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Patriots sign DL Joe Vellano from practice squad, release TE Steve Maneri

01.17.15 at 4:59 pm ET
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A day before the AFC championship game, the Patriots have made a roster move.

The team has signed defensive lineman Joe Vellano to the 53-man roster and to make room they have released tight end Steve Maneri. Maneri played one game with the team after being re-signed Dec. 17, while Vellano played in the first four games of the season before being released and then re-signed to the practice squad.

Here’s a portion of the press release from the team:

Vellano, 26, originally joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Maryland in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has played in 21 games with eight starts for the Patriots and registered 54 total tackles and three sacks. He played in the first five games in 2014 and had six total tackles and one sack before he was released on Oct. 7 and signed to the practice squad on Oct. 8.

Maneri, 26, was signed to the Patriots on Dec. 17, 2014 and saw his only action in the season-finale against Buffalo on Dec. 28. He spent the 2010 season on the New England practice squad, went to training camp with the Patriots in 2011 and was in camp with the team again this past summer. Maneri was signed by the Patriots on Aug. 10, 2014, and released on Aug. 30. The 6-foot-7, 280-pounder, has also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs (2011-12) and the Chicago Bears (2013). Maneri spent part of the 2014 offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Houston Texans out of Temple in 2010 but was released and claimed off waivers by the Patriots prior to the start of the regular season. He has played in 24 NFL games with 10 starts and has registered six receptions for 52 yards. A tight end in college, Houston signed Maneri and converted him to an offensive lineman. He began his career with the Patriots as an offensive lineman as well. Last season, Maneri played in four games with one start for Chicago before being released by the Bears on Oct. 21, 2013.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Joe Vellano, Steve Maneri,

Scouting Report: What you have to know about Colts-Patriots

01.17.15 at 3:52 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Andrew Luck will meet for the fourth time in their careers on Sunday. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Andrew Luck will meet for the fourth time in their careers on Sunday. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s Colts-Patriots AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium:

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This is easily the most winnable matchup for New England. The Patriots were able to rush for a season-high 246 yards as a team in the Nov. 16 win over the Colts in Indianapolis, and while New England isn’t overwhelming when it comes to the ground game and the Colts have a slightly improved run defense, the Patriots would appear to have enough options against Indy, which has struggled to stop the run all season. With the return of defensive lineman Arthur Jones, the Indy run defense is a little better — the Colts finished the year 18th in the league in run defense, having given up an average of 113.4 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry, 23rd in the league. However, following the 246 yards they allowed on the ground against the Patriots in Week 11, the Colts allowed more than 140 yards rushing in a game just once the rest of the way. (Hey, small victories. Right?) In the divisional playoff win over the Broncos, Indy allowed 88 rushing yards, just the first time since November when it held an opponent under 100 yards rushing. While most of that was because of a collective brainfart on the part of the Broncos — who simply chose to keep flinging it deep instead of pounding the ball against Indy — the game did represent the third-straight contest where there was improvement in the total run yards allowed by the Colts.

When it comes to the Patriots, there’s a question as to personnel, as well as how New England might operate behind an incomplete offensive line that will be without center Bryan Stork. (The Patriots also have the option of stacking that offensive line, like they did the first time around, with an extra lineman — in November, it was Cameron Fleming with more than 30 snaps — in hopes of adding more beef up front when they do run the ball.) But regardless of whether it’s LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray or Brandon Bolden (we’re going to leave out Shane Vereen and James White because they’re really third-down options and not between-the-tackles types), the Patriots will have plenty of opportunities on the ground. From this viewpoint, Blount, who has 314 rushing yards in three career games against Indy — including 166 in last year’s divisional playoff against the Colts — is the choice as the No. 1 back on Sunday night. That’s not to say Gray won’t get his touches, but the bulk of the carries will almost certainly be assigned to Blount.

“The numbers speak for themselves, and if we don’t get that fixed and they’re able to run the ball the way that they’ve run it the last couple meetings, then we’re going to have a long, hard day,” Colts Chuck Pagano said this week when asked about the matchup. “But having said that, I think our guys are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. Talking about it is one thing, but we’ve got to go up there and we’ve got to do the job and stop the run.”

