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Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘It came down to making plays in the right situations and we were able to do that this game’

01.12.15 at 12:22 pm ET
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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.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, chandler jones, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady

No surprise: Julian Edelman was Tom Brady’s top target against Ravens

01.12.15 at 12:10 pm ET
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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.

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Report: Peyton Manning played last month with torn right quad

01.12.15 at 12:02 pm ET
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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.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Peyton Manning,

Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: ‘I don’t think it’s a good matchup for [Colts]’

01.12.15 at 9:57 am ET
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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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Read More: Peyton Manning, Tim Hasselbeck,

Tom Brady on D&C: Trickery against Ravens ‘part of football’

01.12.15 at 9:49 am ET
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Tom Brady, who will appear in his ninth AFC championship game when the Patriots play the Colts on Sunday, made his weekly appearance on Monday’s Dennis & Callahan show to recap Saturday’s victory over the Ravens and preview the team’s next game. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots twice trailed the Ravens by 14 points before rallying for a 35-31 victory.

“We put ourselves in a pretty tough position there twice,” Brady said. “Certainly not what we intended to do. And we talked a lot about trying to play this team from ahead. We just got off to a slow start but really rallied back. I think the guys really relied on obviously a lot of experience over the course of the season, and a lot of belief in one another, and a lot of resolve and just the mental toughness to get it done.

“I’ve said before, it’s a 60-minute game. You’ve just got to keep grinding for 60 minutes. We finally got the lead there with about, I don’t know, five minutes, 5 1/2 minutes left. Then the defensive guys made a huge play there, Duron [Harmon] with the interception really made it hard for those guys. They had to convert a fourth down on us. We put a lot of pressure on them.

“It was just a great win for our team. It was just a great win to be a part of. It was just a really special night for our team. It allows us obviously to move on, and now we’re on to the biggest game of the year.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained during and after the game about the Patriots lining up normally eligible receivers as ineligible and the officials not giving his team enough time to adjust.

“Let me say first that I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and obviously that team is one of the toughest we’ve faced. It’s always a tough matchup,” Brady said. “It was a play that we liked and we thought would work. We had a couple of versions of it. It’s kind of an alert play for our team, and we made three important plays on it. They all contributed to winning, and I’m sure he was always trying to figure out what to do. That’s what it looked like to me.

“We had to execute it. We had to make the appropriate calls and block it and make the plays, and I was proud of us that we were able to do that. There was a lot of execution that goes into the offensive part of making that happen. It helped us move the ball down the field and ultimately score some points. That was a good weapon for us.

“It’s part of football. You’ve got to prepare for everything. I know offensively we try to prepare for everything on defense. You talk about all the situations that come up. Josh [McDaniels] really called it at the perfect time.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman

Bill Belichick checkmates John Harbaugh in key situation, leading to another big win

01.11.15 at 9:29 pm ET
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In a big moment Saturday, Bill Belichick outmaneuvered John Harbaugh. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a big moment Saturday, Bill Belichick outmaneuvered John Harbaugh. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

It was another case of Bill Belichick playing chess, while the rest of the league was busy trying to figure out the rules of checkers.

Despite the protestations of the Ravens, the four-man offensive line that the Patriots rolled out in the third quarter of Saturday’s divisional playoff win over Baltimore was completely legal. Wacky and a little out there, but completely legal.

“It’s a play that we thought would work,” Belichick said after the game. “We ran it three times [with] a couple different looks. We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible. The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was steamed at the move, calling it “deception,” and took issue with the idea that “they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substations and things like that.”

“We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were,” Harbaugh said. “What [the Patriots] were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom [Brady] would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.”

Well, duh. That is the very nature of what the opposing team is trying to do. The Patriots were well within the limits of the rules when they made the moves, there’s no requirement that the defense needs to be told who the eligible players are. On each one of the three occasions, the official made the announcement of the ineligible player clearly over the PA system, similar to when a player is announced as an eligible receiver. That’s all that needs to be done. (For all of Harbaugh’s complaints, the officials actually tried to be even clearer than necessary by reiterating over the PA, “Don’t cover 34.”)

In the midst of the confusion, the Patriots were able to capitalize. On three plays, New England hit on pass plays of 16, 11 and 14 yards. (Two passes on the drive went to tight end Michael Hoomanwanui and one to Julian Edelman.) It provided a spark for an offense that had been a little listless to that point in the game, and was the centerpiece of a drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski to cut the Baltimore lead to 28-21 with 6:52 left in the third quarter.

While it wasn’t the biggest turning point in the game — that came with the extraordinary 51-yard pass play from Edelman to Danny Amendola — but it was clear that it contributed to the normally unflappable Ravens coming unglued.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh,

Andrew Luck, Colts beat Peyton Manning, Broncos, will face Patriots in AFC championship

01.11.15 at 7:49 pm ET
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For the ninth time in his career, Peyton Manning walked off a loser in his first playoff game. (Getty Images)

For the ninth time in his career, Peyton Manning walked off a loser in his first playoff game. (Getty Images)

There will be no Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rematch in the AFC championship.

Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdowns and the Colts held Manning to 25-of-45 for 187 yards and a single touchdown as the Indianapolis Colts shocked the Denver Broncos, 24-13, Sunday afternoon in the AFC divisional matchup at Sports Authority Field.

A fourth-quarter drive of eight minutes, 14 seconds produced an Adam Vinatieri field goal that put the Colts up 11 with just 4:06 left.

This marks the the second time in three seasons in Denver that Manning has been one-and-done in the playoffs, losing their first game at home as they did to Baltimore two years ago. Even more remarkable, Sunday marked the ninth time in his career that Manning has lost his first game of the playoffs, falling to 11-13 all-time in the playoffs.

After leading the Broncos to a touchdown on his opening drive, Manning looked off-target, badly overthrowing open receivers downfield and being victimized by a bad case of the drops from Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas on underneath routes.

The future is uncertain for Manning and a Denver roster built to win this season by John Elway.

As for the Colts, Luck completed 27-of-43 passes for 265 yards, winning a game that sets up a rematch of the Nov. 16 game at Lucas Oil Stadium. In that game, Jonas Gray had a franchise-record four touchdowns runs, carrying the ball 37 times for 201 yards, leading the Patriots to a 42-20 win.

This is the third time the Patriots are facing the Colts in the AFC championship. In Jan. 2004, the Patriots beat Manning and the Colts, 24-14, at Gillette Stadium, advancing to Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. Three years later, Manning’s Colts beat the Patriots, 38-34 in Indianapolis, on their way to winning Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

Sunday’s AFC championship at Gillette Stadium between the Colts and Patriots kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts

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