|Trags Take… Jets assume control||11.14.08 at 12:49 am ET|
We said here, in previewing Thursday night’s tilt, that this would be one of the most compelling games of the season. Matt Cassel and Brett Favre helped make us look good with that call. It will go down as a classic game, decided only when Jay Feely, filling in for the injured Mike Nugent, drilled a 34-yard field goal with 7:10 remaining in overtime to lift the Jets over the Patriots, 34-31.
Here were some of the key points of the classic contest at Gillette.
1. Matt Cassel is a stud. No player in the history of the NFL since the 1970 merger had ever thrown for 400 yards and rushed for 60 in the same game… before Cassel did it Thursday night. His ability to lead the team to the game-tying TD in a minute with no timeouts was right out of No. 12’s handbook. Brilliant game… almost as brilliant as his pass to Randy Moss with one second left.
2. The Jets attacked a Patriots front seven that was missing Adalius Thomas (left forearm) and Ty Warren (groin). Thomas could be gone for the the year and the Patriots won’t take any chances with Warren. Pierre Woods played well in spurts and had a sack of Favre on the opening drive of overtime but the Jets showed their resilience and ability to exploit the Pats defense over the rest of a drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal.
3. Brett Favre was masterful. For all the deserved accolades for Cassel, we had the privilege to watch a future Hall of Fame quarterback show us all why he’s on his way to Canton. The overtime drive was perfect in its execution under pressure. Facing 3rd and 15 at his 15, Favre found Dustin Keller in the seam of the zone for 14 yards. By the time Brandon Meriweather got there, Keller bowled him over for two more yards and a first down.
4. The Jets defense may not be all that. They gave up 511 total yards to the Patriots, the most for New England since 597 against the Jets on Sept. 9, 1979.
5. The Patriots learned that their offense is now capable of scoring and coming from behind. They have a formidable challenge in the next two weeks… at Miami on Nov. 23 and home to Pittsburgh on Nov. 30. Their playoff future could hinge on those two games.
New York Jets Head coach Eric Mangini: ‘I’m doing great. Obviously, coming into this environment we knew it was going to be tough. We didn’t know how the game was going to unfold, but we talked about that all week, the fact that we were going to have to play a complete game and a complimentary game, all three phases. It ebbed and flowed and it went back and forth. We were up and they came back. We pushed back through and at different points in the game it was ebbing and flowing. That is something we anticipated. It’s a great feeling for us, and everybody understands this game was extremely important and it is important because it allows us to make the next game that much more important.’
Brett Favre: ‘They had all the momentum. They had every reason to win it. We could have easily folded so there’s a lot of things in this game that happened. And based on the history, I’m sure most people would have been betting against us but we found a way to win the game. It ranks right up there near the top. Being in the moment, it’s easy to say it may be at the top.’
New England Head coach Bill Belichick: ‘I would say it was a tough loss. I thought out players fought hard. We made a lot of plays, the Jets made a lot of plays. In the end they made a couple more than we did. Give them credit. We’re close, just not quite good enough tonight. We dug ourselves a hole and we made some plays to get back in there. We missed some good opportunities in the third quarter to really close the gap. But that is the way it goes.’
Matt Cassel: ‘I think anytime you can come back from a 24-6 deficit, it’s a building block and something every team should be proud of. Obviously, we never want to lose, but it’s definitely something we can take away and hopefully not have to use down the road, but we might have to use down the road. To show that kind of fight and tenacity, I thought that was great for the team. I hope I’ve earned the confidence of these guys on the team throughout the course of the year. It’s the flip of the coin. It’s very frustrating because you want to be out there and you want to have the ball in your hands and you want to have the opportunity to win the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that opportunity.’
The following items courtesy the excellent staff in Patriots media relations:
PATRIOTS HAVE MOST TOTAL NET YARDS IN A GAME SINCE 1979
The Patriots gained 511 total net yards against the Jets (386 passing, 125 rushing), marking the franchise’s highest offensive output since gaining a franchise-record 597 total net yards on Sept. 9, 1979 against the Jets. New England’s 511 total net yards stand as the fourth-highest single-game total in team history. Last season, the Patriots’ season high was 510 total net yards at Buffalo on Nov. 18, 2007.
CASSEL IS FIRST PLAYER SINCE 1970 AFL-NFL MERGER TO TOTAL AT LEAST 400 PASSING YARDS AND AT LEAST 60 RUSHING YARDS IN A GAME
Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards and ran for 62 yards, becoming the first player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to have 400 or more passing yards and 60 or more rushing yards in a game. Only one other time since 1970 has a player had at least 400 passing yards and at least 50 rushing yards in a game. Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers had 449 passing yards and 50 rushing yards against Buffalo on Sept. 13, 1992. Young and the 49ers lost that game, 34-31 – the exact same score by which Cassel and the Patriots fell to the Jets. Cassel was also the first player in Patriots history to have 300 or more passing yards and 50 or more rushing yards.
CASSEL HAS MOST RUSHING YARDS FOR A PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK IN 30 YEARS
Matt Cassel had 62 rushing yards on eight carries tonight to lead the Patriots in rushing. His 62 rushing yards are the most by a Patriots quarterback in a game in more than 30 years, dating back to Sept. 24, 1978, when Steve Grogan had 65 rushing yards on six carries in a 21-14 win over the Oakland Raiders. Cassel’s 62 rushing yards are the most in a game by any Patriots quarterback other than Grogan, and the 62-yard performance stands as the sixth-highest single-game total for a quarterback in Patriots history. Grogan holds the franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback with a 103-yard performance (on seven carries) against the New York Jets on Oct. 18, 1976.
