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Schefter on D&C: No buzz on Patriots and Colts match-up

11.19.10 at 11:22 am ET
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ESPN NFL insider Adam  Schefter made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, and he discussed how little coverage the Patriots game has received as compared to the past, attributing this to other headlines in the league.

“I don’t think that we have buzz, no,” began Schefter, “And I think it’s gotten upstaged by a number of other factors in the league. I think the explosion of Michael Vick has drawn so much attention, and controversy surrounding Donovan McNabb has drawn so much attention, and it seems like we live in a world as you guys all know and you make your living probably doing this, we live in  a world where controversy sells better than interesting.

“And intriguing as this matchup is,” continued Schefter, “we are talking about two of the great franchises in sports, and you’re talking about two of the great quarterbacks in the history in the game, and you’re talking about a lot of intriguing elements and aspects to this whole thing. The fact of the matter is, I mean you guys are from Boston, last night I’m sitting here talking about, thinking about what we’re going to talk [about] on SportsCenter this morning. I haven’t talked about the Patriots and Colts once all week.”

Following are the highlights from the interview, including Schefter’s thoughts on Vick, McNabb, and potential Super Bowl contenders this season. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Do you still look at the Colts as a Super Bowl contender?

I look at them as a team that as long as they have that quarterback they have a chance. They’re not as good, I don’t think, as some of the other Colts teams we’ve seen in recent years, but that’s probably just due to injury as much as anything else. I still think I wouldn’t want to play a playoff against that team. I just wouldn’t.

Would you consider them among the top 10 teams or so — like the  Jets, Patriots, Saints, Giants and Eagles — that have a legitimate shot at winning this thing?

Let me say this right now. If Indianapolis played the Jets tomorrow, who would you pick in that game? I’d pick the Colts. I would. So, to me, it’s a situation where again I just come back to the quarterback again. They are not the typical powerhouse they’ve been. But that’s the situation to me. I just think that you can’t underestimate them.

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Read More: adam schefter, donovan mcnabb, Michael Vick, New England Patriots

Nuggetpalooza’s Gameday Preview: Colts at Patriots

11.19.10 at 9:11 am ET
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Another Sunday for the Patriots, another marquee game, this time at home against the Colts. Sure, Indy is banged up, but as long as number 18 is under center for the Horseshoes, it’s a ballgame. Can’t wait… again.

Because I am not a fan of the current “passer ratings” used by the NFL (mainly because of it’s complexity), I have begun using one from the New York Times that I have slightly modified. Basically, it takes the average yards per pass play (including sacks) compared to the league average and adjusts it up based on touchdown percentage and down based on interception percentage. Simple as that. So when I mention that this team or that team has the best or worst “overall passing game (or defense)”, it’s based on this rating (which is generally expressed as a positive or negative number)… at least for now. I hope you like it.

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* – Two great quarterbacks, but contrasting styles for sure: Here are the teams with the most pass attempts more than 10 yards downfield in 2010:

130 – Colts
121 – Broncos
119 – Chargers

And here are the teams with the fewest such attempts:

73 – Patriots
73 – Jaguars
74 – Rams

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* – This ain’t like Peyton: Over the Colts’ last three games, Manning has completed only 12-of-43 passes over 10 yards downfield (28 percent). In their three games before that? 24-for-47 (51 percent). He’s completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes to wide receivers in each of the last three games. First such three game streak for the Colts since 2007.

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* – The Patriots completed seven passes on throws more than 10 yards downfield last weekend. They only had six such completions in their previous three games combined.

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* – The Patriots (41.3 percent) and the Colts (41.0 percent) rank second and third in the NFL in scoring efficiency. Of course, what else is new? Last season, the Patriots were fourth (41.0% percent) and the Colts were seventh (37.9 percent).

In 2008, the Pats ranked first (44.8 percent even without Brady) while the Colts were fifth (40.7 percent).

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* – The Colts are the only team that has scored 17 or more points in every game this season.

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* – New England (6) and Indianapolis (3) have combined to score nine “return” touchdowns this season. However, they’ve only ALLOWED one between them (New England, 1).

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* – After scoring a touchdown on their first possession of the first AND second halfs last Sunday, New England now has 56 “first possession” points (combined opening possessions of first and second halfs). That’s the most in the NFL.

