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What´s next for the Patriots? Spoiler alert: More of the same

Since Bill Belichick became coach of the New England Patriots in 2000, he has seen multiple assistants leave for other jobs.

This year will be no different as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are expected to become NFL head coaches.

Though his defense was torched by Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s 41-33 Super Bowl loss, Patricia will take over the Detroit Lions. McDaniels will become the Indianapolis Colts’ new coach.

And yet don’t expect much to change for the Patriots, who were denied a sixth Super Bowl title but are favourites to be back next season. Despite the consistent turnover on his staff, Belichick is the one constant.

“It’s very impressive what they’ve done, continue to accomplish,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told Omnisport. “They get guys to buy into what they’re doing, get them to fall in line, and they win. That’s what they do. It’s impressive to watch because you know how difficult it is to get there.”

McDaniels will be leaving the Patriots for a second time. He was their offensive coordinator from 2006-08 before becoming the Denver Broncos head coach in 2009 and eventually returning to New England in 2012.

“He’s a great coach. Any team would want him to be the leader of the organisation,” Pats quarterback Tom Brady said of McDaniels.

As mentioned, McDaniels and Patricia are not the first coordinators to move on from New England — and they likely won’t be the last.

Former offensive coordinators Charlie Weis and Bill O’Brien left to become college head coaches. O’Brien parlayed his job at Penn State into becoming the head coach of the Houston Texans.

Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, both former Patriots defensive coordinators, also left to take head coaching jobs.

Belichick’s coaching tree is extensive and will continue to grow as long as he remains the Patriots coach. How long might that be? At 65, he is likely tied at the hip with Brady, 40, who was the NFL MVP in 2017 after leading the league with 4,577 passing yards.

Without Brady, Belichick might not have had the same success — and vice versa. Despite Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, neither has anything left to prove after winning five Super Bowls together in eight appearances over the last 18 years.

“The guy is literally what everyone is striving to be when it comes to longevity,” Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith told NFL Network.

As for Brady, who will turn 41 a month before beginning his 19th NFL season, history is not on his side. He takes care of his body better than most players and says he wants to play until he’s 45, but Father Time is undefeated.

When asked about his future during Super Bowl week, Brady just laughed it off and said he’ll play as long as he can.

“Why does everyone want me to retire so bad?” he said. “I don’t get it. I’m having fun. The team’s doing good. I know I’m a little bit older than most of the guys, but I’m really enjoying it.

“Obviously, I enjoy the experience of playing in this game. This has been obviously a dream come true many times over. It takes a lot of hard work to get here, and I think our team is working hard.

“So I’m not thinking about retirement.

“I’ve always wanted to play to my mid-40s, so we’ll see,” he added. “Football is such a physical sport. Every game could be your last game, that’s the reality of the sport.”

Brady is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but previous quarterback inductees like Brett Favre and Warren Moon saw significant drop-offs in their play the season after turning 41.

Whether that happens with Brady remains to be seen, but it’s probably a bad idea to bet against him.

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Patriots refute talk of rift: ‘We stand united’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have all shot down a report that suggested a rift between them could soon bring an end to their successful run.

An ESPN report published on Friday said friction amongst the three most powerful members of the Patriots franchise, who last season won their fifth Super Bowl together, could be enough to make this the final season they work together.

“For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship,” the trio said in a joint statement. “In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate.”

The statement came hours after the ESPN article, which cites more than a dozen Patriots staffers, executives, players and NFL sources with knowledge of the team’s inner workings, said the trio have had serious disagreements.

According to ESPN, the three men have been at odds for years over a number of issues, including Brady’s trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero having some team privileges removed and the team’s decision to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick.

The article went as far as to say there is a “palpable sense in the building that this might be the last year together for this group.”

The Patriots, who are favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions this season, are the top seed in the American Football Conference playoffs and will next play in the Divisional Round on Jan. 13 against either the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills.

“The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years,” the statement added.

“It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”

Don Yee, who is the agent for both Brady and Garoppolo, also weighed in on the report.

“I don’t know really what to say — it’s tough to have a response since it didn’t appear to me to have one on-the-record quote,” Yee said in a statement issued to the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. “All I can suggest is don’t believe everything you read.”

