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Halftime analysis: Patriots 27, Broncos 7

11.02.14 at 6:04 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots are rolling after two quarters in Frozen Foxboro with a 27-7 lead. Tom Brady is 18-for-27 for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. Julian Edelman has six catches for 66 yards. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning is 16-for-27 for 178 yards with an interception. Emmanuel Sanders has six catches for 89 yards for Denver.

Here are a few quick notes on the first half:

— A 84-yard punt return for a touchdown by Edelman halfway through the second quarter put the Patriots in the drivers’ seat. A botched snap led to what appeared to be a quick kick, and Edelman took advantage of the ball that landed a little short. He raced around right end, and then cut back across the field for the score — the third special teams touchdown of the year for New England. The Patriots have done a nice job of taking advantage of their special teams edge throughout the first half, which includes a pair of field goals from Stephen Gostkowski.

— The Patriots stalled out on their first drive of the game, but a Broncos special teams penalty helped give the Patriots a short field on their second drive, and despite the fact that New England wasn’t unable to move the ball, Gostkowski banged home a 49-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 7:09 left in the first quarter. It was another field goal for the Patriots at the start of the second, when a Brandon LaFell drop in the end zone on a third down pass play ultimately caused New England to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Gostkowski to cut the lead to 7-6.

— The Broncos bounced back nicely at the end of the first quarter, as Manning found Sanders for a pair of big pickups (17 and 21 yards). Denver also got a big assist when a third down pass interference call went against Brandon Browner, allowing the Broncos to get all the way down to the 1-yard line. The Broncos closed out the drive with a Ronnie Hillman sweep around left end to make it 7-3 with 3:54 left in the first quarter. It was a nine-play, 80-yard drive, which was Denver’s best and most efficient offensive sequence of the first half.

— The best defensive play of the first half for New England came early in the second quarter when Rob Ninkovich dropped neatly into coverage and picked off a Manning pass, taking it back to the Denver 34-yard line. The Patriots turned that into points soon after that with a four-play drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Edelman for New England’s first touchdown of the game, making it 13-7 with 11:41 left in the first half.

— The second-best defensive play of the first half came when Akeem Ayers came busting off the edge and hauled down Manning on a fourth-down play that have the ball back to the Patriots with two minutes to go at the end of the first half. New England turned that around on a lightning quick sequence that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Shane Vereen to make it 27-7 with eight seconds left in the half.

— Both teams used a variety of different looks when it came to pass defense out of the gate — Darrelle Revis went against Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Meanwhile, Aqib Talib was lined up opposite a variety of New England pass catchers throughout the afternoon, including Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Revis appeared to struggle early — a postgame look at the film can confirm (or deny) what happened, but there appeared to be three balls completed in his neighborhood on the Broncos first scoring drive of the game.

— One thing worth keeping an eye on as the game continues is the continuing battle between Rob Gronkowski and T.J. Ward. The safety, who delivered the season-ending hit to Gronkowski last year when Ward was with the Browns, went low against on Gronkowski in the first half after a big pickup from the tight end, and the two appeared to have words at the end of the play.

Alfonzo Dennard, Aaron Dobson inactive for Sunday’s game vs. Broncos

11.02.14 at 3:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The following players are inactive for Sunday’s game with the Broncos: defensive ends Chandler Jones and Zach Moore, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, wide receiver Aaron Dobson, offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Jordan Devey, and running back James White.

Jones (hip) had already been ruled out as the defensive end hasn’t been active since suffering the injury in Week 7 against the Jets. The injury is expected to keep him out for roughly another month. Fleming has been out since the Cincinnati game in Week 5, after suffering a finger injury against the Chiefs. Devey was inactive last week and it will be the third game he is inactive for this season.

Dennard is once again inactive for the second straight week — he has been inactive for five of the nine games this season. Dobson is also again inactive for the third straight week. The second-year wide out has been active for just three games this season.

Nate Ebner will be active for the first time since Week 4 in Kansas City where he suffered a finger injury. Jonathan Casillas, the linebacker the Patriots traded for on Tuesday with Tampa, is active and will be making his Patriots debut. Alan Branch, a defensive tackle, who was officially signed on Wednesday, will also be making his Patriots debut.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Live Blog: Tom Brady, Patriots take on Peyton Manning, Broncos

11.02.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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Live Blog Patriots vs. Broncos, live blog
 

Setting the scene: Winter wonderland for Tom Brady-Peyton Manning Bowl XVI

11.02.14 at 12:10 pm ET
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Gillette Stadium was blanketed with snow hours before the Patriots-Broncos showdown. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Gillette Stadium was blanketed with snow hours before the Patriots-Broncos showdown. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Winter has arrived early and just in time for the biggest game of the season so far for the New England Patriots.