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* – The Patriots now lead the league at converting 3rd-and-short (five yards or less), having moved the chains at a 64.4 percent clip. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Pats are last at stopping third downs overall (47.5 percent) and 31st at stopping 3rd-and-10 or more (32.3 percent). Only the Jets are worse (36.2 percent).

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* – The Colts have lost just 63 yards on sacks this season, the fewest in the NFL. Last Sunday, the Patriots sacked Ben Roethlisberger for 38 yards in losses, just their second time over 30 yards in their last 24 road games. They averaged 13.2 sack yards over that 24 game stretch.

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An amazing look at the Patriots-Colts rivalry over the last seven years

11.18.10 at 5:07 pm ET
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An amazing collection of all the highlights from the Patriots-Colts rivalry since 2003. Worth watching at least twice.

Read More: Colts, Patriots,

Colts get Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne back at practice

11.18.10 at 4:36 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Colts, who had nine players miss Wednesday’s practice because of injury, saw those numbers dip slightly on Thursday, as a handful of players ‘€” like Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne ‘€” practiced for the first time all week on Thursday. Here’€™s their complete injury report for Thursday:

Did Not Practice
LB Gary Bracket (toe)
TE Brody Eldridge (rib)
RB Mike Hart (ankle)
DE Robert Mathis (rested)
DB Bob Sanders (biceps)
LB Clint Session (elbow)
DB Justin Tryon (foot)

Limited Participation
RB Joseph Addai (neck)
DB Kelvin Hayden (neck)

Full Participation
WR Austin Collie (concussion)
WR Blair White (shoulder)
DT Dwight Freeney (rested)
WR Reggie Wayne (knee)

Read More: Colts, injury report,

Tom Brady back at practice, but limited

11.18.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Quarterback Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday, but was still limited. Here’€™s the rest of the Patriots injury report for Thursday.

Did Not Practice
S Jarrad Page (calf)
DT Myron Pryor (back)

Limited Participation in Practice
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder/foot)
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
RB Fred Taylor (toe)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (hip)

Read More: injury report, Patriots, Tom Brady,

Timing is everything… if you want to get to Peyton Manning

11.18.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Tully Banta-Cain are justifiably feeling more confident about the ability of he and his teammates to get to the quarterback.

After a season of listening to critics question whether the Patriots would or could ever pressure the QB, the Patriots put up five sacks last week against the hardest quarterback in the league to bring down – Ben Roethlisberger.

Peyton Manning is somewhat slighter in build but a lot harder to get to the ground for one reason – he almost never lets you get to him. He has a lightning-quick release and knows how to dump the ball off and take his chances on the next snap. In the 2008 and 2009, Manning was sacked 10 and 14 times, respectively. This year -through nine games – that number is already up to 12, the highest mark through nine games since he was dumped 21 times in 2007. Before that you have to go back to the 2002 season for the last time he was sacked 20 or more times in a season.

But talk to those on the Patriots defense and they’ll tell you if you don’t want No. 18 rip you to shreds, you better disrupt his timing.

“Because he’s very smart and because he knows whatever you’re in [defensively], he knows what can hurt that,” Pats linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “He’s a great quarterback. Anytime you can affect his timing, it’s going to be good for you in that game.

“He’s always had a good offensive line and he knows when to get the ball out. Anytime he’s got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who’s going to be open and he knows every route that going to be run so he can go through his progression and throw to somebody who’s open.”

Jerod Mayo, as a middle linebacker, is pretty much in the cross hairs before each Manning snap.

“His pre-snap reads are amazing,” Mayo said. “He pretty much knows what’s going on before he snaps the ball. It’s very difficult. He studies a lot of film. He’s a great quarterback. We have to try, we have to try.”

Keep Manning from getting into a rhythm on the field and you slow down the machine that is the Colts offense. The rhythm and timing is one big reason why the Colts have been able to lose weapons like Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai to injury and not miss much.

“He’s a tough quarterback to try to confuse,” Banta-Cain said. “He’ll confuse you more than you’ll confuse him. He’s a guy you try to do your best to disguise stuff but he’s really good at what he does and picking out coverages.

“You can try but it’s still one of those things where you have tight coverage, good pass rush and hope you disrupt the play somehow.”