(Frank Pingue)

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NFL roundup: Brady, Patriots slip past Steelers

PITTSBURGH — Tom Brady beat the Pittsburgh Steelers once again, and he got help from Duron Harmon.

Brady led the New England Patriots to the winning touchdown with 56 seconds left, guiding the Patriots to a 27-24 win over the Steelers. The result ruined Pittsburgh’s chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye and potentially home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The game was marred by a calf injury sustained in the first half by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who was taken to a hospital for further examination and treatment.

Brady led the Patriots (11-3) to a touchdown scored by Dion Lewis on an 8-yard run that capped a 77-yard drive, completing a rally from a 24-16 deficit. Ben Roethlisberger scrambled to give the Steelers (11-3) two more chances at winning the game, but his final pass was deflected by Eric Rowe and intercepted by Harmon in the end zone with five seconds left.

Jaguars 45, Texans 7
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles passed for three touchdowns in the first half to lead Jacksonville to a victory over Houston and clinch its first playoff berth since 2007. The Jaguars led 31-0 at the half, the largest halftime margin in franchise history.
Jacksonville (10-4) remained in control of first place over the AFC South under first-year head coach Doug Marrone. The Jaguars won 17 games in the previous five seasons, the lowest total in the NFL.
Houston (4-10), which has lost four straight and seven of its last eight, was outscored 74-14 en route to being swept by the Jaguars.

Vikings 34, Bengals 7
MINNEAPOLIS — Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and Minnesota’s defense dominated Andy Dalton and Cincinnati.
Latavius Murray added 76 yards rushing and a touchdown for Minnesota (11-3), which clinched the NFC North with its ninth win in the past 10 games.
Brian Robison had two of the Vikings’ three sacks and Eric Kendricks returned a first-quarter interception for a touchdown. Minnesota held Cincinnati (5-9) to 161 yards and a 1-of-13 conversion rate on third down.

Eagles 34, Giants 29
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes as NFC East champion Philadelphia off New York to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Foles, who was 24 of 38 for 237 yards, took over as the starting quarterback for the Eagles (12-2) after they lost Carson Wentz last week to a season-ending knee injury.
Eli Manning finished 35 of 54 for 427 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for the Giants (2-12).

Panthers 31, Packers 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton threw three of his four touchdown passes in the opening 18 minutes of the second half as Carolina upstaged the return of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Newton completed 20 of 31 passes for 242 yards as the Panthers (10-4) remained in at least a first-place tie in the NFC South.
Rodgers was intercepted three times, all on underthrown balls. He completed 27 of 45 passes for 287 yards, but the Packers (7-7) saw their postgame aspirations damaged.

Cowboys 20, Raiders 17
OAKLAND, Calif. — Dan Bailey kicked a tiebreaking 19-yard field goal with 1:44 left, and Dallas held on for a victory over Oakland.
The Raiders then drove to the Cowboys’ 8-yard line, taking advantage of a 55-yard pass-interference penalty. However, on third-and-3 from the 8, quarterback Derek Carr fumbled while diving at the end of a scramble along the right sideline, and the ball went into the end zone and out for a touchback.
The Cowboys (8-6) improved their slim hopes for an NFC wild-card playoff berth. The Raiders (6-8) barely remain alive in the AFC postseason race.

Saints 31, Jets 19
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes, including a 4-yard slant to Michael Thomas with 7:39 left, and New Orleans overcame three turnovers in its win.
The victory kept the Saints (10-4) in first place in the NFC South. Even though they are tied with 10-4 Carolina, the Saints swept the Panthers in two games this season and own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Jets (5-9) kept the game close with their defensive pressure and ability to stuff the run into the fourth quarter, but they could not generate enough offense behind quarterback Bryce Petty, a third-year player making his fifth NFL start.

Bills 24, Dolphins 16
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — LeSean McCoy became the 30th player in NFL history to surpass 10,000 career rushing yards while helping Buffalo keep its playoff hopes alive.
McCoy compiled 96 total yards (50 rushing, 46 receiving) and two touchdowns as the Bills improved to 8-6 for just the third time in the 18 years since the team last reached the postseason.
The loss diminished the Dolphins’ playoff chances following an upset win over New England on Monday night. Jay Cutler was 28 of 49 for 274 yards and three interceptions for Miami (6-8). Kenyan Drake ran for 78 yards and a touchdown, and Cody Parkey kicked three field goals.

