|Andrew Luck: Deflategate controversy ‘blown out of proportion’||01.22.15 at 12:55 am ET|
On Wednesday, Andrew Luck shrugged off the Deflategate controversy, saying that “things in the media tend to be blown out of proportion.”
Speaking at the Pro Bowl draft, the Colts quarterback appeared to dismiss the uproar of underinflated footballs that were reportedly used by the Patriots in the AFC title game last Sunday in Foxboro.
“Everybody has a preference and our equipment managers sort of handle our footballs in a sense,” Luck told reporters. “I get them as they are, I guess.”
When it came to how he felt about preparing for the Pro Bowl instead of the Super Bowl, Luck appeared to fire off a good Deflategate one-liner, even if it reporters who were present believed it might have been inadvertent.
“The energy is sucked out of you. You feel deflated,” he said before perhaps realizing his gaffe, smiling, and adding, “Aww, shoot” with a sheepish laugh.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Andrew Luck had ‘long day’ in worst statistical game of NFL career||01.19.15 at 1:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While Andrew Luck has proven he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, Sunday’s AFC championship proved Luck is not ready for the big stage just yet.
Luck has his worst statistical game of his career Sunday in the Colts’ 45-7 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The 25-year-old was 12-for-33 passing for 126 yards with two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 23. The quarterback rating was by far the worst in his three-year career, as his previous low was Dec. 21 of this year in a 42-7 loss to the Cowboys, where he had a rating of 41.7.
His 36.4 completion percentage was also the worst of his career, and his 126 passing yards were second-fewest, only to the Dec. 21 game against the Cowboys.
“Long day, they obviously outplayed us and deserve to move on,” Luck said afterwards.
Luck and the Colts have struggled in his four games against the Patriots. He is 0-4, including two playoff losses, and has been outscored 189-73 in those games. Luck and the Colts have also struggled away from home against good teams. Over the last three seasons in games on the road against teams finishing .500 or better, the Colts are 2-12 and have been outscored 486-265.
The Patriots defense wasn’t necessarily surprised with the outcome Sunday night.
“Not at all,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “They’re a great team, but we are a good team as well. We had a great game plan, we came out and we executed. I mean there were a couple of plays that we obviously wanted back, but I think we played really good out there.”
A major part in the Patriots’ success was their ability to take away Luck’s receivers and the passing game. T.Y. Hilton finished with just one catch for 36 yards — a spectacular catch on the sidelines — and Reggie Wayne was not even targeted. Hilton was the leading receiver with tight end Coby Fleener being the next closest with three catches for 30 yards. Hilton finished the regular season with the sixth-most receiving yards in the NFL — 1,345.
|Andrew Luck, Colts will have to overcome past trends to upset Patriots in AFC championship||01.18.15 at 7:00 am ET|
Andrew Luck is one of the best up-and-coming young quarterbacks in the NFL. After being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft, Luck as been as advertised, throwing for 12,957 yards and 86 touchdowns in his three seasons in the league.
But, Sunday will be his first AFC championship game appearance, and the game will be outside at Gillette Stadium — away from his home indoor confines of Lucas Oil Stadium — which may be an issue for Luck and the Colts team come Sunday night.
In Luck’s three years (including five postseason games) he is 680-for-1148 passing, with 62 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in games played indoors, with a 24-8 record. This compared to games outdoors, where he is 503-for-838 passing with 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, with a 12-9 record.
The biggest thing that stands out is his touchdown-to-interception ratio indoors compared to outdoors. He has a 2.21 touchdown-to-interception ratio at home, but in games outdoors that number goes down to 1.18.
Turning the ball over, which Luck does a great deal of (16 interceptions this year, 43 for his career), could come back to hurt the Colts on Sunday night. The Patriots finished the regular-season tied for second in the NFL in turnover differential at plus-12, including 25 takeaways. They also finished with 13 giveaways, tied for the fewest in the league.
Indianapolis turned the ball over 31 times as a team, which tied for the third-most in the NFL. The Colts cannot afford to turn the ball over against the Patriots.
