|11.21.10 at 8:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — James Sanders was thinking what every Patriots fan was thinking watching the final two minutes of another Patriots-Colts epic Sunday afternoon.
Moments before his game-clinching interception, Sanders had a very bad case of flashback to last season. Sanders intercepted Peyton Manning at the Patriots 6-yard line with 31 seconds remaining to clinch the 31-28 win over the Colts Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
As was the case 12 months earlier when the Patriots lost 35-34, the Patriots had a 31-14 lead over the Colts in the fourth quarter, following a 25-yard Shayne Graham field goal with 10:23.
But Manning threw a pair of touchdown passes over the middle to Blair White to draw the Colts within 31-28. And when the Patriots couldn’t convert a first down, Manning got the ball back with 2:25 remaining. He drove the Colts to the Patriots 24 when Sanders made a leaping interception of Manning’s throw intended for Pierre Garcon.
“For a minute, I was thinking deja vu,” Sanders said. “As a defense, we knew if we didn’t make a play, we were going to lose the game. He wasn’t just going to give it to us. We had to go out there and take the win. We made a play at the end and came out on top.”
So how, exactly, did his heroic pick on the deep out from New England’s 24-yard line come to be?
‘I thought I had a chance,” Sanders said. “Gary Guyton and I had a double [team] on the tight end and looking through [Jacob] Tamme to Peyton, I saw that he saw that once I stepped down that he had one-on-one with the corner. So, I tried to drop back at the last second and help. Luckily I got enough depth to make the play.
‘It was huge. It was a total team effort though. Gary had a jam on the tight end that gave me a chance to sit back and read Peyton. I had an opportunity to make a play and made it.’
Turns out Sanders and the other defensive backs were showing just enough of a disguise to tempt Manning – a classic Belichick trait.
‘I don’t know if we were daring him to throw deep, but we were trying to disguise the whole game and keep them guessing,” Sanders said. “At times our disguises worked, other times they didn’t work. [Manning] is one of the best quarterbacks to play this game and it’s tough as a defense to hold those disguises. If you’re not sound, he can hurt you.’
At the end, the Patriots had their first win over the Colts since the unbeaten regular season of 2007 and just their second in six tries.
‘It felt good,” Sanders said. “We haven’t beat those guys in a while. It seems like we always get a nice lead and they always come back at the end. We knew it wasn’t over until the end and we just kept fighting and we made the plays we had to make at the end.
But it was Sanders’ teammate Kyle Arrington who made the best point of all.
“Like he did against the Steelers last week when he made a great play for an interception, he made a terrific play for the interception,” added corner Kyle Arrington. “James is the go-to guy to bail us out right now.”
|11.21.10 at 8:40 pm ET|
Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes from this afternoon’s contest:
SUSTAINED SUCCESS: PATRIOTS TO FINISH ABOVE .500 FOR 10th STRAIGHT SEASON
With their eighth win of the 2010 season, the Patriots are guaranteed to finish the season with a record of .500 or better for the 10th consecutive year. At the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Patriots will be the only NFL team to finish with a record of .500 or better in each of the last 10 years (2001-2010). Each of the other 31 NFL teams had at least one losing season between 2001 and 2009.
BRADY TIES FAVRE FOR MOST CONSECUTIVE HOME GAMES WON AS A STARTING QB
Tom Brady won his 25th consecutive regular-season start at Gillette Stadium, tying Brett Favre‘s post-merger NFL-record 25-game home winning streak. Favre won 25 home games in a row from 1995-98. The last time the Patriots lost a regular-season home game in which Brady started was on Nov. 12, 2006 against the New York Jets.
BELICHICK TIES JOE GIBBS FOR 11th PLACE IN NFL HISTORY WITH 171 WINS
With the victory against the Colts, Bill Belichick passed Paul Brown and tied Joe Gibbs with his 171st career victory as a head coach, including playoff games. Belichick and Gibbs are tied for 11th in NFL history with 171 career victories. Mike Holmgren ranks 10th with 174 career wins.