Ravens 27, Browns 10
CLEVELAND — Ball-hawking Baltimore forced four more turnovers and converted two of them into touchdowns to defeat Cleveland.
The Ravens (8-6) kept alive their wild-card playoff hopes. They would clinch a playoff spot by beating the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore the final two weeks regardless what the other contenders do.
The Browns (0-14) have lost 16 straight games to division opponents dating back to 2015.

Redskins 20, Cardinals 15
LANDOVER, Md. — Kirk Cousins threw a pair of touchdown passes as Washington defeated Arizona.
The Redskins (6-8) never trailed and stopped Arizona on downs at the Washington 21-yard line with 16 seconds left.
Arizona (6-8) went 0-for-6 in the red zone and 4-for-19 on third down. The Cardinals haven’t scored a touchdown in their past two games and were officially eliminated from the playoff hunt.

Rams 42, Seahawks 7
SEATTLE — Todd Gurley ran for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass as Los Angeles took control of the NFC West with a dismantling of Seattle.
The Rams (10-4) avenged an earlier 16-10 loss to Seattle and opened a two-game lead over the Seahawks (8-6) with two games remaining.
Gurley followed a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs with a 57-yarder with 28 seconds left in the first half that put the Rams up 34-0. Gurley added a 14-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that made it 40-0.

49ers 25, Titans 23
SAN FRANCISCO — Robbie Gould’s sixth field goal of the day, a 45-yarder on the final play of the game, allowed San Francisco to overtake Tennessee.
Gould’s 20th consecutive successful field goal came 67 seconds after Ryan Succop had nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Titans (8-6) a 23-22 lead.
The win was the third in a row for the 49ers (4-10) since promoting Jimmy Garoppolo to starting quarterback. The ex-New England Patriot passed for 381 yards and a second-quarter touchdown to tight end Garrett Celek

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Patriots hang on to beat Bucs

The New England Patriots held off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to claim a 19-14 victory in NFL action on Thursday.

Neither Tom Brady nor Jameis Winston were particularly sharp, but the Patriots did enough at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Bucs (2-2) were unable to capitalise on a pair of Brady turnovers and placekicker Nick Folk missed three field goals.

After Winston hit Cameron Brate for an 18-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining, the Buccaneers tried an onside kick but it was recovered by Patriots safety Nate Ebner at the Bucs 42-yard line.

The Patriots (3-2) were able to use the favourable field position for a 48-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 1:10 left on the clock.

Winston, who finished 26 of 46 for 334 yards and a touchdown, got the Bucs into New England 19-yard line, but his pass to the end zone on the final play of the game was broken up by Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones.

Brady finished 30 of 40 for 303 yards with a touchdown and interception. His streak of 264 pass attempts without an interception was snapped in the first quarter when an errant throw was picked off by Buccaneers rookie safety Justin Evans. The Buccaneers went three-and-out on the ensuing possession.

New England got on the board first with a Gostkowski field goal of 27 yards.

Doug Martin, making his season debut following a four-game suspension dating back to last year, scored the game’s first touchdown when he dove into the end zone with 8:26 remaining in the first half. Martin finished with 74 yards on 13 carries and his touchdown gave the Bucs a 7-3 lead.

The Patriots regained the lead on a touchdown pass from Brady to Chris Hogan five minutes later.

After New England added a pair of Gostkowski field goals to build a 16-7 lead, the Bucs were unable to convert a second Brady turnover into points. Adarius Glanton came around on a perfectly timed blitz for a strip-sack of Brady late in the third quarter. Defensive end Will Clarke recovered the fumble at the Tampa Bay 47, but seven plays later, Bucs kicker Nick Folk missed a 49-yard field goal attempt.

Folk missed attempts of 56, 49 and 31 yards and has missed five of his last seven attempts.