But Bill Belichick will be happy to know that heavy, wet snow throughout the morning hours is expected to give way to windy and cold conditions for the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium, with a game-time temperature of 39 degrees predicted. But biting 20 MPH winds out of the north, northwest will make the start of Brady-Manning Bowl XVI feel like 29.

The winds will be between 15 and 20 MPH out of the north throughout the game, making it feel like 22 degrees by the end of the contest.

Heavy wet snow began to blanket the field around 11 a.m., totaling about an inch. But there was no tarp placed on the field, as was the case before the Jets game on Oct. 16. A pair of John Deere tractors began clearing the field at about 12:15 as the snow began to taper into flurries.

Once the precipitation ends around 3 p.m., the wind figures to be the primary factor in the game. It would be no surprise to see the team that wins the toss defer in order to have the wind at their back in the fourth quarter.

This is the second year in a row that the Patriots have played the Broncos in a key AFC battle in November in cold conditions. Last year, the wind chills dropped into the teens as the Broncos raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead. Tom Brady led a furious comeback in the second half and the Patriots won, 34-31, in overtime when the Broncos muffed a punt, leading to Stephen Gostkowski‘s game-winning field goal in the final minute of overtime.

The Patriots enter this week with a remarkable 33-game home winning streak against AFC opponents, the longest such streak in NFL history dating back to the 1970 merger. The Dolphins have the second-longest streak at 21 games from 1971 to 1974. The Patriots’ last home loss to an AFC opponent was with Matt Cassel at the helm in 2008, when the Steelers came away with a 33-10 win. Tom Brady has won 41 straight at home against AFC opponents, dating to a 17-14 loss to the Jets on Nov. 12, 2006.

Not only is this another landmark game in the Brady-Manning rivalry, it’s the 200th regular season start for Brady. He is 154-45 in his regular season career. A win today would give him 155 in 200 games, the most in NFL history. Manning is second with 136 regular season wins in his first 200 starts.

Brady enters the game with a 10-5 lead in the lifetime series with Manning, dating back to their first meeting, a 44-13 Patriots win on Sept. 30, 2001. Manning snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with a win last January in the AFC championship game in Denver. Brady is 8-3 against Manning in the regular season, 2-2 in the postseason.

Manning has won just two of nine career games in Foxboro, with the last coming on Nov. 5, 2006 in a 27-20 Colts win.

Sunday’s matchup is the first in NFL history between quarterbacks with at least 150 regular season wins. The game is also a matchup of quarterbacks who are coming off a perfect October. Brady was 4-0 with 1,265 yards passing, 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Manning was 4-0 with 1,320 yards passing, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, Meteorologists, Mother Nature

Fantasy Football: Week 9 live chat, 11 a.m.

11.02.14 at 9:17 am ET
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Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for a live chat to help you set your fantasy football lineups for Week 9. The fun begins at 11 a.m. so get your questions in now …

Live Blog Fantasy Football: Week 9 Live Chat, 11 a.m.
 

Sunday NFL Notes: Vince Wilfork knows more about Tom Brady-Peyton Manning battles than any active player

11.01.14 at 10:27 pm ET
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No player has played in more of the 15 previous Brady-Manning contests than Vince Wilfork. (Elsa/Getty Images)

No player has played in more of the 15 previous Brady-Manning contests than Vince Wilfork. (Elsa/Getty Images)

1. When it comes to a players’ perspective on the 15 previous Tom Brady-Peyton Manning battles, from this viewpoint, Vince Wilfork can provide insight like one one else. No other active player on either side has been a part of more of the head-to-head matchups, as Wilfork has played in nine of the 15 games between the two quarterbacks — six times when Manning was with the Colts, one during the Denver era, as well as two playoff games. (He came into the league as a rookie in 2004, which means he missed the two regular-season games in 2001, the regular season and playoff games in 2003, as well as the two games last year because of his Achilles’ injury.) Wilfork said this week that the Broncos are “the best of the best,” and he didn’t stop there. “When you draw up a perfect football team, you draw up the Denver Broncos all-around — special-teams, offense and defense,” Wilfork added. “[They] do everything well. One of the best quarterbacks in history we’ve got to face. He doesn’t make it easy. He wants to make sure that they’re in the perfect play every snap. They’re so tough to defend. We have to play our A-plus game to be successful. Anything other than that, we’re going to have problems.” (For what it’s worth, former Colts center Jeff Saturday played in 12 Brady-Manning games, the most on either side.)