In 18 games this year, the Colts won the turnover battle only five times and in the postseason since 1970, the Patriots are 18-1 when winning turnover battle.
Since Luck came into the league, the Colts as a team have not done well away from Lucas Oil Stadium when playing against good teams. In the last three seasons (including the playoffs), on the road against teams that finished the season with records .500 or better, the Colts had a record of just 2-11, which includes last week’s win in Denver.
In 10 of those 13 games, the Colts have allowed 24 points or more, and in seven of those 13 games they allowed a remarkable 40 points or more. In those 13 games they have been outscored 441-258.
This also plays into the Patriots’ hands as they are a perfect 11-0 this season when scoring 23 points or more, and in the Bill Belichick era (since 2000) including the postseason, when scoring 23 points or more they are 158-12.
Lastly, knowing this is Luck’s first AFC championship game, Belichick is 3-0 in AFC title games against quarterbacks playing in their first AFC championship game.
|Most memorable Patriots-Colts games of Tom Brady era||01.17.15 at 3:10 pm ET|
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.
|Adam Schefter on MFB: ‘At some point, [Andrew Luck’s] going to go through that glass ceiling’||01.16.15 at 1:51 pm ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about the AFC championship game Sunday as well as other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Last week, Schefter made the prediction that the Patriots would end Baltimore’s season handily. And while the Ravens are not taking part in the conference championship, New England certainly struggled in keeping them from moving on.
“When they fell down 14-0 and then 28-14, I thought to myself, this is exactly the type of situation that this team typically has not responded very well to,” Schefter said. “This is not the team, the Baltimore Ravens, that you want to fall behind 14 points against. And I thought to myself, this is a recipe for disaster, and the fact that they were able to overcome that is a tribute to those guys. Unlikely, improbably, and impressive, all at once.”
This week, his prediction isn’t as confident, and it’s because of a certain young quarterback.
“What concerns me, and what would concern me if I were a Patriot fan would be that Andrew Luck, at some point, is going to have one of these signature games that elevates him,” he said. “He’s already there, we know he’s the best young quarterback in football, though some might say it’s Russell Wilson, but he’s going to have one of these signature games that elevates him from being talked about as one of the best quarterbacks in the game to just putting him into that elite category for good going forward.”
Beating an elite quarterback like Peyton Manning in his own barn last Sunday could have constituted as Luck’s breakthrough game, but not for Schefter. Denver’s struggles throughout the game did not lend themselves to that particular narrative for him. Instead, he’s looking to this week as a potential jumping-off point for Luck’s entry into the upper echelon of quarterbacks.
“Luck plays so well, plays one of these games where he’s out of his head and just raises the level of performance of his whole team to where he can carry them and will them to victory, and he’s good enough to do it,” Schefter said.
And Schefter noted that the New England defense is due for a good game, what with the trouble it had against Baltimore, but it’s only a matter of time before Luck breaks through, and that makes him nervous.
“[The Colts have] been trending in the right way, they’ve been getting better, they’ve been building,” he said. “At some point, [Luck’s] going to go through that glass ceiling, and that’s it. He’s going to be part of the elite quarterback conversation for good going forward.”
|Fantasy Football: Championship round daily leagues||at 10:30 am ET|
I hope some of you had success with last week’s DraftKings lineups. I know I did and I stuck pretty closely to last week’s recommendations. This week is an even tougher week for getting original lineups because the choices are so incredibly limited with only two games from which to choose talent.
As usual, I’ll do my best to explain my thought process as I construct my weekly lineup, and I’ll have a completed roster by the time we’re done. If you are looking for more information on players not listed in this space, head over to Rotobahn this afternoon. I’ll have my full lineup rankings posted by then.
Last week, I was pretty clear about which quarterbacks I wanted you to play. As it turned out I was right, but I also was wrong. That’s because all of the quarterbacks stepped up and posted significant numbers. Even those who chose Peyton Manning had a chance if they played the other positions well enough.
This week is a little different. With the exception of Aaron Rodgers, I like all the options at quarterback, and even Rodgers has some merit — particularly if you want a contrarian move to differentiate your lineup a bit.
