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Patriots.com News Blitz - 1/19/2012

Chad Finn of the* Boston Globe* takes Patriots fans down memory lane by looking at the 10 best playoff games. The 2004 AFC Championship game win in Pittsburgh, the 1985 AFC Championship game win over the Dolphins and the "Snow Bowl" are all included on the long list of Patriots victories.

Mark Daniels of the Boston Herald writes about the evolution of the relationship between tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The former rivals in both high school and college were both selected by the Patriots in the 2012 draft. "We knew each other, we were kind of in a weird situation at first like, do we just say hi or do we not," Hernandez said. "Are we competing? Do we hate each other? I'm not sure. As soon as we started talking we were both humble people, both very outgoing, love to have fun, a little bit immature. We both got along great." The tight end pair quickly overcame their differences and combined for 169 receptions, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. "Now we're so close we're more like brothers," Hernandez said. "A lot of people say that just to say it but we really are. We're really close. We love each other and have a great relationship."

Jason La Canforna of NFL.com previews both the AFC and NFC Championship games that will happen on Sunday. In a match-up of contrasting styles, Baltimore's defensive stars like Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata will face the Patriots high-powered offense led by Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Some difference makers in the game might be Ray Rice, Lardarius Webb and Bernard Pollard for Baltimore and Rob Ninkovich and Mark Anderson for New England.

Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe writes about the place that Rob Ninkovich has carved in the New England defense. Ninkovich came to the Patriots two and a half seasons ago as an often injured player and has become one of New England's best defensive players since then. "He'd been with a couple different teams in the league,'' said coach Bill Belichick, "and we felt that in our system maybe he had a chance to do more versatile things, rather than just zeroing in on one specific thing like rushing or covering, but a combination of those, plus playing in the kicking game, and he's really done that."

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes about how Jerod Mayo has become a team leader. When Mayo was first drafted in 2008, he was known as a quiet person. However his rise to being an emotional leader was on full display in last Saturday's win over Denver as Mayo delivered a pre-game speech to his teammates on the field. "Jerod gets us going,'' veteran defensive lineman Shaun Ellis said of Mayo, one of the team's defensive captains. "He's definitely our tone-setter." Other Patriots captains feel the same way about Mayo. "It's like a battle cry moment,'' fellow captain Matthew Slater said. "You're realizing you're getting ready to go to battle with the guys around you, and that's the last chance to focus up and get your juices flowing. It's a very significant moment in the process of us getting ready to play."

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes about Bill Belichick's breakdown of last weekend's win over Denver. In the breakdown Belichick gave defensive back Devin McCourty praise for his role in stopping Denver's run game. Belichick also gave praise to interior linemen Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren and Kyle Love for their interior pass rush.

Tom Curran of CSNNE.com writes about recent comments by Tom Brady about the Baltimore Raven's defense. "You always enjoy going up against the best because you can really measure where you're at. You can't take plays off against those guys. You can't take things for granted when you're out there against them. You have to see where they're at on every play because they're guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that they're in, they're making plays," Brady said when talking about defensive stars Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. But Brady also gave praise to other members of the Baltimore defense. "They're good there," Brady said when talking about defensive backs Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. "That's become a real strength for them. You hear about so many of those other guys and you end up taking for granted the guys on the outside."

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about recent comments from Brandon Spikes about his "old school" inspiration for how he plays, Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was coached by Spikes' current coach Bill Belichick and the topic comes up sometimes. "Every now and then I try to slide something in," Spikes said. "But [Belichick] always just says, 'Make sure you're worrying about what you've got going on.' I try to stay focused on my game, but he knows I love L.T. He played the game the right way, so I just try to mold my game something like that."

Jason Cole of Yahoo.com writes about where the inspiration for the current tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez came from, the Detroit Lions in the 1970's. Then assistant coach Bill Belichick had David Hill and hall of famer Charlie Sanders as his tight ends. "Yeah, that was really the first – I mean, honestly there wasn't a lot of two tight ends in the mid-70s, there really wasn't," Belichick said. "There was one tight end in the game and occasionally teams used two tight ends in short yardage, but that's kind of where the two tight ends and one [running] back [started]. And then [coach Don] Coryell and San Diego and so forth, it became a little more prevalent. But when we had Charlie Sanders and David Hill at Detroit, those two guys were pretty good."

James Walker of ESPN.com writes about a record that Tom Brady has a chance to tie this weekend. With a win Brady will tie his childhood idol Joe Montana with 16 career postseason wins. The opportunity to tie this record comes one week after Brady tied Montana with six touchdown passes in a single playoff game.

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