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Chuck Pagano thinks Rob Gronkowski makes Patriots ‘more of a nightmare’ 11.12.14 at 8:58 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Colts Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Rob Gronkowski could be a scary sight for the Colts Sunday night. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick won’t admit it. Tom Brady will just smile in gratitude. And Rob Gronkowski certainly won’t acknowledge it. But the best tight end in football is a nightmare matchup for any opponent, especially one that has had difficulty defending much-lesser tight ends this season.

But Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was more than willing to detail just what kind of problem Gronkowski presents for his Colts this Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Tom’€™s spreading the ball around, but Rob’€™s a matchup nightmare,” Pagano said. “It’€™s all hands on deck to try to make sure that that guy doesn’€™t wreck a game. You see everybody trying to do that, but he finds a way to make unbelievable plays. He’€™s a great player and they’€™ve got a bunch of them, a bunch of skill guys that are making great plays.”

How big a game could Gronkowski have? Consider tight end Julius Thomas caught three touchdowns – in the second quarter – of Denver’s 31-24 win on opening night. The next week, Philly’s Zach Ertz had four catches for 87 yards. Against the Steelers in Week 8, Heath Miller had seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.

What is Gronk expecting?

“They’re a very good team and we have to prepare to our max and we have to be ready for the game,” Gronkowski said, keeping everything cautiously vague. “We have to come out and perform to our best because, if not, they’re a very good team and we could struggle easily versus them if we’re not going out there prepared. You have to be ready and go out and be prepared.

“They’ve got a lot of good skill players, good linebackers, safeties, corners and you just have to be prepared for anything at any time. You never know what you’re going to get so you have to be prepared and expect anything.”

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Read More: Chuck Pagano, Gronk, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Josh McDaniels expecting Chuck Pagano, Colts to blitz Patriots 11.10.14 at 2:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Normally, opposing teams try to stay away from blitzing Tom Brady because of his ability to read at the line of scrimmage and make big plays.

But Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels says Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is a little different.

Pagano, according to McDaniels, has been using the blitz to try and pressure quarterbacks since his secondary has been burned for big play after big play this year. The Colts defense is allowing 263.3 yards passing, including 31 plays of 20 or more yards and nine plays of 40 or more yards.

But the Colts have had their fair share of success getting to the quarterback, registering 24 sacks, tied for ninth-most in the NFL this season. Pagano is in his third season as Colts head coach, coming from the pressure based defensive schemes in Baltimore, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2011.

“I definitely think there is an element of that, certainly,” McDaniels said. “Chuck Pagano, obviously, that’€™s his background, and there is some of that there. But I also think there is a great blend here, and they’€™ve kind of created their own little package, and they do different things off of it each week.

In 2013, the Colts blitzed 33 percent of the time, according to the experts at Pro Football Focus.

“I think they really present a lot of different issues for you,” McDaniels said. “They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams that we’€™ve played, which is going to be, I would say, a very critical factor in the game, our ability to handle that. They play a lot of tight man coverage. They have guys who do a really good job of covering man-to-man [in] one-on-one situations on the outside.”

Greg Toler and veteran Vontae Davis are the corners, while Sergio Brown and Mike Adams are the safeties. Brown and nickel corner Darius Butler are former Patriots who have faced Tom Brady in practice.

“They ask their safeties and linebackers to do the same thing, and they’€™ve got guys who can do that. They’€™ve been stopping the run, creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback, so there are not a lot of holes. I definitely see some of what we had faced in the past in Baltimore, but certainly this is their own defense. They’€™ve added different flavors to it, and we’€™ve got a big challenge ahead of us this week.”

Of course, if Brady is able to solve the blitz and get the ball to Rob Gronkowski, there is the potential for big plays in open space.

“I think with any skilled player, if you have an opportunity to release clean into the route in the passing game, it takes away something that you’€™re not really having to worry about or think about at the line of scrimmage, and then you can focus a little bit more on reading the coverage or whatever the route is that you’€™re running. I think that he gets played at the line of scrimmage some and some not.

“It’€™s kind of a mixture of all different things, but I would say that’€™s true for most or all of our skill players, especially our receivers. There are plenty of times where they get jammed and then there are some times when their corner plays them off. We work extremely hard on trying to help our guys release into the pattern. We spend a lot of time in practice doing that. [Tight ends] coach [Brian] Daboll [and] [wide receivers] coach [Chad] O’€™Shea do a great job of that. He knows that there are going to be challenges each week that different teams present, and we’€™ve got to do a good job of being prepared for those.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts, Josh McDaniels
Colts coach Chuck Pagano: Just made sense to sign ex-Patriots WR Deion Branch 01.07.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday that there was no ulterior motive when it came to signing former Patriots receiver Deion Branch.

In a conference call with the New England media, Pagano said that there were several factors in play when it came to adding Branch, including the fact that they had brought him in for a workout last month, he was local, and he has a track record of success.

