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Patriots coaches preparing for different Colts team than one faced in blowout win last meeting

01.12.15 at 4:35 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 Nov. 16 meeting between the two teams. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

After a slow start to the game, the Patriots blew out the Colts, 42-20, in Indianapolis on Nov. 16 where they rushed for 246 yards on the ground.

Some may think because of that game the Patriots will be able to walk over the Colts this coming Sunday in the AFC championship game, but that simply isn’t the case according to the Patriots coaches, who say a lot has changed with the Colts’ team.

The Colts seemingly used that game to lift their play for the rest of the season, as they have gone 7-1 in games since the blowout loss, including two playoff wins. Their defense has especially picked up its play of late, allowing 13 points or less in their last three games.

“I think they’€™ve improved in every area,” coach Bill Belichick said on Monday’s conference call.  “[They’€™ve] gotten more production in their running game with the backs and [Donte] Moncrief’€™s become more a part of the passing game. They’€™ve gotten a lot of production out of the tight ends, offensive line, even though they’€™ve had a couple moving parts in there, I think they’€™re playing well. Defensively I think getting [Arthur] Jones back has definitely helped them. They’€™re playing just good team defense.

“They’€™ve got [Josh] Cribbs in the return game, so he gives them an explosive player there. I think they’€™re good in all three phases of the game. Obviously they’€™ve got a great kicker. They’€™ve improved the return game; excellent punter and kickoff guys. They do a good job on field position and those areas, so they’€™ve improved their return game and their overall balance offensively. They’€™re playing well on defense.”

Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in that Nov. 16 meeting, but the Colts were without one of their best defensive players in Jones — Chandler Jones’ brother. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows they are an improved team or else they wouldn’t be in the AFC championship.

“Each team that’€™s playing at this time of the year is, to me, they’€™re getting better as the season goes on and improving as a football team, and I see no difference with this group on defense,” said McDaniels. “A lot of times, it doesn’€™t require a dramatic shift in philosophy or scheme or players to improve. Sometimes it takes consistency and staying with it and just working at it and at times getting some people back healthy to really arrive at what you hope you could be. … Like I said before, I would imagine that this group is playing the way they want to play, and we’€™re going to have to play our best football game of the year against them on Sunday night.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, Josh McDaniels

Looks like Tom Brady is ready to face Colts

01.12.15 at 4:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady posted the following picture to his Facebook page on Monday. Looks like someone is ready for the AFC championship.

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What pundits were saying about Patriots this weekend: ‘This team just doesn’t flinch’

01.12.15 at 4:15 pm ET
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Here’s a quick rundown of what some NFL analysts were saying about the Patriots before and after Saturday’s playoff win over the Ravens:

Shaun O’Hara on NFL Network after the game on the Patriots overcoming two 14-point deficits to defeat the Ravens: “This team just doesn’t flinch. That’s the biggest thing that came out of that game in my mind. … You look up and you’re down 14 points, but there was no panic, nobody flinched, and the reason why is because Tom Brady doesn’t flinch.”

Sterling Sharpe on NFL Network after the game on the Patriots defense: “I learned that this defense with a bunch of no-name guys other than Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork can still get it done. … Darrelle Revis played probably his worst game in his entire NFL career and the New England Patriots made the plays.”

Sterling Sharpe on NFL Network before the game: “You look at Tom [Brady] and this football team, they need to make a statement. They’ve stood up to a lot of the big teams; they took care of the Denver Broncos earlier in the year. I just think this football team needs this victory more than air itself.”

Willie McGinest on NFL Network before the game, talking about Darrelle Revis: “I expect him to never leave. I told him this will probably be his last destination.”

Marshall Faulk on NFL Network before the game on Tom Brady and the Patriots: “That 10-0 [record to start his playoff career], that was Willie McGinest, it was [Mike] Vrabel, it was [Tedy] Bruschi — it was a lot of guys carrying the Patriots on defense. Tom, pretty much it was a lot of showing up, not turning the football over — we’re going to win games. The 8-8 [since], that’s a bunch of Tom Brady-led teams where, ‘Tom, this is on your arm, you have to go out there and win these football games.'”

Marshall Faulk on NFL Network before the game on Tom Brady: “[The Ravens] get to Tom, like the games against the Jets. He’s worried in the pocket. I’ve seen Tom stand in the pocket flat-footed like nobody is going to touch me. In games against the Ravens and games against the Jets [with] defensive coordinators who throw different things at you, I’ve seen Tom just duck sometimes when nobody has been around him.”

Marshall Faulk on NFL Network before the game on the Patriots: “They sound so confident in who they are and what they are as a team. At the Kansas City game, they looked defeated. … How they have answered by not just winning games but taking over the number one seed in the AFC, it’s unbelievable what they’ve been able to do.”

Rodney Harrison on NBC Sports before the game on John Harbaugh‘s comments that Joe Flacco is best QB in the NFL: “If I was in this locker room, I’d get about 30 copies of that newspaper, and put it in Tom Brady‘s locker. It would absolutely upset him.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, marshall faulk, Rodney Harrison, Shaun O'Hara

Patriots to put limited AFC championship tickets on sale Tuesday through Ticketmaster

01.12.15 at 3:53 pm ET
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Gillette Stadium is getting ready to host its fifth AFC championship. (Mike Petraglia/

Gillette Stadium is getting ready to host its fifth AFC championship. (Mike Petraglia/

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 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.

Read More: 2015 playoffs Gillette Stadium, AFC Championship, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick saw ‘another team’ use 4 offensive linemen, led to Patriots doing same vs. Ravens

01.12.15 at 1:36 pm ET
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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.

New England gained 41 yards on those three plays, and led to a Rob Gronkowski 5-yard touchdown catch to make it a 28-21 game in the third quarter.

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.”

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

5 things you have to know about Colts

01.12.15 at 1:13 pm ET
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Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

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.

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Read More: 2010 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

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
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