SANDERS PICK ICES GAME
James Sanders, last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, clinched the victory for the Patriots when he intercepted a Peyton Manning pass at the Patriots’ 6-yard line with 31 seconds left and New England holding a 3-point lead. Sanders’s big play thwarted a potential game-tying field goal try or a potential game-winning touchdown. The interception was Sanders’s second of the season and his second in as many weeks. Last week at Pittsburgh, Sanders returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown. The interception against the Colts was the seventh of Sanders’s 6-year career .
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|11.21.10 at 8:03 pm ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was able to breathe a sigh of relief after James Sanders picked off a Peyton Manning pass in the final minute of the Patriots 31-28 victory over the Colts, but he wasn’t happy about the way his offense executed down the stretch.
“We knew it was going to come down to the end, like always,” Brady said. “We started fast. Wish we would have executed a little better there in the second half. Any time you play these guys, you’ve got to play to the end.”
Still, Brady was obviously happy to get the win. “Believe me, we’re happy we won,” he said. “You beat the Colts, you’ve got to be happy you won, but also it means that we got to do a better job there.”
Brady noted the Pats‘ failure to convert third downs late in the game, which opened the door for the Colts to rally from 31-14 down and gave them a chance to try and steal the win.
“We put ourselves in that situation at the end,” Brady said. “Sitting on the sidelines saying, ‘We did it to ourselves.’ If they kick the field goal there, if they score a touchdown we’ve got to go out there for a two-minute drive. Our defense came up with a big play. That was a great play by [Sanders]. That was unbelievable.”
The ending may have been tense, but Brady was exceptionally sharp as the Pats built a 21-7 lead in the first half. He completed 19-of-25 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He also praised the running backs — BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Sammy Morris — who gained 170 yards on 30 carries.
“They’re done a great job,” Brady said. “They’re tough runners, the offensive line is doing a heck of a job blocking, they’re getting a lot of opportunities because we’re running the ball. It’s not just a drop back and throw it every down. That’s certainly important, especially in a game like this.”
|11.21.10 at 7:55 pm ET|
A year after they suffered their shocking 35-34 loss to the Colts after blowing a 31-14 lead, the Patriots held on for dear life on Sunday, claiming a 31-28 victory that was secured with less than a minute left, when safety James Sanders picked off a Peyton Manning pass inside the Patriots’ five-yard-line. After the victory, New England head coach Bill Belichick expressed enthusiasm for the victory, although his excitement was tempered by the need to rush through the preparation for the Thanksgiving game against the Lions in Detroit.
“It went right down to the wire. [The Colts] are an outstanding football team. They really do a good job,” said Belichick. “Our guys just made a few more plays than they did today. Really happy to get the win. We’ve got a quick turnaround here. We can’t stay on this one very long, but we’ll enjoy it for a couple hours.”
Here are some highlights from the Belichick interview:
Did the game going down to the wire simply reflect how good Peyton Manning is?
He’s pretty good. He’s pretty good. They’ve got a good team. It’s not just him. They’ve got a lot of other good football players, too. They’re well coached. They do a good job. They’ve won a lot of games. They’ve won a lot of games.
What happened on the last play?
I’m sure they’d like to have it back, but it was a heck of an interception by James. He went up, high-pointed the ball. It was a terrific catch.
What was the coverage they were exploiting during the fourth quarter?
We were playing some zone coverage, they hit them underneath. We had man a couple times, they ran good routes, they stuck it in there like they normally do. It was a great catch on the middle read there for the touchdown. … They’re tough. They’re tough.
On the adjustment with Kyle Arrington:
We planned it. We don’t draw them up on the dirt.
What does the victory say about the Patriots?
As usual, games like that come down to a couple plays. Today, we were fortunate enough to make them.
What did you see from Danny Woodhead, especially on the touchdown drive?
He’s a good runner. [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] ran hard. Woody ran hard. Those guys break a lot of tackles. They’re tough to bring down. Looked like a couple good blocks there by [Deion] Branch and [Wes] Welker. … It looked like Branch came over with a block to spring him. Wes was making a block in the end zone. Good running, good downfield blocking by the receivers. It’s good team football.
What was the change made with Arrington?
