|01.12.15 at 3:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A lucky few Patriots fans will get a chance Tuesday to buy tickets to the AFC championship Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Similar to last week, the team announced Monday afternoon that they will make a limited number of tickets available for sale to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through Ticketmaster.
After fulfilling orders for Patriots season ticket holders and Patriots “Wait List” members, the remaining tickets will be placed on sale to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. All Patriots playoff ticket orders will be processed through Ticketmaster.
Playoff tickets will not be sold at the Gillette Stadium Ticket Office. Ticket orders can be processed one of two ways, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone by calling 800-745-3000. Visa, a sponsor of the National Football League and the New England Patriots, will be the only accepted form of payment. Please beware of any tickets acquired through third-party vendors or non-Ticketmaster transactions. The team is also warning against purchasing secondary counterfeit tickets.
A 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens this past weekend gave the Patriots their 100th win at Gillette Stadium and propelled the Patriots into the AFC championship for the fourth consecutive year.
This Sunday’s game will be the third AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in the last four years and will be the Patriots’ 11th overall appearance in an AFC championship game. The Patriots are 7-3 in those games, including 4-1 at home. With the victory over the Ravens, the Patriots improve to 12-3 (.800) in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium.
For the first 34 years in the franchise’s history, the Patriots hosted just one playoff game ‘ a loss to the Houston Oilers in 1978. Yet, in the 20 years since Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994, the Patriots have qualified for the playoffs 16 times, including 14 times as division champions. This week’s AFC Championship Game will be their league-leading 20th home playoff game since 1994. The Patriots are 16-3 in the previous 19 games.
|01.12.15 at 1:36 pm ET|
Even almost 48 hours after the Patriots beat the Ravens, 35-31, in a divisional round game at Gillette Stadium, there is still a lot of talk surrounding the few plays the Patriots ran with just four offensive linemen.
Coach Bill Belichick was asked of the plays on Monday’s conference call, where he said he saw another team do it (possibly good friend Nick Saban at the University of Alabama), but also the play originated in NFL.
“It’s a play that, a situation that I saw another team might use, kinda, and we talked about it and thought about ways to put some pressure on the defense with that concept of having more receivers on the field than were actually eligible,” Belichick said. “Making them ineligible instead of making ineligible, eligible, it would go the other way around. Came up with a few ideas.
“The origin of that play was from the NFL, but what they did wasn’t now, but it sparked some ideas and some — we did what we did.”
On those three plays, the Patriots made running back Shane Vereen ineligible on two of the plays, as he lined up as a receiver and same with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui doing the same on another. During the sequence Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens bench was given a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as Harbaugh went onto the field to argue what the Patriots were doing.
Following the game, Harbaugh said the plays were “deceptive.”
“We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then time was taken and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it,” said Harbaugh. “And that was where it was clearly deception.”
While Belichick had no comment on what Harbaugh said, Belichick did say how eligible players reporting as ineligible players on certain plays happens all the time, especially on special teams.
“That happens all the time,” Belichick said. “You come out on the punt team and ineligible guys report as eligible, they line up as guards and tackles on the punt team. The center, looks at the centers numbers and in the NFL, the centers numbers are eligible players that report ineligible. Then they cover punts. We’ve seen it on offense. Particularly you see it on special teams and in the punting game. Not so much on field goals because you have your linemen protecting in there, but I’d say that happens every game on the punt team. You’re allowed to do that and we did it.”
|01.12.15 at 1:13 pm ET|
Here are five things you have to know about the Colts, who will face the Patriots Sunday night in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium:
1. The success of their team is bound up in Andrew Luck.
Of the four teams that remain in the postseason, none of them are as dependent on their quarterback as the Colts. The third-year signal-caller out of Stanford was the primary reason why the Colts were the best passing team in the league, averaging a stellar 306 yards per game. Luck (62 percent completion rate, 4,761 passing yards, 40 TDs, 16 INTs, 96.5 passer rating) was the only quarterback who finished the season with a completion rate of 60 percent or better, more than 4,000 yards and 40 or more touchdowns. He has a curious habit of turning the ball over, particularly against the Patriots — in his three games against New England, Luck has thrown eight picks, and he’s turned the ball over nine times in all in the three defeats. (We wondered back in November if there’s a “Belichick is in Luck’s head” narrative developing in the same way that the Patriots’ coach appeared to have Peyton Manning‘s number in his early days in Indy.) Regardless, when he drops back to pass, Luck looks for T.Y. Hilton (82 catches, 131 targets, 1,345 yards, 7 TDs) and veteran Reggie Wayne (64 catches, 116 targets, 779 yards, 2 TDs), as well as tight end Coby Fleener (51 catches, 92 targets, 774 yards, 8 TDs).