2. Randy Moss appears to be enjoying retirement — he’s working as a high school football coach, and may or may not be doing more episodes of a fishing show. (Seriously.) But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t occasionally get the itch to return to the NFL. The 37-year-old Moss recently made an appearance with good friend Pete Schrager on “The Peter Schrager Podcast,” and he talked about a wide variety of topics, including this week’s Patriots-Broncos showdown, as well as what it would take to pull him out of retirement.

a) On this week’s New England-Denver game: “Peyton Manning has regrouped and now he’s coming back to this old rivalry with him against [Bill] Belichick and Tom Brady. So it’s going to be a game to watch because of the chess match that’s going to be between Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick with an offensive mind versus a defensive mind. It’s also going to be interesting to see how the resurgence of the New England offense from the Monday night Kansas City game is going to go against [Von] Miller, [DeMarcus] Ware, [Aqib] Talib and all of those guys on defense … I look forward to a game and I think it’s going to be a shootout.”

b) On the possibility of coming out of retirement and playing for a quarterback like Manning: “I’m going to tell you this, for me to come out of retirement for a player such as Peyton Manning, I would consider that. I really would consider it. I’m still in great shape, I can still run. I’m not the most old, but just by looking at the things I see on Sundays, I can still go out there and catch some passes and catch some touchdowns.”

c) On the criticism of Percy Harvin after he was dealt by Seattle: “I think that it’s something that affects us as not only players, but as people too. I’ve been pulled to the side before to be able to take the negative criticism. You may not always want to hear it, but you have to be able to take it.”

It’s a phenomenal interview — check it out here.

3. New Patriots linebacker Jonathan Casillas has a longstanding relationship with former Rutgers and Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, who maintains some sort of vaguely defined shadow role with the Patriots organization this year. After arriving in Foxboro this week, Casillas talked about the depth of his friendship with Schiano, which dates back to when he was a teenager. “It’s crazy, because coming out of high school, he recruited me, and I left Jersey to go to Wisconsin,” recalled Casillas. “Coming back, eight years later, my fourth year in the league, he’s the head coach in Tampa and my contract is up in New Orleans, and it was kind of like a painted picture. It was supposed to happen that way. It was a tough year for all of us — for him, for myself. Going 0-8 the first two months of the season is very tough. We takes after the got released or what have you, and the conversation we had was that wishing we would have met earlier in a different situation or a better situation. At the same time, I appreciate everything he’s done. He’s a very intelligent man.” For his part, Belichick dismissed talk this week of Schiano having an influence on personnel decisions. “I don’t know,” he replied when asked how much influence does Greg Schiano have when you acquire a former Buccaneers or Rutgers player. “[I’ve] talked to Greg about a lot of things over the course of years.”

4. Belichick doesn’t like meteorologists, but he and the Patriots have been given some pretty good conditions over the course of the first half of the season. With the understanding that it’s supposed to be pretty nasty Sunday afternoon for the game against the Broncos, here’s a look at the conditions at kickoff for each one of New England’s games over the first half of the season. (It’s interesting to note that the Patriots are 0-2 when the temperatures have been 80 degrees or more at kickoff. Might not bode well for that December trip to San Diego.)

Week 1 at Miami: 89 degrees, Humidity: 61 percent, Wind: 15 SE mph
Week 2 at Minnesota: 58 degrees, Wind: Southeast mph
Week 3 vs. Oakland: 78 degrees, Humidity: 67 percent, Wind: SSE 11 mph
Week 4 at Kansas City: 82 degrees, Humidity: 42 percent, Wind: Northeast 3 mph
Week 5 vs. Cincinnati:: 47 degrees. Humidity: 71 percent, Wind: West 2 mph
Week 6 at Buffalo: 55 degrees, Humidity: 45 percent, Wind: SE 6 mph
Week 7 vs. New York Jets: 64 degrees, Humidity: 93 percent, Wind: South 9 mph
Week 8 vs. Chicago: 54 degrees, Humidity: 53 percent, Wind: West 14 with gusts to 25 mph

5. Hearing Jimmy Garoppolo talk this week about playing the role of Peyton Manning in practice sparked memories of the aftermath of the 2003 AFC title game. Following New England’s decisive win over Manning and the Colts, Belichick’s introductory remarks included a shout-out to backup quarterback Damon Huard, who played the role of Manning on the scout team over the course of the week. “I thought one of the most valuable players in the game for us didn’t play, and that was Damon Huard,” Belichick said in his postgame news conference. “I thought the look he gave us in the scout team for our defense was fabulous.” It was just one of the things that made Huard an excellent backup quarterback to Brady — he was diligent in his work and getting in his playbook, but he also had an understanding that when it came to teamwork, he was part of a bigger picture.

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Report: Akeem Ayers fined for kicking Kyle Long in groin

11.01.14 at 9:28 pm ET
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Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers was fined $8,250 by the league for kicking Chicago offensive lineman Kyle Long in the groin in last Sunday’s Patriots-Bears game, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

The kick took place at the end of a first-half play where Ayers sacked Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. At the end of the play, Ayers kicked Long with his left leg while the New England linebacker was on his back. Long then pulled Ayers’ leg, and drew an unnecessary roughness flag for the infraction.

Long was not fined for the incident.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Akeem Ayers, Kyle Long,
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