Although the New England Patriots know that The Road To MetLife Stadium will not be an easy one, having to play the Denver Broncos on the road in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, they also know that they may not even have reached this point had it not been for another NFL team who came nowhere near qualifying for the playoffs in 2013. The team to which I am referring, of course, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was the Bucs, after all, who traded Aqib Talib to the Pats last offseason after Tampa Bay had enough of the defensive back’s off-the-field issues. Had Talib not missed the second half of last season’s AFC Championship Game after suffering an injury early on, who knows what would have happened. It could have been the Patriots instead of the Baltimore Ravens who faced the San Francisco 49ers in last season’s Super Bowl.
Furthermore, when it comes to the Buccaneers and Talib and other players with character concerns, the Patriots can thank Tampa Bay for sending them over this season’s biggest postseason start, LeGarrette Blount.
They can also thank Talib.
In the spirit of full-disclosure, I’m working as part of the Road to MetLife Stadium Preferred Blogger Program. Throughout the year I’ll be receiving special access to MetLife events and be conducting reader giveaways, with prizes provided by MetLife and Sony Electronics. However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own.
If you are looking for which team may have a greater edge, make sure to check out Stats.com. If the temperatures dip below 40 degrees on Sunday, Stats.com will tell you why we may very well be watching the Patriots face the 49ers in MetLife Stadium in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of course, the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks may have something to say in that matter, regardless of how low the temperatures dip.
According to New England head coach Bill Belichick, a lot of credit is owed to Talib.
“I think definitely an assist on this one has to go to our assistant pro personnel director – Talib — who I talked to before we traded for LeGarrette, and everything he said about him was absolutely right,” Belichick said, smiling. “He’s a good football player who loves to play, works hard and is a team player; great guy for the team in the locker room. He’s been all those things.”
In fact, Blount has been all that and more for the Patriots. After taking over for the fumble-prone Stevan Ridley, Blount literally has taken the ball and run with it, especially in last weekend’s playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. Blount rushed for 4 touchdowns in the win in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs against the Colts, after rushing for 189 yards in the regular season finale victory over the Buffalo Bills. He will look to find some more holes on Sunday afternoon against the Broncos, although this is a Denver team who has fared fairly well at stopping the run.
Again, the Patriots may not have ever reached this stage had it not been for the praise of Blount from his former teammate in Tampa.
“I just told him [Belichick] he was a great teammate, a great locker-room player, and you’re going to see a lot of explosive plays from him,” Talib said. “That’s all I told him.”
Turns out that is an understatement. But, can Blount and the suddenly explosive Patriots’ ground game keep things going on the road against the Broncos for the right to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium on February 2? I guess you will have to tune in on Sunday to find out the answer to that question and many more.
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