2. When it comes to running the football, they’re a little better now than they were during the regular season.
Over the course of the 2014 regular season, the Colts were one of the worst running teams in the league. Indy was 22nd in rushing yardage in the regular season, averaging 100.8 yards per game — the worst mark of any AFC team that reached the playoffs. As a team, they had seven games where they failed to hit the century mark on the ground, including two games where they had less than 20 rushing yards total. (One yard against Dallas and 19 yards against the Patriots.) Trent Richardson was the closest thing the team had to a feature back in the regular season, as he finished with 519 rushing yards on 159 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. But Dan “Boom” Herron has been able to give them a postseason boost when it comes to their ground game — Herron had 12 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown in the wild card win over the Bengals, and followed that up with a tidy 23 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown in the divisional playoff victory over the Broncos. As a team, the Colts finished with 114 rushing yards against Cincy and 99 yards against Denver, but Herron will likely get the bulk of the carries against New England — the 5-foot-10, 212-pounder out of Ohio State finished the regular-season with 78 carries for 351 yards and a touchdown. He’s also a bit of a multidimensional threat, as he added 21 catches on 26 targets for 173 receiving yards on the season.
|01.12.15 at 12:22 pm ET|
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman and defensive end Chandler Jones made appearances on Middays with MFB on Monday to rehash Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game against the Ravens and give their input on next weekend’s conference championship. To hear the interviews, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The talking points coming out of the weekend focus on the Patriots’ series of trick plays, whether it was Tom Brady tossing the ball back to Edelman who subsequently let it rip down to the field to a wide open Danny Amendola for a touchdown, or running back Shane Vereen declaring himself an ineligible receiver to keep Baltimore on its toes.
As a former college quarterback, Edelman is no stranger to airing one out every once in a while, and his first chance to do it in the pros was nothing short of successful. So how long has a play like that been an option for the Pats?
“We’ve been working on it for a while, had it in the bag for probably half the season and we just never got the situation or the coverage that we needed to get it called,” Edelman said. “We were getting it all throughout the game with Baltimore.
“We would throw it out there every once in a while in practice, and if we executed it properly or if we got the look or a defense did that, we were going to use it,” he added. “So we’ve had it for little bit and the coaches dialed it up.”
With a game as back and forth as the one on Saturday, Edelman pointed out that the difference in the game was each team’s last five drives.
“I think our last five drives, we got in the red zone three times, scored, got some points or something,” he said. “Their last five, they punted twice, [had] two interceptions and scored once or something, so that was the difference in the game, the red area and those last five possessions.
“They played a killer game before that and they made plays when they had to before that, but it came down to making plays in the right situations and we were able to do that this game.”
|01.12.15 at 12:10 pm ET|
Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat – a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback – it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’s a look at the target breakdown for one game of the 2014 postseason (by way of comparison, here’s the target breakdown for the 2014 regular season):
WR Julian Edelman: 8 catches on 14 targets (57 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 7 catches on 13 targets (54 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 5 catches on 6 targets (83 percent)
WR Brandon LaFell: 5 catches on 7 targets (71 percent)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 4 catches on 4 targets (100 percent)
RB Shane Vereen: 4 catches on 5 targets (80 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)
For what it’s worth, Saturday marked the third straight playoff game for New England where Edelman was Tom Brady‘s top target. The last time Edelman did not lead the Patriots’ pass catchers in targets in a playoff game was the loss to the Ravens in the 2012 AFC title game.
|01.12.15 at 12:02 pm ET|
Peyton Manning hasn’t looked himself of late and now we know why.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Manning played the last month of the season, and yesterday’s divisional round game with a torn right quadriceps. He injured it in the Dec. 14 win over the Chargers. Since that game Manning has lost to the Bengals on Monday Night Football where he threw four interceptions and then beat the Raiders in Week 17.
In Sunday’s playoff loss to the Colts, Manning was 26-for-36 with 211 yards and a touchdown. It was the ninth time in his career he has been a one-and-done in the postseason. At 38 years old, along with his past neck injury, there is some thought he could contemplate retirement.
‘ Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2015
|01.12.15 at 9:57 am ET|
ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ upcoming AFC championship game against the Colts as well as the rest of the NFL playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots have already seen Andrew Luck and his team once this season, winning in November in convincing fashion, 42-20. The Pats racked up 246 rushing yards, more than double their average per tilt, and four rushing touchdowns. It’s safe to say that the run game will be important come Sunday, and Hasselbeck says the Colts will continue to have trouble keeping New England from going to work on the ground.
As a whole, Hasselbeck finds it hard to make a legitimate case for the Colts coming out of Foxboro with a trip to Arizona in their future.
“When you look at the Colts defensively, they’ve got very good corners, but they’re going to have a problem with [Rob] Gronkowski, and they’re going to have a problem stopping the Patriots from running the football the way they did in the first matchup,” he said. “They can’t match up with their defensive line and with New England’s ability to change the tempo of the game because of what they’re able to do without huddling.
“I don’t know what the Colts’ plan is going to be for that, other than maybe a handful of faked cramps throughout the game.”
Of the Indianapolis offense, Hasselbeck didn’t seem too concerned, noting that Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, among others, helped the Patriots “eliminate” Reggie Wayne and keep T.Y. Hilton from having “an impact on the game.” They’re a little better at running the ball now, he said, but maintained that it’s not “a good matchup for the them.”
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