Tom Brady leads New England Patriots to AFC decider

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott helps Philadelphia Eagles to NFC final

New England Patriots quarterback   Tom Brady celebrates after a touchdown in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after a touchdown in the third quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

 

New England Patriots 35 Tennessee Titans 14

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are returning to the AFC Championship Game after opening their title defence with a 35-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in a divisional playoff game Saturday night in Foxborough.

Brady completed 35 of 53 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns, his NFL-record 10th career playoff game with three or more TDs. Danny Amendola caught 11 passes for 112 yards for the Patriots.

Top-seeded New England will play in its seventh straight AFC title game next Sunday, hosting either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It was a great team win overall,” Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said on CBS. “On offense, everyone contributed. It was great. The wide receivers, running backs, tight ends. We all came in together and we worked together to get this win.”

Quarterback Marcus Mariota finished 22 of 37 for 254 yards and two touchdowns and also led the Titans in rushing with 37 yards. Corey Davis made five grabs for 62 yards and two scores.

After beating the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 in the wildcard round last week, Tennessee fell short of its first AFC title-game berth since 2002.

The Titans last beat the Patriots in 2002 and have not won in Foxborough since 1993, when the franchise played in Houston.

The Patriots had a playoff franchise-record eight sacks in the game.

New England padded its 21-7 halftime lead and effectively sealed the result with Brandon Bolden’s two-yard touchdown rush with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter.

Brady’s four-yard TD pass to Gronkowski (six catches, 81 yards) made it 35-7 with 10:22 left in the fourth.

Brady shrugged off another thoughts that the Patriots were distracted by a bye-week ESPN report indicating a rift between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.

“You know what? No,” he said of whether the report affected the team. “I’ve been around long enough, 18 years. There’s so many nice things said about me. It just goes with the territory. I just try to be consistent. Show up and do the best I can do every week for the team . . .

“Being on the field, it’s a great place. That’s where you go prove it. You can talk all day about what you’re going to do or what you can do. Ultimately, you have to go out there and do it . . . This team has done such a good job this year, focusing on what we need to.”

Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicks a 21-yard field goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott kicks a 21-yard field goal against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA

Philadelphia Eagles 15 Atlanta Falcons 10

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott booted three field goals, LeGarrette Blount rushed for a one-yard touchdown, and the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the visiting Atlanta Falcons 15-10 in the NFC divisional playoffs at Lincoln Financial Field.

The crowd erupted when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the Philadelphia two-yard line with less than one minute remaining.

The top-seeded Eagles won their first playoff game since 2009 and advanced to host the NFC Championship Game next Sunday against either the New Orleans Saints or the Minnesota Vikings.

“It’s an awesome feeling to be moving on and having a chance at the Super Bowl,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We have belief in one another, and we knew we could win. One more and we’re off to Minneapolis.”

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles managed the game effectively by completing 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards.

Ryan was hardly dominant, going 22-of-36 for 210 yards and one touchdown. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 101 yards but couldn’t come down with the ball on the game-deciding, fourth-down play.

“It’s difficult when you get to the playoffs and you’ve put in all the work throughout the year,” Ryan said. “You’re in a competitive game. There’s a lot of back and forth. It’s disappointing to not get the outcome that you want.”

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