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

In the first game between the two teams, quarterback Tom Brady actually struggled in the early going, and threw one of his worst balls of the season just before the half when he was picked off by Indy safety Mike Adams (who had two picks in that contest). The quarterback was 10-for-19 for 84 yards and a two picks in the first two quarters against Indy for a spiffy quarterback rating of 24.8. He was able to rebound nicely in the second half (9-for-11 for 173 yards and two touchdowns) on the way to the 42-20 win. On Sunday, it’ll likely be somewhere in between, but when he does throw, expect him to look for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was utilized primarily as a blocker in the first game, but still managed four catches on five targets for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Two reasons why Gronkowski will be the primary target in the passing game: one, the Colts are almost as bad as the Patriots when it comes to defending good tight ends. (Football Outsiders has the Colts at 27th when it comes to defending tight ends. Meanwhile, the Patriots are 30th.) His relatively mild stat line in November was more about him working as a blocker than anything else. And two, Gronkowski remains an offensive option for which there is no singular counterpoint. When they go man, the Colts will likely counter with one of two options in Vontae Davis, their No. 1 corner, or LaRon Landry, a safety who has come on as of late and played well in coverage. But individually, neither even begin to approach what Indy will have to deal with if the Patriots decide to unleash Gronkowski in the passing game.

“He is just bigger, stronger and faster than anybody you put out there against him,” former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said of Gronkowski this week. “It means you cannot guard him man-to-man. If you put one guy on him, he is going to shred you. The only way to stop him is to put two guys on him. Down in the red zone, it’s lights out. I don’t understand when I’m watching and they only put one guy on him. You’re just asking for trouble — silly almost — especially with Tom Brady throwing him the ball.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots,

Reports: Colts RB Trent Richardson doesn’t make trip to New England after missing walkthrough

01.17.15 at 3:22 pm ET
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It will be Boom Herron and backup Zurlon Tipton getting the carries for the Colts in Sunday’s AFC championship game, as according to Colts.com reporter Kevin Bowen, running back Trent Richardson did not make the trip due to personal reasons.

Richardson was also a healthy inactive last week against the Broncos.

The former first-round pick by the Browns, who was traded to the Colts in 2013, was Indianapolis’ leading rusher this season, finishing with 519 yards and three touchdowns.

[UPDATE 12:05 a.m.]: Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com reports Richardson missed the team’s walkthrough on Saturday and didn’t notify the team, and that was the reason for him not traveling to New England.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Trent Richardson,

Most memorable Patriots-Colts games of Tom Brady era

01.17.15 at 3:10 pm ET
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Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Nov. meeting between the two teams. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ win over the Colts in November. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

On Sunday evening, the Patriots will face the Colts in the AFC championship game. These teams are quite familiar with one another, and though the intensity of the rivalry may have waned when Peyton Manning played his final game for Indianapolis in the 2010 season, the game should prove to be an exciting one. Since 2001, when Tom Brady made his first start against Manning, the Patriots have edged the Colts in 12 of 17 meetings, outscoring them 545-401 in that time.

Brady guided the Patriots to wins against the Colts in his first six tries, but Manning followed that up with a little streak of his own, recording four victories in the next five meetings. During his last start as a Colt, Manning lost to the Pats and helped spawn a five-game New England win streak that stretches back to 2010 and is still alive. In the three games Brady and newcomer Andrew Luck have squared off, the Patriots have not scored fewer than 40 points.

In the teams’ matchup this season on Nov. 16, little-known running back Jonas Gray was the star. After noticing that using Gray in the run against Indianapolis proved just about unstoppable, the Patriots did it all game. All four of Gray’s touchdowns came from inside the 4-yard line, but he compiled 201 total yards throughout the course of the game on 37 attempts. Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright each added a receiving touchdown and the Patriots recorded 503 total yards in the 42-20 victory.

Here are the most memorable games between the teams since Brady took over.

10. Nov. 18, 2012: Patriots 59, Colts 24

Andrew Luck‘s first tilt against the Patriots could have probably gone better. The rookie quarterback had led his team to a 7-3 start to the season, but New England proved to be too much for him to handle. The Colts jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, but from then on, New England took over. The Pats held Indianapolis to 10 points over the remaining three quarters while they put 52 more points on the board. The 59 points tied a franchise single-game scoring record.

Tom Brady was 24-for-35 for 331 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while Luck had 27 completions in 50 attempts, 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns — and a sack.

Julian Edelman and Gronkowski each recorded a pair of touchdowns, including Edelman’s 68-yard punt return. Brady found both Gronkowski and Wes Welker seven times for 137 yards and 80 yards, respectively.