One thing that could end being a plus for Rodgers is the weather. While it’s potentially going to be wet in both Foxboro and in Seattle, it is not expected to be very cold, and that is a plus for a guy who is playing with a significant muscle pull in his calf. Rodgers may be able to get loose this week. We’ll see. Having said all that, my personal choice for quarterback is the same as last week: Tom Brady.
I’m going with Brady because I think he matches up well against the Colts, who don’t do the things that you need to do to knock Brady off of his game. I know people will be talking about the running game and how badly the Patriots have gashed the Colts in recent games. I am seeing things differently. The two reasons for this are as follows. Yes, the Patriots ran all over the Colts earlier this season, but they also demolished them from head to toe. I also think you need to consider that last year’s playoff game was a very different matchup. In 2014, the Patriots were a different offense. There was some concern about a shootout with the Colts. I don’t think those same concerns hold true with the 2014 Patriots — who probably would win a shootout with Indianapolis, and by a solid margin.
Chuck Pagano is a good coach, and I think the Colts will be ready for the ground game this week. At least they’ll be more ready than they were back in Week 11. I also think Belichick will be more aggressive with his passing game — because he can be, for two reasons. First, he has a defense than can make stops. Second, he has an offense with a healthy Rob Gronkowski. To me, for the Patriots to slow this game down is to play into Indianapolis’ hands. As the clearly better team, the Patriots should not be looking to shorten the game by simply possessing the ball.
For these reasons, I am liking Tom Brady at 8,500 units. Here are the four quarterbacks, just so you know the relative costs.
As I said earlier, you can do well with any of these passers, but I’m going with Brady. My concern with Rodgers is the injury. My worry with Wilson, and it’s a minor one, also is Rodgers’ injury. If Seattle can knock out Rodgers, which is far more likely than normal, the game essentially will be over and Wilson could have a light day as a winner because they won’t have him running if the game is in the bag.
As for Luck, he’ll produce, but I worry about what New England can take away from him. I have a feeling that we may see more zone and combo coverage from the Patriots than folks anticipate — their primary goal being to take T.Y. Hilton off the board to some extent and to force Luck to beat them with his secondary weapons.
NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to share his insight about Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
For those who breathed a sigh of relief when Andrew Luck and the Colts eliminated Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Sunday, Harrison would like you to slow your roll. Anything can happen in big games like this one, and with a guy like Luck at the helm of an Indianapolis team with many offensive weapons to choose from, what took place during the regular season is not guaranteed to repeat itself.
The Pats and the Colts met up in November, and New England did a good job of convincing folks that they should be the favorites going into this weekend, compiling 503 total yards and six touchdowns in a 42-20 win. But Harrison noted that he’s seen everything in this league, and if a team is coming off a big win against a good team like the Broncos, it’s more than capable of getting a groove going against New England.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season,” Harrison said. “Sometimes you find a zone, you get comfortable, and you feel like you play with a lot of confidence, and this team is playing with a lot of confidence.
“They’re feeling like, these secondary guys, ‘If we can shut down Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker and all those guys, then we can come in here and match up with these guys.’ ”
Harrison said that the Colts team taking the field on Sunday is not necessarily the same one that the Patriots steamrolled in November. It’s a better team now, and Harrison pointed out that the Patriots shouldn’t look back at their previous games against the Colts to figure out how to beat them, but rather they should look at how Indy played Denver last week.
The inconsistencies that plagued Indianapolis from September to December do not define the team that eliminated Denver and has set up shop in Foxboro this week.
“If I’m the Patriots, I don’t look at the first game and say, ‘This is how they’re going to play.’ ” he said. “I look at last week against Denver, and they came out, they gave Andrew Luck protection, that offensive line played a lot better, and Andy Luck, if you give him time, he could pick you apart.
“This is a big-play offense,” he continued. “They’re going to continue to do what they’ve done all season, they’re going to try to throw the ball down the field. … I do believe that they’re going just to continue with their philosophy.”