HOGAN HERO

The Patriots were playing without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was inactive with a bruised thigh. Hogan and Danny Amendola picked up the slack. Each caught eight passes with Amendola going for 77 yards while Hogan had 74 receiving yards and the score.

IN OR OUT?

Hogan’s leaping touchdown was reviewed and, though he landed with his feet at the one-yard line, he made initial contact with the ball in the end zone and the officials ruled it a score.

NOT PERFECT

“It wasn’t perfect. It never is,” Hogan told NFL Network. “But the defence came through and we found a way to put points on the board.”

OFFENSIVELY HAMPERED

Thursday games leave offences hampered and this game was a huge indicator of that. The Bucs were without starting linebackers Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and Lavonte David (ankle), and safeties Keith Tandy and T.J. Ward, who both have injured hips.

New England were unable to take advantage of the short-handed Bucs, even without Gronkowski. They still got the win as Brady tied Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the most regular-season victories by a quarterback with his 186th career win.

Winston and the Buccaneers could also not exploit a New England defence that came in ranked last in nearly every statistical category. Tampa Bay ran for 91 yards and Winston’s 56.5 completion percentage was his worst since a week-15 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last season.

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Week 5 GameScout: Patriots at Buccaneers

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-2) AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-1)
GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium, TV: CBS/NFL Network, Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (fField reporter), Jay Feely (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 6-2, including three straight victories. Five of the Pats wins have come by at least 17 points. New England has won the last three games by a combined score of 86-10.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots arrive with the No. 1 offense in the NFL as quarterback Tom Brady has passed for 1,399 yards to receivers like bully-boy tight end Rob Gronkowski, speedy Brandin Cooks and clever Danny Amendola. That offense is averaging 423 yards per game. And that would be even more impressive if the Patriots defense were not also giving up a league-high 456.8 yards per game. The resulting track meets ruined all that talk about the Patriots’ perfect season and now they hope not to fall below .500 against a Tampa Bay team seeking to make a name for itself. Watch for Brady to throw early and often against a Bucs defense that is giving ups 394 yards per contest.
The Bucs feel pretty good about their offense and the way quarterback Jameis Winston played last week. When he makes good decisions and does not turn the ball over, Winston makes the Bucs tough to beat. But head coach Dirk Koetter wants balance. He wants to limit the Patriots’ possessions and keep the defense fresh. To do that, the Bucs must remain committed to running the football.
The Bucs found a running game vs. the Giants behind Jacquizz Rodgers, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry and had a 32-yard run. On Thursday, the Bucs will have the use of running back Doug Martin, who returns from the last three games of a suspension for PEDs. Martin will have fresh legs, but look for him to split the workload with Rodgers. Koetter knows the Patriots aren’t playing well on defense, but he doesn’t expect that to continue.
“When you study them, they’re an amoeba defense,” Koetter said. “They can play any personnel group, they can change from week-to-week, they can be in even-front one week, an odd-front next week, they will play dime the whole game. They’ve got a nickel package, a dime package (and a) quarter package. They’ve always been able to adjust. They will switch at halftime and they’ve always been a very difficult team to plan for. In that respect, maybe it’s better that we do play them on a Thursday night.”
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
–Patriots WR Brandin Cooks vs. Bucs CB Brent Grimes. The Patriots are throwing the ball down the field more than ever with Brady averaging more than nine yards per attempt. Cooks and Chris Hogan are legitimate deep threats and will test Grimes, who allowed only two receptions last week to the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr.
–Patriots CBs vs. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler, et al, have been generous this season. The test doesn’t get any easier against Evans and the upstart Bucs passing attack. Evans leads the Tampa Bay offense with 19 catches for 227 yards (11.9 average) with two touchdowns in three games. He is Jameis Winston’s go-to guy. In recent weeks, New Englands opposing passers (Deshaun Watson/Cam Newton) put up big numbers to their top targets (DeAndre Hopkins/Kelvin Benjamin).
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Tampa Bay safety Justin Smith. The Bucs used a second-round pick on the safety from Texas A&M, who is a terrific athlete. Smith was pressed into action last Sunday against the Giants after Keith Tandy left the game with a hip injury. He played well, and his range may be an asset against a team like the Patriots who like to throw the football down the field this season.
FAST FACTS: Pats QB Tom Brady passed for 307 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs and is looking for his fourth consecutive game passing for more than 300 yards. WR Chris Hogan has 4 TD catches in last three games and leads AFC with those four TD catches. WR Brandin Cooks collected 98 yards receiving in his last game vs. TB (12/24/16 with NO). LB Dont’a Hightower made one sack last week. CB Malcolm Butler, who was in the coach’s doghouse a couple of weeks ago, had an INT last week; has 2 INTs and 5 PDs in last 3 games vs. NFC … Bucs QB Jameis Winston threw for 332 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs and a 113 rating last week. RB Jacquizz Rodgers totaled 108 yards from scrimmage in last meeting. WR Mike Evans is going for fourth consecutive home game with a TD catch. He has 20 receptions for 307 yards, 2 TDs in past 2 Thursday games. Since 2015, Evans is 3rd in NFC with 2,754 yards receiving. DT Gerald McCoy has 8.5 sacks in past 10 games vs. AFC. Since 2013, McCoy leads NFL DTs with 33.5 sacks. DE Robert Ayers has 6 sacks & 2 FFs in past 8 games vs. AFC. CB Brent Grimes has 17 PD & 3 INTs, incl. 31-yard INT-TD in past 9 home games. He leads the NFL with 70 PD and ranks fourth with 17 INTs since 2013.
PREDICTION: It certainly would do wonders for their belief factor if the Bucs managed to take down last season’s Super Bowl champs on Prime-Time Thursday Night. But despite a Patriots defense that is yielding 458 yards a game, Winston may be snookered into a few of his infamous turnovers. The Pats will help by confusing him with an amorphous defense.
OUR PICK: Winner, Patriots 38-34.
(Frank Coone)

