: Patriots fans have been treated to an era of success from The Providence Journal
They've qualified for postseason play seven years in a row now, 12 of the last 13, and 13 of the last 15.
But it's been years since simply making the playoffs was anywhere near enough to make loyal, but demanding, Patriots fans happy.
While being somewhat realistic (we don't expect the Pats to go to the Super Bowl every year), we've come to expect them to at least play for the conference championship.
Anything less is a disappointment because, after all, haven't the Patriots done it for the past four years? And six of the last nine? And nine of the last 14?
That's beyond impressive and deep into amazing.
But we've come to take such success for granted.
Talk about spoiled.
Andy Reid, now simply a coach, is thriving in K.C. from Philly.com
On the surface, Reid seems the same as he was for his 14 years with the Eagles. He's a bit thinner than he was when he was fired three years ago, thanks in part to reconstructive knee surgery, and hearing Michael Jackson sing during his practice is jarring. But the players and coaches who have been with him at both stops say he's a changed coach.
The key word being coach.
"There's so much pressure in Philadelphia and I think here they give him so much more freedom to just be himself. He's kind of more Coach now," former Eagles and current Chiefs wide receiver Jason Avant said. "At the beginning of his career, he was more Coach and they were very, very successful. When I got [to Philadelphia], he was more management-coach.
"Here, he installs every meeting. He has a smile on his face all the time. He wears more Tommy Bahama shirts. He's just more relaxed."
RI Boy Fighting Cancer Invited To Patriots Playoff Game from CBS Boston
An 8-year-old boy fighting an aggressive form of cancer is continuing his dream of becoming famous by going to the Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs playoff game on Saturday.
Dorian Murray from Westerly, R.I., has been in and out of hospitals or half his life undergoing treatment for a rare form of pediatric cancer. Recently, his family decided to stop treatment after learning the disease spread to his spine and is moving towards his brain.
Alex Smith can win one for the 99 percent of NFL quarterbacks from The NY Post
Before he's through, Andrew Luck ('12) may well break through against Brady, though to this point all he has done is retreat to the tuck position whenever the two have squared off. Cam Newton ('11) already has beaten Brady once, last year, and he may well be the league's MVP this year, and if things progress as they might he may get a crack at Brady in Santa Clara, Calif., in a couple of weeks.
Smith - No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft out of Utah, who in 10 years has been a bust, a comeback kid, a bust again, a comeback kid again, and now one of the most reliable, if unspectacular, quarterbacks in the league - gets his crack Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, against the Pats and Brady and everything that means in January.
Today, he can cast a mighty blow for the overdogs.
McQuaid grad Brian Parker gets crack at Patriots from The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
"In order to be the best you've got to beat the best and they've been the best for a decade-plus, the world champs from last year," Parker said, recognizing the huge challenge the red-hot Chiefs have in front of them.
Parker will most likely not play an integral role in what happens at Gillette Stadium. Last week in the blowout of Houston, he played 20 snaps (15 on offense in his role as a blocking tight end, five on special teams),and for the season he has played only 115 total snaps (67 offense, 48 special teams).
That's OK with Parker, though. He's just happy that he's on an NFL roster, let alone on the active 53-man squad.
"Nothing We Can't Handle" (AUDIO) from 104.5 The Team
Former UAlbany standout Brian Parker is a tight end on the Chiefs after being an undrafted free agent in this year's draft. He originally signed with the Chargers before winding up in Kansas City.
He joined us today to talk about the Chiefs matchup with the Pats and what KC needs to do to pull the upset in Foxboro. Furthermore, he talked about what the last year has been like for him and what it means to him to make it in the NFL after playing at a small program like UAlbany.
Dick's Sporting Goods store broke down where it's seeing jersey sales spike among the remaining playoff teams.
You can see Panthers pride has really picked up with sales leading the way north to Maryland, south to Florida and west to Texas.
The Panthers led team jersey sales, even in Kansas and Missouri, beating out the hometown Kansas City Chiefs in their own two states.
Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums pass inspection from The Kansas City Star
The home stadiums of the Royals and the Chiefs are in "satisfactory condition" seven years after the major overhauls paid for by the teams and Jackson County taxpayers.
That's according to facility assessment reports done by the Burns & McDonnell architecture and engineering firm for the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority.
The satisfactory rating compares to the "exceptional" rating Burns & McDonnell gave them during its full review of stadium conditions two years ago. At the time, Arrowhead was only four years removed from the completion of its redo and Kauffman was five years removed from its grand reopening.
Authority executive director Jim Rowland said it was merely a matter of semantics.
Are Patriots deliberately overstating Gronkowski's injuries? from ProFootballTalk
On Thursday night, here's what a source with knowledge of how the Patriots do business said when it comes to the high-stakes, single-elimination nature of the postseason: "Don't buy into it."
In other words, there's a chance that the Patriots are deliberately overstating Gronkowski's health condition in an effort to confuse the Chiefs as they finalize a game plan for Saturday.
If true, it's sort of brilliant. No one ever gets investigated or punished for putting too much on the injury report; the NFL only acts (and rarely at best) when a team fails to disclose enough. If a team discloses too much or otherwise makes the situation seem worse than it is, nothing happens.
Brazil finds Tom Brady in the NFL after 'massacre' in 2014 from O Tempo [translated from the original Portuguese]
New England Patriots quarterback (pitcher) Tom Brady, and Kansas City Chiefs, the kicker (kicker) Brazilian Cairo Santos, open on Saturday (16), at 19.35 (GMT with ESPN), the conference semifinals NFL the US football league.
The game will be played in New England. The winner of this match faces the end of the American Denver Broncos Conference or Pittsburgh Steelers, who meet on Sunday (17). Patriots and Chiefs will meet for the first time since September 2014, when the team of Kansas City ran over rival by 41 14, at home.
In that game, Brady, husband of the Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen and one of the biggest stars of the NFL, had a touchdown, but suffered two interceptions and gained only 159 yards.