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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)
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  • 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 […]
  • FILE - In this Jan. 31, 1999, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith (80) catches a pass for a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons saftey Eugene Robinson (41) moves in during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. The night before the game, Robinson was arrested for trying to solicit a prostitute. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

    As Falcons return to big game, remembering the Dirty Birds

    ATLANTA (AP) — The last time the Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, they put on quite a show. Just not when it mattered. The team known as the “Dirty Birds” capped off a remarkable season in 1998 by doing almost everything wrong once they claimed a spot in the big game. “I […]
  • FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith speaks during a press conference about an upcoming game against the Detroit Lions, in Watford, England. Mike Smith never made it to the Super Bowl with the Falcons. Came up 10 yards short. But let's not underestimate the impact he had on the Falcons, who are now just one win away from their first NFL championship. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

    Column: As Falcons head to Super Bowl, remember Mike Smith

    ATLANTA (AP) — Mike Smith never made it to the Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons. Came up 10 yards short . But let’s not underestimate the impact he had on the Falcons, who are one win away from their first NFL championship. The white-haired coach known as Smitty helped turn this franchise into something […]
  • FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs with the ball during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, in Cleveland. The Falcons (13-5) take on the New England Patriots (16-2) in Super Bowl LI in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard)

    Matchups for the Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl

    HOUSTON (AP) — Matchups for the Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons (13-5) and New England Patriots (16-2) in Houston: ___ When the Falcons have the ball Atlanta led the NFL in points (540) by a wide margin, thanks to a career year from QB Matt Ryan (2), who along with WR Julio Jones (11) […]
  • FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore speaks at a press conference after ,an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Pittsburgh. The NFL's concussion protocol wasn't strictly followed when Moore was treated for a hit to the chin and mouth in the first-round playoff game, the league said. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)

    NFL: concussion protocol not followed by Miami in Moore case

    MIAMI (AP) — The NFL’s concussion protocol wasn’t strictly followed when Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore was treated for a hit to the chin and mouth in a first-round playoff game, the league said Wednesday. Because Moore was bleeding from the mouth, he was allowed to return to the game too quickly at Pittsburgh, the […]
  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaves the field after the AFC championship NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots won 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Tomlin not alarmed as Roethlisberger ponders future

    PITTSBURGH (AP) — As a general philosophy, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin treats each individual season as its own unique entity, with no direct through line from one to the next. Considering his quarterback’s current state of mind, probably a good idea. While Tomlin believes the Steelers have a “championship caliber” team a couple days […]
  • Grounds crew members paint the New England Patriots logo in the end zone at NRG Stadium, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Houston. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in NFL footbalj's Super Bowl LI Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    Rest over as Patriots begin Super Bowl prep for Falcons

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick is on to the Atlanta Falcons. After taking a day to review and recharge following his team’s AFC championship game win over Pittsburgh, the New England coach said Tuesday that the coaching staff’s preparations are fully underway for the Super Bowl. The Patriots are preparing to make their seventh […]
  • Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan celebrates after the NFL football NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta. The Falcons won 44-21 to advance to Super Bowl LI. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

    Overreactions: There’s no stopping Matt Ryan and the Falcons

    There’s no stopping Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. After piling up 540 points in the regular season, the NFL’s highest-scoring offense has been even better in the playoffs. The Falcons scored 36 points against Seattle last week and 44 more against Green Bay in a lopsided NFC championship game. Next up are the New […]
  • Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) is tackled short of the goal line by New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung, rear, and defensive back Duron Harmon, top, during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Patriots’ defense ignored critics on the way to Super Bowl

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — There’s a mantra that players quickly come to learn when they play for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. It’s placed in different spots in the locker room, it’s on the walls around the team facility, and the coach himself repeats it often: “Do your job.” Perhaps no other unit […]