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NFL roundup: Brady works fourth quarter magic again for Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Ma — Tom Brady completed another fourth-quarter comeback, throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds remaining as the New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans 36-33 on Sunday.

Brady threw five touchdown passes and completed his 52nd fourth-quarter comeback. He also completed 25 of 35 passes for 378 yards to record his 78th career 300-yard game.

Rob Gronkowski had eight catches for 89 yards and Chris Hogan caught two TD passes for the unbeaten Patriots.
Rookie DeShaun Watson finished 22 of 22 for 301 yards and two touchdowns for Houston.

Eagles 27, Giants 24
PHILADELPHIA — Rookie Jake Elliott kicked a 61-yard field goal, giving Philadelphia a dramatic win over winless New York.
Eli Manning was 35-for-47 for 366 yards, three touchdowns as the Giants dropped to 0-3 after nearly rallying from an early 14-0 deficit. Odell Beckham Jr. caught nine passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Carson Wentz completed 21 of 31 passes for 171 yards.

Lions 30, Falcons 26
DETROIT — Matt Ryan connected with Taylor Gabriel for a 40-yard, go-ahead touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter and Atlanta held off Detroit.
Matt Stafford appeared to complete a 1-yard TD pass to Golden Tate with eight seconds remaining. After a review, Tate was ruled just shy of the goal line and since the Lions were out of timeouts the game ended.
Ryan completed 24 of 35 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Devonta Freeman carried 21 times for 106 yards and a touchdown while Julio Jones added seven catches on 91 yards.
Stafford completed 25 of 45 passes for 264 yards while Tate caught seven passes for 58 yards.

Saints 34, Panthers 13
CHARLOTTE, N.C — Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes as New Orleans cracked one of the NFL’s top defenses and routed Carolina.
Brees completed 22 of 29 passes for 220 yards as the Saints won in their first game against an NFC South foe this season.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was intercepted three times, and he didn’t play after the third pickoff late in the game. Newton completed 17 of 26 passes for 167 yards.

Vikings 34, Buccaneers 17
MINNEAPOLIS — Case Keenum threw for a career-high 369 passing and three touchdowns and Stefon Diggs caught eight passes for 173 yards and two scores as Minnesota beat Tampa Bay.
Adam Thielen caught five passes for 98 yards and rookie running back Dalvin Cook had 169 total yards (97 yards rushing, 72 receiving) and his first career touchdown in the win for Minnesota (2-1).
Jameis Winston went 28 of 40 for 328 yards but was intercepted three times.