We switched Kyle. … It’s something we thought could help us win the game.
What are the challenges of the short week?
It’s tough. We gotta go quick tomorrow. There’s going to be a scouting report. Get going on Detroit. … Tuesday will be like a Thursday, Friday combined. Then we’ve got to travel. … We’re going to have to cram a a lot in here, do a good job preparing for the Lions. We’ve got a lot to prepare for. They’re an explosive team offensively. We’ve got our work cut out for us on the preparation for that. But that’s how it is. With every long week comes a short week, with every short week comes a long week. It all balances out in the end. That’ll be a big preparation challenge for us this week.
What happened down the stretch?
There was a lot of great things in the game. Unfortunately, fourth quarter, offensively that wasn’t part of it. Defensively, we just didn’t do a good job on their two possessions after it was 31-. After we kicked the field goal, we had two bad drives on defense and two bad drives on offense. We certainly need to do better in that situation as a team.
How important was it to get the ball out quick to neutralize their pass rush?
I don’t think you ever want to hold the ball against those guys. You’re trying to get it out as quick as you can, but you’ve got to mix in some downfield routes or the defense will just sit on everything if you throw all two-yard passes. They’ll just sit on top of you. Somewhere along the line you’ve got to mix it up, throw the ball downfield.
What are your thoughts on Thanksgiving football?
Thanksgiving, it’s a great day for football. A great day for high school football. In the NFL, you’ve got double headers and now triple headers. It’s a great day for everyone to be with their family, eat turkey and watch football. That’s kind of what that holiday is. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a great day for all of us to be thankful for all the opportunities that we have, particularly the opportunity to play in the National Football League. For me personally, being with the Patriots, to be here, the opportunity that Robert and his family gave me to be here. That’s great.
Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving Day. Having been in Detroit, I know what a big game that is for the Lions, how much that’s a part of that city and that franchise.
The tradition that’s been there. They’re always ready to go on Thanksgiving. … I know we have a lot of work to do to get to that point.
On the final play of the game, did you know Sanders was in position to make the play?
He kind of fell off on the route, read the quarterback and fell off on the route. … He had to make a good play on the ball. He went out and, he covered the ground to get to the ball, he went up and high-pointed it. It’s a great interception.
|11.21.10 at 7:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots moved to 8-2 on the season with a wild 31-28 win over the Colts, who very nearly repeated their comeback from last season. The Pats remain tied for first place in the AFC East as they prepare to travel to Detroit to battle the Lions on Thanksgiving.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Tom Brady: The quarterback picked up where he left off last week in Pittsburgh, leading the Pats on TD drives on each of the first three possessions. Brady connected on 12-for-14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns in a nearly flawless first half, converting all six third-down conversions in the opening 30 minutes. He finished 19-of-25 for 186 yards and the two scores, good for a passer rating of 123.1.
Danny Woodhead: The run of the year? Right now you’d have to list Woodhead’s 36-yard third-quarter TD burst at the top of the list. Woodhead cut to the right at the line of scrimmage to avoid a pair of Colts, found an opening and — despite nearly falling down at the 12-yard-line — managed to stay on his feet and sneak into the right corner of the end zone (with a terrific block from Deion Branch). And for an encore, Woodhead beat everyone down the field to make the special teams tackle on the ensuing kickoff. It was a dominant performance from the Pats rushing game, as Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (21 carries, 96 yards) combined for 165 yards in the win. The Colts rushing attack was quiet, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Big Play Defense: James Sanders made the biggest play of the game, picking off Manning on the Colts’ final drive to prevent what would have been a shocking collapse. Another strong game Devin McCourty, as the rookie took advantage of miscommunication between Peyton Manning and Pierre Garcon to make a diving catch and keep his feet inbounds. And Brandon Meriweather picked off Manning at the New England 30-yard line on the opening drive to stop what looked to be a very promising series for Indianapolis.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Kyle Arrington: The Colts put together a TD drive to close out the first half, a 12-play, 85-yard strike that was helped greatly by a pair of plays from Arrington. The cornerback had a big missed tackle on Reggie Wayne that turned an eight-yard catch into a 29-yard play. Just two plays later, Manning hit Wayne in the left corner of the end zone for the TD with Arrington on coverage. Arrington was on the bench as the second half began, with Darius Butler at corner.
