|Andrew Luck replaces Tom Brady on AFC Pro Bowl squad, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker and Vince Wilfork also out||01.21.13 at 7:38 pm ET|
Tom Brady is again politely declining a trip to Hawaii to play in the NFL’s greatest exhibition game.
Andrew Luck had one of the best seasons any rookie quarterback has ever had in living up to his No. 1 overall draft billing coming into the 2012 season.
On Monday, the Indianapolis Colts rookie was rewarded with a trip to Hawaii to replace Brady in the in the Pro Bowl. Brady was excused from the Pro Bowl with an undisclosed injury.
Brady was selected to his eighth Pro Bowl game in late December but hasn’t played the last six times he’s been selected. He played in Feb. 2002 after winning the Super Bowl and he played in Feb. 2005 after the 2004 season but hasn’t played since, as he has been designated as injured and has been replaced.
It appears Brady won’t be alone in turning down the leis in paradise. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports Wes Welker, Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork have also taken their names out of the Pro Bowl due to various injuries. Linebacker Jerod Mayo and special teams captain Matthew Slater were also selected but remain on the Pro Bowl roster.
As for Luck, through Week 9, Luck had thrown for the same number of yards as his predecessor, Peyton Manning, did in his first season in Denver.
His legend began to truly grow in Week 13 against the Lions. Luck and the Colts were trailing 33-28 with 1:07 left. He was able to get to the Lions’ 14 yard line and faced a fourth down with three seconds left. Luck then threw a screen pass to Donnie Avery who got free and ran in for the winning score.
The win gave Luck his eighth on the season – the most wins by a rookie quarterback drafted first overall in NFL history, as well as his fifth game-winning drive on the season, tying Vince Young and Ben Roethlisberger for the most by a rookie quarterback. On Dec. 23, 2012, Luck broke the record for most passing yards by a rookie against the Kansas City Chiefs, throwing 205 to bring his season total to 4,183. Cam Newton held the previous record with 4,051 yards.
Luck advanced the Colts, one season removed from 2-14, to the the playoffs, where they lost to the Ravens in Baltimore.
|Poll: Who do you want to see the Patriots play?||12.31.12 at 10:20 am ET|
FOXBORO — By virtue of their 28-0 win over the Dolphins on Sunday at Gillette Stadium and the Texans’ loss in Indianapolis, the Patriots earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and the right to watch the first round of the playoffs on television.
The Patriots will play one of three teams in their AFC divisional game at Gillette on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m.
If the No. 3 Texans beat the No. 6 Bengals in Houston next Saturday, the Patriots will have a rematch with the Texans. If the Bengals win, then the Patriots will face the winner of the No. 4 Ravens-No. 5 Colts next Sunday in Baltimore.
The Patriots beat the Texans, 42-14, on Monday night football on Dec. 10. The Patriots beat the Colts, 59-28, on Nov. 18. Both of those wins came at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots lost to the Ravens, 31-30, on a last-second field goal in Baltimore on Sept. 23.
During his conference call on Monday, Bill Belichick was asked if the fact that the Patriots played Baltimore much earlier than Houston and Indianapolis changes their planning.
“There’s certainly a lot more information on Baltimore since we played them than there is on, say, Houston since we played them,” Belichick said. “And Indianapolis would fall somewhere in the middle. Again, as we talked about last week, we have people in our organization who are always kind of the advance people, whether it’s scouts or coaches that are moving ahead. The coaching staff is always focused on the current opponent or the current situation. Even in training camp, it’s the same thing where we’re working on things in training camp, but we still have people who are advancing our early season opponents and so forth.
“It’s still kind of the same thing. We have people working on those things and at some point they will come into play for the coaching staff and the players, but at some point it will also just be a preparation until we know who we actually are going to be matched up with next week. So it’s little bit of both there, but definitely Baltimore, of the three teams that we could play next, is the one that we – there’s a lot more information since the time we played them and that definitely needs to be analyzed.”
|Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins||12.30.12 at 1:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bitter cold and blustery conditions are expected for Sunday’s regular season finale between the Patriots and Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-20s with a wind chill of 12 degrees for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but was moved back by the NFL last week when it became clear that the Patriots would be playing for a possible playoff bye.
The Colts are hosting the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in the return of head coach Chuck Pagano to the sidelines. The Colts have never lost at home to Houston. If the Colts win in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch a No. 1 seed if the Colts beat the Texans and the Chiefs upset the Broncos in Denver, a game that will be played simultaneously with the Patriots-Dolphins contest.
The Patriots may have the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first time since Nov. 18, as reports surfaced Saturday that Gronk was on schedule to return. However, CSNNE.com’s Tom Curran reported Sunday morning that the Patriots were having serious second thoughts and the decision to activate him for the season finale had not been finalized.
The final decision won’t likely be known for sure until inactives are released at 2:55 p.m., 90 minutes before kickoff.
The Patriots will have the services of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham for the first time since New England’s Thanksgiving night massacre of the Jets. Cunningham was suspended the following Monday for four games for violation of the NFL PED policy. The Patriots officially activated Cunningham to the 53-man roster Saturday, waiving defensive lineman and former second-round pick Ron Brace to make room.
The Patriots also signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and defensive back Malcolm Williams off the practice squad and they will be eligible to play in the regular season finale if active.