The Colts come to Foxboro with a 6-3 mark, thanks in large part to Manning’s ability to effectively use replacements like Austin Collie, Jacob Tamme and Donald Brown. Now, Collie is likely going to miss his second straight game after suffering a concussion in a violent collision in Philadelphia on Nov. 7.

But the Patriots don’t think that will slow down Manning and what he hopes to accomplish at Gillette on Sunday.

“They’re still doing the same things. Tamme’s done a great job coming in when Dallas Clark went down and those guys on the outside as well,” Mayo said.

Those guys on the outside are none other than Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. Wayne leads the Colts in catches (63) and yards receiving (758) while Garcon is having another solid season with 28 grabs but only one TD.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, nfl

The Big Nickel: Tom Brady back at practice, Jonathan Crompton on ‘Being Peyton Manning’

11.18.10 at 2:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots on Thursday.

1. As expected, Tom Brady was back at practice on Thursday, at least for the first 10 or so minutes of the session that were open to the media. Brady, who missed Wednesday’s practice with what was listed on the injury report as a foot problem, was not in the locker room during media availability, but went through the stretches and drills with the rest of the team at the start of practice. He did not appear to be hindered in any fashion. The injury report will be released at 4 p.m., and that should tell us if he was limited in any way.

2. Being Peyton Manning. Practice squad quarterback Jonathan Crompton said on Thursday that he and backup Brian Hoyer have been splitting duties working as Peyton Manning in practice this week, trying to prepare New England’€™s starting defense for the Indy quarterback. Hoyer has apparently been working in no-huddle sets and Crompton handling the other duties.

It’€™s a job that Crompton, a rookie out of Tennessee, is taking seriously.

‘€œWe just have to study and give our defense the best look we can. I know Brian does a real tremendous job with that, and so I’€™m just going out there and the both of us are just doing the best we can,’€ said Crompton. ‘€œThe biggest thing is that you’€™ve got to know how to handle your job. That’€™s my role on the team right now, and I’€™ve got to do the best I can.

Giving the starting defense a reasonable facsimile of Manning is the sort of thing that goes a long way around Foxboro: In the days leading up to the 2003 AFC Championship Game, former backup Damon Huard did such a good job that he was singled out by coach Bill Belichick after the game, and he received a game ball for his efforts.

3. It’€™s still really hard to sack Peyton Manning. While the Indy quarterback is a stat-producing machine, one of the most intriguing numbers are his sack totals. In 201 games and out of 6,917 pass attempts over the course of his career, the Colts quarterback has been dropped only 227 times. That equates to one sack every 30.47 passes attempts, an extraordinarily low number for a pocket quarterback like Manning. No quarterback has been sacked fewer times than Peyton Manning since the NFL started keeping official track of the statistic.

This season, Manning has been sacked 12 times through nine games. While that number is relatively high for the Colts quarterback, it remains one of the lowest figures in the league among starting signal-callers. Why is it so hard to bring Manning down?

‘€œYou have to give his line credit ‘€” he’€™s always had a good offensive line. And he knows when to get the ball out,’€ said outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich. ‘€œAny time you’€™ve got pressure, you always see him throwing the ball off to an open receiver because he knows who’€™s going to be open and he knows every route that’€™s being run. So he can go through his progression quickly and throw the ball to somebody who’€™s open.’€

[Click here to read more about what the Patriots plan to do to Manning this weekend to get him off his game.]

‘€œHis pre-snap reads are amazing. He pretty much knows what’€™s going on before he even snaps the ball,’€ said inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, who got his first career sack against Manning last November. ‘€œThat’€™s the tough part.’€

The Patriots’€™ pass rush has been inconsistent since the start of the season ‘€” through nine games, they have 18 sacks, tied for 19th overall ‘€” but they did come away with five sacks last week against the Steelers. Can any of that performance carry over this week against Manning and the Colts?

‘€œWe just have to keep moving in the right direction,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œThere was a little hiccup in the road against the Cleveland Browns, but the four weeks previous to that, we were going in the right direction. Like I said earlier this year, we have a young defense and we’€™re trying to get better.’€
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Read More: Bill Polian, Bob Kravitz, Brian Hoyer, Dallas Clark
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