Julian Edelman continues his fall off the cliff: What happened? Could be injuries, could just be a sophomore slump, but the lack of production from Edelman in 2010 is shocking. Expected by many if not most to be a major factor in this offense, Edleman has a grand total of four catches through 10 games. And it was Edelman who let a Brady pass go right through his arms at the goal line on a third-down play in the fourth quarter, which led to the Pats settling for a field goal. How big did that drop look with a minute and a half left in the game?
Overall Pass Defense: The good? The three INTs off of Manning, who entered the game with just four picks in his 386 pass attempts in 2010. The bad? 396 yards passing and four TDs from the Colts leader, who almost by himself kept his team in this game. The defense of the Colts was terrible, Indy had no running game, but Manning just kept making plays. It was a superb effort in a losing cause. With the Colts seemingly down for the count at 31-14 (sound familiar?) with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter, Manning led Indy on a pair of TD drives, finding Blair White twice (covered by Pat Chung on both scores) to cut the lead to 31-28. But Sanders offered the much-needed INT to end the game.
|11.21.10 at 5:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ There are two quarters in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 21-14 lead. Here are a few quick notes:
The New England offense has been scary good out of the gate this afternoon, so good that punter Zoltan Mesko hasn’t been needed through the first two quarters. The Patriots have put up 21 first-half points and converted 6-for-6 on third-down opportunities. Quarterback Tom Brady has done an excellent job at getting the ball out quickly, one of the big reasons that both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been held sackless for the first two quarters. Offensively, the Patriots have been led by Brady, who has gone 12-for-14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 42 rushing yards and a touchdown and Wes Welker has three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
As our buddy Gary Mabry (of Nuggetpalooza fame) reminds us, the Patriots are the best in the league at ‘first-possession’ points (they came into the game with an NFL-high 56 in that department), and they didn’t disappoint on their first possession against the Colts. After a Brandon Meriweather pick (Peyton Manning badly overthrew Blair White), the Patriots put together a quick four-play, 32-yard drive that was highlighted by a 22-yard touchdown catch down the seam by Welker. Welker made an outstanding move off the line, shaking rookie linebacker Pat Angerer and creating some separation. He hauled in the catch and carried two Colts’ defenders into the end zone for the first score of the game.
As quickly as New England scored on its first drive, it was slow and steady the next time around, taking a page from the 2004 playbook against Indy. Maybe the Patriots’ best pure ball-control drive of the year with a series of short and intermediate routes, primarily for Deion Branch and Welker, it was highlighted by an 18-yard pass to Branch and ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass for Aaron Hernandez on a crossing route. In the end, the drive went 15 plays for 82 yards and consumed 7:46.
It was a little of both on New England’s third scoring drive of the afternoon, as Brady engineered an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by a 25-yard reception down the seam from Rob Gronkowski and was punctuated by a five-yard run from Green-Ellis for his team-leading seventh touchdown of the season. The drive took 4:19, and gave New England a 21-7 lead with 3:38 left in the half.
Defensively, the Patriots stayed in nickel coverage most of the first half, and they managed to keep the Colts off the scoreboard until the late stages of the first quarter. On Indy’s first scoring drive of the night, the Patriots defense yielded three third-down conversions on the drive, and the series was highlighted by the 25-yard pass play from Manning to Donald Brown, a play Manning kept alive after evading a near-sack by Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.
Defensively, the low point for the Patriots may have come right before the half when the Colts made their way into New England territory, thanks in large part to a big missed tackle on Reggie Wayne by Kyle Arrington on a play that ended up going for 29 yards. Two plays later, Manning and Wayne hooked up again on an 11-yard scoring strike (at the expense of Arrington, although it was such a beautifully thrown ball most cornerbacks wouldn’t have gotten to it) that would cut the New England lead to 21-14 right before the half. It was a 12-play, 85-yard drive that consumed 35 yards.
|11.21.10 at 4:20 pm ET|
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