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Patriots motivated by hope of humiliating Commissioner Roger Goodell

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Several storylines surround Sunday’s Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots are going for their fifth Lombardi Trophy while an Atlanta victory will give them their first. After the commercials, the halftime and, of course, the game, even more intrigue possibly awaits viewers still sober enough to care. Just the mere ritual of handing off the trophy could be yet another contest. If the Falcons prevail, Commissioner Roger Goodell and owner Arthur Blank…

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That was awkward: Roger Goodell dodges on Raiders, parries on Pats

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Nothing produces awkward NFL moments quite like watching the commissioner parry all those thorny issues involving the league’s oldest and newest troublemakers – the Raiders and Patriots. Reporters spent time poking Roger Goodell about “Deflategate,” the Raiders’ now-threatened move to Las Vegas, and other delicate topics at the commissioner’s less-formal, less-crowded and, frankly, less-newsy pre-Super Bowl news conference, held on a Wednesday this year instead of the traditional Friday afternoon slot. Going sans necktie and speaking in a room about…

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Raiders’ penalties don’t help hapless Bucs in overtime

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For a moment, the Tampa Bay Bucs had hope. For a moment, they had opportunity. Neither of them lasted. It was overtime, and the Bucs had just taken over on a missed field goal. They were at their own 42, a couple of first downs from a field goal try that would potentially win the game. And they went nowhere. On first down, Jameis Winston threw long, as he tried throughout the game. Incomplete. On second down, he threw for…

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Raiders’ receivers present huge challenge to Bucs’ cornerbacks

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Think of it as a game within a game. When the Oakland Raiders visit the Bucs on Sunday, there will be a lot of factors that determine the winner. One of them, however, will be the play of Raiders’ receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree against Tampa Bay corners Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes. Cooper is tied for sixth in the NFL in receiving with 40 catches. Crabtree is tied for 11th with 39. “Those two receivers, Cooper and Crabtree,…

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Russell Shepard latest Buc to become an essential player for team

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One of the highlights of the two-game winning streak of the Tampa Bay Bucs has been the emergence of unheralded players. Over the past two games, the Bucs have had major impacts from Jacquizz Rodgers, from Davonte Lambert and from John Hughes. And now, there is Russell Shepard. Shepard, normally a special teams standout for the Bucs, found himself thrust into the playing rotation after the injury to Vincent Jackson. Shepard, who had only seven catches in his first three…

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Patchwork defensive line playing well for Tampa Bay Bucs

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They are not exactly the Fearsome Foursome, but the Tampa Bay Bucs are getting production from an under-appreciated defensive line. The Bucs have had to patch and spackle lately, but they’ve still won two games in a row. During that time, defensive ends William Gholston and Noah Spence and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy have played well. “I think Gerald gets a bad rap sometimes,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “People don’t appreciate what he brings to the table. Having coached against him, you’ve got to double team him or…

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Not 4th down for LA, but surely 3rd and long

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If there’s one thing the NFL doesn’t want associated with moving a team or teams to Los Angeles, it’s confusion. Too late. With each delay in the process, as well-intentioned as they might be, the league perplexes residents of LA, St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego. Not to mention fans of the Rams, Raiders and Chargers, wherever else they reside. This week’s move to punt any decision to Jan. 13 in Houston, a delay of nearly six weeks, was deemed…

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