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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/16/2012

Jeff Howe of* NESN.com* writes about the Patriots continued inspiration from Myra Kraft, the late wife of owner Robert Kraft. After the Dec. 24 game against Miami, an emotional ceremony was held in which Robert Kraft was presented with a large vertical painting with the Patriots' "Flying Elvis" logo over Myra's initials, "MHK," which overlook the players as they huddle with their hands together in unison. Below, the word "dedication" is written in capital letters. Along with the painting, the Patriots have worn patches on their jerseys all season with Myra's initials, MHK. "This whole season, we've had a little bit of extra motivation," special teams captain Matthew Slater said after Saturday's playoff victory against the Broncos. "We know what Mrs. Kraft meant to this organization, especially to Mr. Kraft. It's a very tough time for him and his family. He's really taking it hard. In a way, we've dedicated this season to being as successful as we can for her in her memory. She's a wonderful lady, has a tremendous legacy, so it is a little extra inspiration to see that picture when we come in here." Another captain, second-year cornerback Devin McCourty, added, "We know Mr. Kraft went through a lot, and she was a big part of this organization. She's been on our jerseys, and she's been in our hearts the whole season."

Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe writes about the brief and intense rivalry that has formed between the Patriots and their AFC Championship game opponents, the Baltimore Ravens. Sunday will be the eighth all-time meeting since the Ravens entered the league in 1996. It's the seventh of the Bill Belichick era and the sixth since Tom Brady became New England's starting quarterback. New England is 7-1 in those eight games with the Ravens lone victory being a 33-14 playoff win at Gillette Stadium.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald gives five reasons for optimism for the Patriots as they face the Baltimore Ravens this week. The reasons include: Settling an old score, the no-huddle offense and the rise of the Patriots defense.

Alex Marves of FoxSports.com writes about Tom Brady's "game for the ages" against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. Brady was 26 of 34 with 363 yards and six touchdowns. Brady set an NFL record by throwing five touchdowns in the first half, and tied an NFL record by finishing with six. "Tom is our leader," Vince Wilfork said. "If he plays well, everyone else plays well." Brady threw three touchdowns to tight end Rob Gronkowski and one touchdown to Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez. "He was on fire, man," Gronkowski said of Brady.

Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe writes about the Patriots turning in their first 60-minute effort of the season. "Trust me, those weeks we started bad, we had great weeks of practice,'' Deion Branch said. "The coaches can't play the game. We have to take ownership on our own and execute the plays. We went out [Saturday] and had a couple of good drives.''

Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald writes about the Patriots offseason veteran signings Brian Waters and Shaun Ellis. Both men were brought in entering their 12th NFL seasons. For Waters, Saturday's win was his first career playoff win. "Big day," Waters said with a smile. For Ellis, he will be going to his third straight AFC Championship game looking to make his first Super Bowl appearance. "Badly, badly, 12 years in," said Ellis, who had a sack of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. "I've worked hard all my years, been able to get another opportunity, hopefully close that window and be able to get there, and win it."

ESPNBoston.com reports on the status of Baltimore safety Ed Reed who injured his ankle on the last play of Baltimore's win over the Houston Texans. According to the report, "Ravens safety Ed Reed has a severely sprained ankle but X-rays were negative and no MRI is scheduled at this point, according to the team."  Reed was short in his postgame interview but said, "I'll be all right. I'll get treatment and I'll be ready to go."

Mary Paoletti of CSNNE.com writes about the "redemption game" Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich had against the Denver Broncos on Saturday. "The first series down in Denver they were able to get the ball down the edge a couple times. As being outside linebacker, that really falls on my shoulders so I took that to heart," Ninkovich said. "You've got to set the edge, you've got to be strong. Coming into this game I wanted to make sure I was able to do that for everybody." The Patriots linebacker finished with five tackles (including one for a loss), 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and the first quarter forced fumble. Tebow was held to 13 yards rushing. "Playing against a guy like Tim Tebow, you've got to give him a ton of credit. You've got to prepare for him all week," Ninkovich said in the postgame. "[He's] a guy that can run the option, get out of the pocket and do things on the run. We just stressed all week on keeping him contained, keeping the run contained, not letting the ball outside ... just being all solid in communication."

Barry Wilner of the Associated Press previews this Sunday's Conference Championship games. The NFC will have the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers play while New England and Baltimore will play for the AFC. Baltimore finished the season 9-0 at home but just 4-4 on the road (including playoffs). They will travel to Foxboro on Sunday.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes his weekly look at the Patriots defensive snaps chart from Saturday's win over Denver. The only Patriots player to play all 71 plays was safety Patrick Chung. Defensive end/outside linebacker Mark Anderson played a season high in snaps playing in 70 of 71 snaps and was pivotal in defending Denver's option offense. Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes also played a large role in New England's win. Gerard Warren, Shaun Ellis, Kyle Love and Sterling Moore also played in extended roles in the Patriots win.

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