“We had worked out Deion three or four weeks ago,” Pagano said of the 34-year-old Branch. “[General Manager] Ryan [Grigson] and his staff bring in guys every week to work out and have guys that you know about and give physicals to in case you have an injury here or there, and we were a little bit short at the wide receiver position, and we had worked out Deion.

“He came in and had a great workout for us, he was in shape, he’€™s local, he’€™s right in our backyard, so we knew about him and knew who he was from a physical standpoint. Again, every decision we make is based on two things: what’€™s best for the team and what helps us win, and we feel like we got a guy that’€™s a former Super Bowl MVP that’€™s played a lot of good football at a high level, so he can help us.”

It’s debatable how much impact Branch will have on Saturday night — he only has a handful of days to try and get up to speed in a new system. But Indy quarterback Andrew Luck said he was looking forward to connecting with Branch.

“€œI definitely will pick his brain,’€ Luck said in a conference call with the media. ‘”œHe’€™s going to be a great addition to our team. I haven’€™t had a chance to sit down yet. We’€™ve been rolling in and out of meetings.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of Branch Tuesday.

“Deion had a great career here — I think he was here for seven years or north thereof,” Belichick said. “Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we’€™ve had here in terms of off the field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He’€™s a tremendous person. He’€™s had a great career.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Bill Belichick, Chuck Pagano, Deion Branch
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, playoff edition: Peyton Manning’s Broncos No. 1 01.02.13 at 9:40 am ET
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It’s finally here. The postseason kicks off this Saturday and there are many teams capable of raising the Vince Lombardi trophy in New Orleans. Of the 12 playoff teams, four were not in the postseason last year (Colts, Seahawks, Redskins, Vikings). Three of those teams will have rookie quarterbacks leading the offense. Football fans are in for an entertaining postseason.

Leading the way are the Broncos (1). With 11 straight wins and as the only team to have both a top-five offense and defense, Denver is poised for a deep run. The No. 1 seed in the NFC is at No. 4 in the Power Rankings. The Falcons will enjoy a week off before Matt Ryan attempts to win his first playoff game. The two other teams that will enjoy a first-round bye are the Niners (3) and Patriots (4).

Will wild card weekend produce a few upsets? The Seahawks (6) could deliver one on the road against the Redskins (10).

1. Broncos (13-3) ‘€” Peyton Manning has led the Broncos to 11 straight wins and guaranteed Denver home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The veteran quarterback has done a tremendous job getting the offense in sync. The passing attack is one of the most dynamic in the league. The defense is ranked in the top five of the league as well.

2.  49ers (11-4-1) ‘€” One thing to watch is how Justin Smith deals with his triceps injury. The dominant D-lineman is a big reason why the 49ers defense is the best in the league. San Francisco will be facing some high-powered offenses in the postseason and will need Smith to wreak havoc up front like he usually does.

3. Patriots (12-4) ‘€” We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, but doesn’t it seem like the Patriots and Broncos are on a collision course for an AFC championship showdown? Grabbing a first-week bye puts the veteran Pats in a great position to return to the Super Bowl. A healthy Rob Gronkowski is key to this team’s success.

4. Falcons (13-3) ‘€”  The No. 1 seed in the AFC has a lot of doubters. The Falcons have been in this position before and have failed. The difference now is Matt Ryan is playing better, the offensive is filled with explosive playmakers, and new coordinator Mike Nolan has the defense playing inspired football.

5. Packers (11-5) ‘€” No one wants to play the Packers in the playoffs, but Green Bay is vulnerable with a beat-up offensive line, shaky defense, and only one guaranteed game on the friendly confines of the frozen tundra.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Broncos, Chuck Pagano, NFL Power Rankings
Chuck Pagano has good news for Patriots fans 12.26.12 at 6:30 pm ET
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Christmas was on Tuesday but on Wednesday – Boxing Day in Canada – there was some very good news from Indianapolis that might turn into a gift for the Patriots and their fans.

The returning Chuck Pagano – who will be coaching his first game since successful cancer treatment – told reporters that he intends to play all of his starters who are physically cleared to play, despite the fact that the Colts are slotted at the No. 5 seed in the AFC and that won’t change, win or lose.

It seems only fitting for a coach that just battled leukemia for the past three months.

‘€œIt’€™s just not in our DNA. It’€™s not in our makeup,’€ Pagano said Wednesday of playing his players to win. ‘€œThese kids deserve it, their families deserve it. Our fans in this city deserve our best every game regardless of the situation and regardless of the circumstances.’€

What’s at stake? If the Colts beat the 12-3 Texans and the 11-4 Patriots beat the Dolphins, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Colts also know that the Texans are playing for their playoff position, as a Houston win clinches the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs, as well as a first-round bye for the Texans.

Pagano ruled out running back Delone Carter (ankle) and center Samson Satele (ankle). The status of at least four others are likely game-time decisions.

‘€œWhether you agree with it or not, I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going and still going out and working on your craft,’€ Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney said. ‘€œGuys who can play, should play. I don’€™t know if it’€™s going to be a whole game situation scenario, but that’€™s up to the coaching staff to decide. You are risking getting hurt, but that’€™s just part of the nature of this game.’€

Pagano believes playing to win, whether Week 1 or Week 17 is still the main objective.

