FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — By the third quarter of Sunday's AFC title game, Gillette Stadium erupted in a "Where is Roger?" chant while the New England Patriots were well on their way to clinching a record ninth trip to the Super Bowl. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been conspicuous in his absence from New England's home games the last few years, has long been held as a villain by the team's supporters, just as outside their borders the remarkable Patriots are viewed by many as cheaters.
Patriots' Brady, Belichick building on legacy FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Arguably the greatest coach and quarterback tandem in NFL history added to its legacy Sunday night at Gillette Stadium as the New England Patriots advanced to a record ninth Super Bowl — the record seventh for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. A week after scuffling along early before pulling away from the feisty Houston Texans, New England controlled the game almost from start to finish in a 36-17 romp over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.
The Atlanta Falcons beat the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the National Football Conference Championship on Sunday to book their place in the Super Bowl.
MINNEAPOLIS — Wisconsin sophomore Ethan Happ couldn't help but sprawl out on the Williams Arena court when Minnesota's final shot attempt missed the mark. Happ and the No. 17 Badgers put in a full day's work and survived against the young, upstart Gophers. Happ scored 28 points, including 23 in the second half and overtime, as Wisconsin held off Minnesota 78-76 in overtime Saturday.
Defense wins championships. That's the old adage. And it's about to be turned on its head by either the Green Bay Packers or the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers finished 21st in points allowed. The Falcons finished 27th. And yet, one of them will win the NFC championship game today in Atlanta. The victor will be playing in Super Bowl LI, and it figures to be a battle of brilliant quarterbacks — Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers — who decide this one.
The current injury to Jordy Nelson brought the worst pain of his life, but the Green Bay Packers' leading receiver is determined to be on the field for Sunday's NFC championship game despite broken ribs. Nelson did not play at Dallas last week because of the injury and was limited in practice all week as the Packers wrap up preparation for the Atlanta Falcons. For context on his personal pain spectrum, Nelson missed the entire 2015 season with a torn knee ligament.
ST. PAUL — Nino Niederreiter scored twice on the power play, including the game-winner with 7:06 left, to propel the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 NHL win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. Niederreiter added an assist, and Eric Staal and Chris Stewart also scored as Minnesota won for the 18th time in 22 games. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 20 saves for the Wild, who gave up a two-goal lead for the second game in a row to a team in the bottom three in the NHL in scoring.
SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 as the San Antonio Spurs shrugged off a ragged first three quarters and rolled to a 122-114 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at the AT&T Center. Leonard's rebound and rush down the court for a dunk over two Minnesota defenders with 7:36 to play highlighted a 20-2 run for San Antonio that turned a 90-83 deficit into a 103-92 lead.
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — With 36 games to play, you would be unwise to tell the New Jersey Devils their playoff chances are slim. After upsetting the NHL's hottest team, those chances are starting to fatten up quickly. Beau Bennett, Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique scored third-period goals as the Devils overcame a pair of deficits and cooled off the red-hot Wild just a bit, beating Minnesota 4-3 Tuesday.
GREEN BAY — Mason Crosby became a Super Bowl champion in his native state of Texas six years ago. Yet, his finest moment — make that, collective moments — as a record-setting kicker for the Packers just might have come Sunday back in Texas. Crosby's 51-yard field goal as time expired lifted the upstart Packers to a 34-31 knockout of the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs at AT&T Stadium. "He's the best kicker in the league," quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised afterward. "He's incredible."