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Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan walks to the bus as the team arrive at George Bush Intercontinental Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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  • Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan walks to the bus as the team arrive at George Bush Intercontinental Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    In enemy territory, nary a bad word about Falcons QB Ryan

    BOSTON (AP) — The enemies list is long in New England, and it grows with each tweet that dares to doubt Tom Brady’s supremacy or call coach Bill Belichick a cheater. But there’s one opponent who has escaped the fury of the Foxborough fans, and even has a considerable amount of goodwill in the heart […]
  • FILE - In this Tuesday, May 24, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank talks about his city's successful bid following a vote at the NFL owner's meeting in Charlotte N.C., that awarded the Super Bowl to Atlanta, which will host the game in 2019, South Florida, (2020) and Los Angeles (2021). The New England Patriots' "Deflategate" was a major story, but the Atlanta Falcons were handed a much-less publicized punishment for pumping fake noise into home games in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Falcons' "Inflategate" was a blip on the news radar, in large part because owner Arthur Blank acknowledged the team's rules violation even before the NFL released its official findings in 2015. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone, File)

    Blank’s approach made ‘Inflategate’ a blip on Falcons’ radar

    ATLANTA (AP) — The “Deflategate” scandal has hovered over the Patriots for parts of three seasons, thanks to appeals of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, finally served at the beginning of this season. New England’s Super Bowl opponents had their own scandal — but it was a blip on the news radar that most fans long […]
  • Workers attach a sign to the front of NRG Stadium as preparations continue for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    Column: A preview of things to expect during Super Bowl week

    There have been 50 of these already, making this Super Bowl LI in the roman numerals the NFL uses to make sure no one forgets just how important the game really is. And important it is, at least as a national holiday of sorts to the 100 million Americans who will tune in. People who […]
  • Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau yells during the third quarter of the team's NBA basketball against the Brooklyn Nets in Minneapolis, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. The Timberwolves defeated the Nets 129-109. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

    Belichick has quite a fan in Minnesota’s Thibodeau

    Tom Thibodeau has won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, a gold medal with Team USA and been hired to take over the Minnesota Timberwolves and remake them to fit a vision he has carefully honed over the last two decades. Among all those sporting highs over a long career, one day stands out […]
  • Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan walks to the bus as the team arrive at George Bush Intercontinental Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    Falcons arrive for 1st Super Bowl appearance since 1999

    HOUSTON (AP) — They’re here. Well, at least one team playing in the Super Bowl has arrived in Houston. The Atlanta Falcons, making their first appearance in the NFL championship game since 1999 and second overall, arrived Sunday afternoon to little fanfare at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. That was quite the contrast to the sendoff […]
  • FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2017 file photo, New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett celebrates with cheerleaders after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Foxborough, Mass.  Bennett has filled Rob Gronkowski's shoes in more ways than one. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    Bennett defines his own ‘Patriot Way’ en route to Super Bowl

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — If Martellus Bennett had his way, people would live in his world. He describes it as a fun place, where imaginations can run wild and people can feel unrestrained. And in a way, Bennett has managed to do just that in his first season with the New England Patriots. Fair or […]
  • In this Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 photo, Atlanta Falcons' Andy Levitre, left, plays against teammate Josh Harris in a game of pingpong in the locker room at the NFL football team's practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. For the Super Bowl-bound Falcons, brotherhood begins at three pingpong tables in the middle of their locker room. That's where friendships are forged, friendly wagers settled and the competitive juices really get flowing. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Atlanta Falcons’ brotherhood starts with a little white ball

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — For the Atlanta Falcons, brotherhood begins at three pingpong tables in the middle of the locker room. That’s where friendships are forged and friendly wagers settled. And when that little white ball starts flying, look out! These guys are just as competitive with a paddle as they are with the […]
  • FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2016, file photo, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski faces reporters during an NFL football news conference in Foxborough, Mass. While his Patriots teammates are dealing with the business of trying to win another Super Bowl, Gronkowski is handling business of another sort. The sidelined tight end produced and starred in an online TV series that basically is "Shark Tank For Jocks." (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

    Sidelined Gronk still easy to find

    HOUSTON (AP) — While his Patriots teammates are dealing with the business of trying to win another Super Bowl, Rob Gronkowski is handling business of another sort. The sidelined tight end produced and starred in an online TV series that basically is “Shark Tank For Jocks.” And while Gronk can be an overwhelming force on […]
  • FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2016, file photo, New England Patriots defensive end Chris Long (95) reacts during the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. Long signed a one-year deal with the Patriots after two injury-plagued seasons ended his eight-year run with the Rams. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

    Long’s bet on Patriots pays off in vet’s 1st Super Bowl trip

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — There was a time when Chris Long didn’t think this opportunity would ever come. A time when words like “playoffs” and “Super Bowl” seemed like unattainable unicorns that the 31-year-old Patriots defensive lineman might never touch. Eight years in the NFL spent on underperforming teams, and having seasons potholed by injuries […]
  • FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2009, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu celebrates following Pittsburgh's 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL Super Bowl 43 football game in Tampa, Fla. No team has won more Super Bowls than the Steelers with six titles in the 50-year history of the event. Few franchises have been around for so long with so little accolade as the Arizona Cardinals, who date back to St. Louis and Chicago. The Cardinals nearly pulled off a championship stunner following a 2008 season during which their 9-7 record was good enough to win a weak division. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

    Patriots-Falcons, the latest case of trophy inequity

    The New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the ninth time in the last 31 years, chasing their fifth championship next weekend in Houston. No coach or player in the current NFL could have a more palpable been-here-before feeling than Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. All four of their Super Bowl victories have […]