Bears 23, Steelers 17 (OT)
CHICAGO — Jordan Howard scored on a 19-yard touchdown run with 9:09 remaining in overtime and Chicago beat Pittsburgh.
Howard finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns while Mike Glennon was 15 of 22 for 101 yards for Chicago.
Ben Roethlisberger finished 22 of 39 with 235 yards and a touchdown. Le’Veon Bell had 61 yards on 15 carries and Antonio Brown had 10 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Colts 31, Browns 28
INDIANAPOLIS — T.Y Hilton had seven receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown as Indianapolis scored 28 points in the first half and held off Cleveland.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett finished 17 of 24 for 259 yards. He completed 9 of 12 passes for 206 yards during the first half.
Cleveland quarterback De Shone Kizer finished 22 of 47 for 242 yards and two touchdowns while getting intercepted three times.

Bills 26, Broncos 16
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tyrod Taylor threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Buffalo past Denver
LeSean McCoy was limited to 21 rushing yards on 14 carries, but was Buffalo’s leading receiver with seven catches for 48 yards. He also became the third active player with at least 9,000 rushing yards and 400 receptions in his career.
Trevor Siemian was 24 of 40 passing for 259 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for the Broncos (2-1). Jamaal Charles rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Jets 20, Dolphins 6
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Josh McCown threw for 249 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson as New York beat Miami.
McCown completed 18 of 23 passes while New York’s defense held Miami running back Jay Ajayi to 16 yards on 11 carries.
Miami quarterback Jay Cutler finished 26 of 44 for 220 yards

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Brady helps Patriots roll past Saints

NEW ORLEANS -Tom Brady threw for 302 of his 447 passing yards in a 30-point first-half explosion and the New England Patriots rebounded from a season-opening loss to Kansas City with a 36-20 rout of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Brady completed only 16 of 36 passes in a 42-27 opening loss to the Chiefs, but he connected on 19 of 25 for 302 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone as New England (1-1) raced to a 30-13 lead and coasted to the win over the Saints, who fell to 0-2. Brady finished 30 of 39 for 447 yards.

It was the first time in Brady’s career — spanning 273 games, including the playoffs — that he threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter. He hit three different targets: running back Rex Burkhead for 19 yards, tight end Rob Gronkowski for 53 and wide receiver Chris Hogan for 13.

The Patriots finished with 555 yards in total offense and averaged 7.7 yards per play.
Gronkowski, who played just eight games last season because of injury and looked somewhat rusty with just two catches in the opener, caught six passes for 116 yards before exiting the game in the fourth quarter with a reported groin injury. He had a chance at another touchdown, but dropped a lob pass from Brady in the end zone at the end of the first half.

The Patriots rolled up 354 yards in total offense and 18 first downs in the half, and Brady was nearly perfect. The Patriots could have made it even more lopsided, but their final three scoring drives ended in field goals of 28, 24 and 27 yards by Stephen Gostkowski.

The Patriots scored on five of their first six possessions and punted only twice in the game.
Drew Brees (27 of 44 for 356 yards and two touchdowns) tried to keep the Saints close, connecting with Brandon Coleman on a 5-yard fade that began a 10-point comeback in the second quarter and cut New England’s lead to 20-13.

But the Patriots responded by scoring 10 points in the final 4:47 of the half and put the game away.
Trailing 27-13 with under three minutes left in the half, Saints head coach Sean Payton had such little faith in his defense that he gambled on fourth-and-3 from the New England 25, passing up a field-goal attempt. Brees’ deep fade for Ted Ginn Jr. fell incomplete.

NOTES:
The Patriots played without WR Danny Amendola (concussion/knee) and LB Dont’a Hightower (knee). … The Patriots are 43-6 following a loss since 2004. … The Saints dropped to 0-2, not a good omen for them. In their last three 7-9 seasons, in which they failed to make the playoffs, they started 0-2, 0-3 and 0-3. … CB Marshon Lattimore, the Saints’ No. 1 pick, was put under the concussion protocol after a fourth-quarter tackle. … RB James White had eight receptions for 85 yards and Brady picked apart the Saints underneath