9. Nov. 7, 2005: Colts 40, Patriots 21

After six losses to Brady, Manning finally got his first win against him in 2005. Injuries to important players on the Patriots as well as a perfect Colts team that was only getting better spelled an unfortunate outcome for the back-to-back Super Bowl champs.

Manning finished 28-for-37 for 321 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne each had nine receptions for the Colts for 128 yards and 124 yards, respectively, combining for three touchdowns. The Patriots also allowed 132 rushing yards and surrendered two touchdowns to the run game, giving Indianapolis 453 total yards.

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Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Phyllis Harrell is one proud ‘MamaMcCourty’ as Devin McCourty brags about best football family on Patriots

01.17.15 at 12:51 pm ET
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Devin McCourty speaks Friday on his fourth straight AFC title game appearance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Devin McCourty speaks Friday on his fourth straight AFC title game appearance. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Phyllis Harrell is rightfully proud of her two football sons. After all, it’s not often you get to celebrate not one but two of your kids being simultaneously recognized for their community service and generosity in the same year.

Such is the case with twin brothers Devin and Jason McCourty.

They are two of the 32 players who, in December, were named their team’s Man of the Year and nominees for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The NFL-wide winner will be announced Super Bowl eve in Glendale.

Since joining the Patriots in 2010, McCourty has been one of the most active players in the New England community, regularly volunteering to assist the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’€™s many initiatives, volunteering countless hours to help others. McCourty has also teamed with his twin brother, Jason, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, to start a foundation to help fight Sickle Cell, a disease that has affected members of his own family.

On Friday, McCourty was reminded that his mom went to Twitter to show her pride, tweeting, “Words can’t describe how proud this makes me. :)”

Devin’s reaction?

“She did a good job,” McCourty quipped, referring presumably to both the social media tweetup and the raising of her two sons.

“It’€™s an honor. I think that speaks more about who you are as a person than as a football player,” McCourty said, adding a serious tone. “I think that’€™s what’€™s important in life. A lot of what we do is god given ability, not much we had to do being able to be out here playing football, you know. It’€™s hard work but god gave us those abilities, but to go out and be recognized for your work in the community and service I think that’€™s an honor of who you are as a person.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s kids ready to cheer him on in Sunday’s AFC championship game

01.17.15 at 12:07 pm ET
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With the AFC championship only a day away, there is plenty of excitement surrounding the game. Tom Brady‘s kids are getting into it as well. Brady posted this photo to his Facebook on Saturday morning of his three kids holding a sign cheering on the Patriots and their dad.

Read More: 2015 playofs, Tom Brady,

Why the Patriots (despite recent history) won’t be overconfident against Andrew Luck, Colts in AFC title game

01.17.15 at 10:27 am ET
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FOXBORO — There’s been plenty of predictions this week on the AFC championship game and precious few have Andrew Luck breaking through a glass ceiling and beating the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl.

Most prognosticators have the Patriots taking care of business on the Gillette Stadium turf and making preparations for their sixth Super Bowl trip in the Bill Belichick era. After all, this is the fourth time Luck and the Colts are playing the Patriots in the last three years. All previous three have ended in Patriots romps. There was the 59-28 game in 2012 when Rob Gronkowski broke his arm blocking an extra point with Sergio Brown in the vicinity of the crime.

There was the 43-22 kicking of the Colts in last year’s AFC divisional round at Gillette. And this year, there was the 42-20 butt-whooping at Lucas Oil Stadium. That’s a collective 144-70 margin of victory.

Overconfident?

“I think overconfidence is not preparing. I think if you prepare I think you give yourself the right and the chance to be confident going in there,” Devin McCourty said Friday. “I think if you don’€™t prepare, you try to fool yourself with being overconfident. That’€™s not something I really worry about with this team. We have a blue collar team and it starts with our quarterback.

And the competitive fire or preparation of Tom Brady has never come into question, as was again revealed this week.

In short, a Bill Belichick team doesn’t get to this stage and ever feel like it’s not prepared for battle. That doesn’t guarantee a victory but you never get the sense that the team was overconfident or not prepared going into the contest.

“There’€™s been plenty of games that we’€™ve played away on the road and on the plane after a win, and as everyone is up walking around, he’€™s in his seat watching film,” McCourty added. “It starts there and it trickles down throughout this whole team. I think this game, being the biggest game of the year, we’€™ve gone over everything as a group [and] talked about everything. I think that gives us the opportunity to be confident going into the game.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower
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