Some nuggets for today:
The Patriots need just one first down to set a new NFL record as they come into the game with 416 first downs on the season, 139 by rushing, 241 by passing and 36 by penalty. They enter the game sharing the mark with the 2011 New Orleans Saints. Patriots opponents have just 324. Read the rest of this entry »
|Chuck Pagano has good news for Patriots fans||12.26.12 at 6:30 pm ET|
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.
“It’s just not in our DNA. It’s not in our makeup,” Pagano said Wednesday of playing his players to win. “These 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.
“Whether 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. “Guys 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.
“They’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. “You 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.
|AFC playoff field set with Bengals and Colts punching their tickets||12.23.12 at 5:36 pm ET|
The Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts are headed to the playoffs.
Both teams won games on the road Sunday to clinch their postseason berths, meaning all six spots in the AFC playoffs are spoken for. The only thing to be decided is the seeding.
Josh Brown, filling in for the injured Mike Nugent, kicked a 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to lift the Bengals over the Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field on Sunday, sending the Bengals into the playoffs for a second straight season for the first time in 30 years.
Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the quarter but earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green for 21 yards on the next play, setting up Brown’s game-winner.
Moments earlier in Kansas City, the Colts punched their ticket to the postseason with a late 20-13 win over the Chiefs. Andrew Luck threw for 205 yards to break the single-season rookie record, and his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne late in the fourth quarter provided the margin of victory.
Luck surpassed Cam Newton‘s year-old record of 4,051 yards passing by a rookie in the second quarter, and then came through in the closing minutes. He marched Indy to the Chiefs 7, and then found Wayne in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal for the go-ahead score.
Darius Butler returned an interception 32 yards against the Chiefs (2-13) for a TD, helping the Colts (10-5) join the 2008 Miami Dolphins as the only NFL teams to win at least 10 games after losing 14 or more the previous season.
|Aqib Talib: ‘Man, I would love [Foxboro] to be my home!’||11.19.12 at 12:53 am ET|
FOXBORO — Talk about your great first impressions.
Coming into this week, everyone wondered just how much Aqib Talib would play, as the new cornerback spent the week getting accustomed to the Patriots secondary.
After a first quarter of mixed results, he made the play of the game when he picked of an Andrew Luck overthrow of Reggie Wayne and raced around the field before winding up in the end zone for a pick-six and a touchdown that would give the Patriots the lead for good, 21-14.
“A lot of fun, executed in all three phases of the game, won the game and had a lot of fun out there,” Talib said. “Luck overthrew the ball and kind of threw it right to me. Defense did a great job of setting up that wall and I got into the end zone.”
It was the least Talib could do to say thanks to the fans who cheered him for the first time since he was traded to New England in a deadline deal with the Bucs on Nov. 2.
“When they mentioned my name, I was really locked in,” he said of the introductions before the game. “Wasn’t paying attention to the volume meter. But when they said my name at the beginning, I got a pretty good welcome, made me feel pretty good. Made me a little bit more excited than I already was.”
Could Talib see New England as a permanent home after his current contract expires after the current season?
“Man, I would love it to be my home!” Talib said with a big smile.
As for the here and now, Talib said he spent sometime on Sunday shaking off the rust from a four-game NFL-mandated suspension for unauthorized Adderall use.
“We had a good week of practice,” Talib said. “We kind of put a lot of emphasis on that, communication and playing fast. We could’ve played better today. We gave up some stuff but felt like it was all right. But, it can get a lot better though.
“I felt pretty good. Get in a little bit better game shape, get my eyes in the right spots and I think I’ll be all right.”
Talib said he was prepared for Luck and the Colts to attack him early, and that’s what they did, as Luck connected for a long sideline route to LaVon Brazill early and a TD pass to T.Y. Hilton in the first half, giving the Colts a 14-7 lead.
“I play corner, I’m used to it all,” said Talib, who was beaten for a pair of touchdowns on the day. “I just got undercut at the goal line. I didn’t play good technique and I kind of let him wide of me to get back inside. On the other one, I had my eyes in the wrong spot, had my eyes exactly where they shouldn’t be, on the quarterback, so I watched him throw a touchdown on me. That’s what I did. I’ve got to get a lot better.
“A little sloppy. My feet were everywhere.”
Sunday was all about shaking off the rust and getting used to playing in the Patriots system.
“You go sit down five or six weeks and then you go play, you’re not going to be your ordinary self,” Talib said. “As I put the pads on, more practice, games, I’ll be all right.”
|Monster impact, monster void: Colts assess Gronkowski Effect||11.18.12 at 11:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — On the day that reports emerged that the Patriots may be without Rob Gronkowski for four to six weeks due to a broken forearm, the tight end delivered the sort of performance to underscore what a huge loss he will be.
Gronkowski is no secret to teams playing the Patriots. Neither is the success that he and veteran quarterback Tom Brady share. But when it comes to putting game plans into motion against the dynamic record-setting duo, it’s a little bit easier said than done.
On Sunday, Gronkowski set all kinds of personal marks with his seven-catch, 137-yard, two-touchdown performance. He became the first tight end in history to record three-straight 10-plus touchdown seasons — and all in his first three years in the league. He also now enjoys the title of “player with the most multi-touchdown receiving games (12) in his first three years of service,” having surpassed Jerry Rice in that category.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end has 37 touchdown catches in two-plus years in the NFL. And with six games remaining on the regular season schedule, he sits six touchdown receptions behind Randy Moss’ all-time record of 43 through the first three years of being in the league.
After the game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, several members of the Colts spoke of how difficult it is to cover such a physical player with very capable hands. Read the rest of this entry »
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