‘€œThey’€™re going to roll a ball out there and it’€™s our job to go out there and try to win a football game,’€ he said. ‘€œYou want to win. You want to win at home. You want to go into the playoffs with momentum.’€

And the Patriots would love that momentum to rest a week.

Read More: Chuck Pagano, dwight freeney, houston texans, Indianapolis Colts
Boomer Esiason on D&C: Aqib Talib ‘definitely a very different sort’ 11.05.12 at 9:50 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and recapped Week 9 in the NFL, touching on the Colts, the Falcons, the Buccaneers, Peyton Manning and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots traded for suspended Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib last week, and Esiason said it’s up to the team to convince him to heed the Patriot Way.

‘€œIf he stays out of trouble, he will [be successful],” Esiason said. “I know what they’€™re banking on here. They’€™re banking on the locker room, they’€™re banking on the organization. ‘€¦ This Aqib Talib kid is definitely a very different sort, very, very different. Hopefully up in Foxboro, he’€™s not going to get himself in trouble. This is what you call rolling the dice.’€

The Colts posted a 23-20 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday behind Andrew Luck‘€™s rookie-record 433-yard game. Esiason said the way ailing coach Chuck Pagano addressed the team following the game in the locker room was very impressive.

‘€œThe Andrew Luck-Chuck Pagano show was something special,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œI picked Miami to win the game yesterday. ‘€¦ Andrew Luck doing what he did, throwing for as many yards as he did, setting a rookie record in a single game and then tying Peyton Manning for most 300-yard games in a season at the number four. How lucky are the Indianapolis Colts fans to be able to go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Hopefully a career of greatness that we’€™ll see there.

“The Chuck Pagano thing, for anybody who knows anybody whose ever dealt with cancer, to see him in the locker room after that game to talk about his daughter’€™s weddings and things of that nature, just gave me chills. So I would say that was really impressive.’€

Eli Manning had a tough game on Sunday, throwing for just 125 yards with an interception in the Giants‘ 24-20 loss to the Steelers.

‘€œI thought the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to beat the New York Giants, because the Steelers now, whether you love them or hate them, these are the Steelers that we know and love or hate,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œThey’€™re coming back defensively. Big Ben [Roethlisberger] is doing exactly what he does in games in which they win — he extends plays and makes throws and stands in there in the face of the pass rush. He’€™s as brave as any quarterback in football and he showed that yesterday.

“And the Giants, Eli Manning hasn’€™t played that well the last couple weeks. They won a game in Dallas, they won a game at home against [Robert Griffin III], but when you take a look at the stats and you see the yards that opposing offenses are putting up against that defense, it wasn’€™t shocking to me that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Giants yesterday.’€

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, boomer esiason, Chuck Pagano
WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 6: Patriots return to top 5 10.09.12 at 10:19 am ET
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For the third straight week the Falcons (1), Texans (2) and 49ers (3) remain at the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. At a combined 14-1, those teams have one major thing in common: balance. They are strong on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

One team that is no stranger to the top five is the Patriots. Tom Brady and company hop back in at No. 5 after a three-week absence. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are the latest team to get bounced after their loss to the Colts. Green Bay drops to No. 7.

One division that has gone from rags to riches is the NFC West. The 49ers (3), Cardinals (10), Seahawks (16) and Rams (25) are all bolstered by solid defense and are progressing week to week.

Week 6 has the potential to be the most impactful week yet. In a rematch of the NFC championship, the 49ers will be out for revenge against the Giants (8). Meanwhile, the Texans will battle the Packers as Green Bay attempts to avoid dropping to 2-4.

1. (1) Falcons (5-0) ‘€” Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to their first 5-0 start in franchise history. Mike Smith‘s team put up 17 points in the fourth quarter to remain perfect. Great teams win close games and find ways to prevail. The Falcons have proven they are capable of that so far.

2. (2) Texans (5-0) ‘€” The pulse of the Texans defense may be out for the year. The early reports suggest Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL in Monday night’s win over the Jets, and that could be a crippling blow.

3. (3) 49ers (4-1) ‘€” The Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 in their last two games. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. It shows how dominant this team is but also how terrible the Jets and Bills are as well. They’ll face some real competition next week against the Giants but there are reasons to be concerned. Alex Smith has a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand.

4. (5) Ravens (4-1) ‘€” It wasn’t pretty but the Ravens improved to 4-1 without scoring a touchdown. Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards and that usually means a Ravens victory. Baltimore is 13-2 when Rice rushes for over 100 yards. For John Harbaugh, the formula to victory is simple: Get Ray Rice the rock.

5. (7) Patriots (3-2) ‘€” As long as the defense remains opportunistic, the Patriots will continue to roll. The defense has forced key turnovers in crucial moments throughout the season. A solid giveaway/takeaway number is usually a great indicator of how good a team really is, and the Pats and the Falcons top the NFL with a plus-10.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Brian Cushing, Chuck Pagano, Matt Ryan
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