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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

Dez Bryant, Cowboys done in by officials, Aaron Rodgers, Packers in Ice Bowl rematch

01.11.15 at 4:20 pm ET
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Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Karma caught up to the Cowboys at the worst time Sunday.

A week after receiving what many feel was a gift win over the Lions in the NFC wild card round, the Cowboys were done in by a reversal of a critical catch that would’ve given them the chance at the go-ahead touchdown from the the one-yard line.

Trailing 26-21, Dez Bryant appeared to make a spectacular leaping grab with just over two minutes remaining at the Packers 1. Bryant had clear possession of the ball going to the ground but was ruled incomplete as the ball popped up in the air as Bryant collected it again while lying in the end zone.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the called and referee Gene Steratore came out and ruled that Bryant did not have possession while going to the ground.

The Packers ran out the clock and captured a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in the first playoff meeting between the two long-time rivals at Lambeau Field since the famed “Ice Bowl” of 1967. Bryant left the field with a towel draped over his head. Unlike the Dec. 31, 1967 game, when the temperature was minus-15 with a wind chill of minus-48, Sunday was a balmy 24 above zero with practically no wind chill.

The controversial officials’ reversal overshadowed a heroic performance by gimpy Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Playing with a bad left calf, Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead strike to Richard Rodgers of 13 yards with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, capping a comeback from a 21-13 deficit. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, aaron rodgers, Brandon Browner, Dallas Cowboys

Danny Amendola seizes opportunity, drawing high praise from Bill Belichick: ‘Can’t say enough about Danny’

01.11.15 at 3:42 pm ET
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Danny Amendola finished with five catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's win over the Ravens. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Danny Amendola finished with five catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over the Ravens. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

FOXBORO — Saturday night’s 35-31 divisional round win over the Ravens may have been Danny Amendola‘s best game as a member of the Patriots.

After a reduced role in the offense for much of the season, Amendola stepped up in a big way — catching five passes on six targets for 81 yards and two touchdowns — as he played a major part in the Patriots coming back from two, 14-point deficits in the game.

The wide receiver, in his second year in New England, was involved in arguably the biggest play of the game — a 51-yard double-pass for a touchdown, as Tom Brady threw a backwards pass to Julian Edelman and Amendola ran past the Baltimore defense with no one in sight as Edelman easily hit him to tie the game at 28 in the third quarter, shifting all momentum towards the Patriots side.

‘€œIt’€™s a play we’€™ve been working on all year,” Amendola said after the game. “Testament to Julian [Edelman] — has a great arm and [is] a great athlete. He put it on the money, that’€™s for sure. It was a good throw.’€

Amendola scored his first touchdown in the first half — a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brady — to tie the game at 14 with 3:37 left in the second quarter.

Although Amendola didn’t score the game-winning touchdown, he played a major part in the Patriots reaching the end zone. It was third-and-6 at the Baltimore 44-yard line. Amendola caught Brady’s pass short of the first down marker, but a second-effort and missing a tackle allowed Amendola to pick up the first down and keep the drive going.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Danny Amendola, Tom Brady

Kyle Arrington on Gillette Stadium crowd: ‘The stadium was rocking’

01.11.15 at 2:43 pm ET
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The Gillette Stadium crowd went crazy after Duron Harmon's interception in the fourth quarter. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Gillette Stadium crowd went crazy after Duron Harmon’s (30) interception in the fourth quarter. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was a special night Saturday at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots came back from two, 14-point deficits to beat the Ravens, 35-31 to advance to next Sunday’s AFC championship game.

Less than 14 hours after the game, cornerback Kyle Arrington spoke of the importance of the Gillette Stadium crowd — which at some points in the second half was so loud, the press box shook — and just how loud things were on the field.

“I’d say so, especially I can think of two huge plays specifically — when Devin [McCourty] made his interception and Duron [Harmon] made his as well at the end of the game,” Arrington said. “The crowd was, the stadium was rocking — on film today the cameras were shaking, you could barely see anything after the moment itself when it happened. The crowd definitely kept us in it. Couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere.”

Coming back from two, 14-point deficits was the first time that has ever happened in NFL postseason history, and the 14-point comeback was the largest comeback win is Patriots playoff history.

Arrington had one word to describe what that means about this year’s team.

“Character. Character on our team,” said Arrington. “Not just defensively, but as a team as a whole. Down 14 points through two stretches of the game, to be able to overcome that obstacle speaks a lot of the character and the guys on this team. I’m proud to strap it up with these guys week in and week out, go to battle.”

It was a physical game, where the Ravens made the Patriots earn absolutely everything. With not playing their best game, Arrington said they are “fortunate” to be moving onto the next round.

“Glad to be fortunate enough to still be playing at this time of year,” Arrington said. “No, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but it’s a good team we played. They have us their best shot, all we can handle from those guys.”

Arrington and the rest of the team will now get an extra day off and wait to see if they will host the Broncos or Colts next Sunday.

“It was a hard fought, physical game. Guys just trying to take care of their bodies right now and I am sure we will be glued into the TV to see the winner of this next game,” he said.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Kyle Arrington,

Colts-Broncos preview: It doesn’t matter who wins, because neither is beating the Patriots

01.11.15 at 1:06 pm ET
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The Broncos host the Colts at 4:40 this afternoon to determine who faces the Patriots in the AFC title game, and I’ll keep these thoughts brief, since there’s not much to say:

It doesn’t matter who wins, because neither one of them is touching the Pats.

The Patriots have already housed both, beating the Broncos 43-21 heading into the bye, and stampeding the Colts 42-20 coming out of it.

Those who considered the Ravens the greatest impediment to the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl were certainly validated in Saturday’s divisional round game, which Baltimore led virtually wire to wire before the Patriots rallied for a 35-31 victory.

And while the Ravens certainly exposed holes on both sides of the ball (protecting Tom Brady, attacking the middle of the field against the Patriots defense), neither the Colts nor Broncos seem particularly suited to exploiting those issues like Baltimore did.

Denver represents the tougher matchup, because Indianapolis is limited defensively, especially against the run, as the Pats proved when no-name Jonas Gray plowed them for 201 yards and four touchdowns.

Denver can at least stop the run (79.8 yards/game, 2nd in the NFL) and its middling secondary is still better than the Ravens’ porous unit. The Broncos’ problems, strangely enough, should come on offense, where the Patriots can gear up to stop running back C.J. Anderson, because quarterback Peyton Manning has spent the second half of the season looking like he’s throwing left-handed, with no zip on the ball and a penchant for turning it over.

The Manning the Patriots beat in November was still relatively on top of his game, throwing for 438 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Manning of the last month hasn’t resembled that player in the least. He started the year with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 36-to-9. He ended it with six picks and just three TDs in his last four games.

Maybe he was playing the ultimate rope-a-dope long con and is going to throw for six touchdowns this afternoon. Even if he does, he still doesn’t own a proud playoff tradition in general, but particularly in Foxboro, where his next postseason win will be his first.

As for the Colts, young Andrew Luck is turnover prone, and outside of corner Vontae Davis, the Colts lack impact defenders. The Ravens punched the Patriots in the face, and that’s not the style of either the Colts or Broncos.

The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, are a completely different story, but one for another day. For now, let’s acknowledge that even in the anything-can-happen-on-any-given-Sunday NFL, the Patriots are about a safe as bet as can be to be playing on Feb. 1 in Arizona.

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