CASSEL PASSES FOR 400 YARDS
Matt Cassel totaled a career-high 400 yards on 30-for-51 passing, recording the ninth 400-yard passing game in Patriots history and the first since Tom Brady had 410 passing yards on Sept. 22, 2002, in an overtime win over Kansas City. Cassel joins Drew Bledsoe (4 times), Tom Brady (1), Tony Eason (1), Steve Grogan (1) and Tom Ramsey (1) as the only quarterbacks in Patriots history to exceed 400 passing yards in a game.
CASSEL SETS CAREER HIGHS
Matt Cassel set single-game career highs for passing yards (400), passing attempts (51), pass completions (30) and rushing yards (62). He also tied his career best with three touchdown passes. Cassel’s 51 attempts were the most for a Patriots player since Tom Brady attempted 54 passes against Philadelphia on Nov. 25, 2007. His 30 completions were the most by a New England player since Brady had 32 completions against the New York Giants on Dec. 29, 2007.
Matt Cassel led clutch two-minute drills at the end of each half, as the Patriots scored key touchdowns with 15 seconds left in the first half and one second left in the second half.
‘¢ The first-half two-minute drill covered 68 yards in 10 plays over 1:29, ending in a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney that cut the Jets lead to 24-13 with 15 seconds left in the first half. The Patriots got the ball, down 24-6, on their own 32-yard line with 1:44 left in the first half. Cassel completed 4-of-8 passes for 47 yards on the drive and ran twice for 21 yards (including a career-long 19-yard scamper).
‘¢ The second-half two-minute drill covered 62 yards in eight plays over 1:03, ending in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the side of the end zone. The extra point following that touchdown tied the score at 31 and sent the game into overtime. Cassel completed 6-of-8 passes on the drive for 67 yards (the two incompletions were spikes to stop the clock).
OVERTIME STREAK SNAPPED
Prior to tonight, the Patriots had won an NFL-record eight straight overtime games (including playoffs). The streak dated back to 2000. The last time the Patriots lost an overtime game was on Nov. 5, 2000, when the Buffalo Bills won 16-13 at Foxboro Stadium. Before falling to the Jets tonight, the Patriots’ last overtime game was on Nov. 23, 2003, at Houston, and New England claimed a 23-20 win. The overtime game against the Jets was the third in Gillette Stadium history, with the others being a 41-38 win over Kansas City on Sept. 22, 2002, and a 27-24 win over Miami on Dec. 29, 2002.
MAYO TOTALS 20 TACKLES, MOST FOR A PATRIOT SINCE 1994
Jerod Mayo was credited with 20 tackles (16 solo) against the Jets by press box statisticians. According to Stats LLC, it was the highest tackle total credited to a Patriot by press box statisticians since STATS LLC’s records begin in 1994. Mayo’s total of 20 tackles tops Roman Phifer’s 19 tackles (13 solo) on Oct. 12, 2003 against the New York Giants as the most by a Patriot over that span. Tackles are an unofficial NFL statistic.
|Night of Troy…||11.13.08 at 4:19 pm ET|
“I just want to go out and hopefully, I can relay to the fans how much they meant to me over the years, through the bad times, the good times and the great times and just let them know how much it means to me to be here and share this moment with them and close out what I like to think has been a pretty darn good career,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t screw it up when I get out there.
“I think I’m going to be in pretty high spirits and try to keep it exciting,” he continued. “The fans are here to cheer and not hear a sob story or a sad speech. I’ll just try to put a little energy behind it and keep them up because a team I love very much has got to come out for the second half and they need to be jacked up and they need their fans behind them when they come back out.”
The irony of playing the green and white clad New York Jets wasn’t lost on Brown on Thursday night.
Brown played for the Thundering Herd of Marshall, whose colors are identical to the Jets. Furthermore, it was the Jets who approached Brown before the season to see if he were interested in finishing his career in New York.
“They asked me what day I wanted to do it, I picked this day and I didn’t know who they were playing and it turned out to be the Jets,” Brown said. “And I said, ‘Geez, what a coincidence, picking the Jets night to go out and do this.’ I’m sure I’ll be looking out there and thinking I could have worn that green and white one more time like I was in college. But, I’m satisfied with my career, I’m happy with it, it was a great run. If I ever feel that itch to come back, the only person I’ll be calling is Bill Belichick. That’s the only colors I’ll ever wear. If he ever needs me to come in there and do something, I’ll give it my best. I don’t know what it’ll be, I’ll be 42 years old, 44 years old, going out there and try to jam somebody, get an interception, catch a pass, he knows I’ll give him 120 percent every time I’m out there for him.”
Brown was a member of five Super Bowl teams, including three winners. The man who set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning kick in Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams has no regrets about spending his whole career in New England red, white and blue.
“It’s hard, it’s hard to even get there and have a chance to win one,” Brown said. “So to be able to be apart of five Super Bowl teams, and come away with three wins, the only thing I could ask for is that we could get those other two back we lost and find a way to get into those games and help my team get over the hump.”
|Ty being Ty Law…||11.11.08 at 5:57 pm ET|
Bill Belichick nailed this one on head when he said there’s seems to be a lot going on in a short period of time this week.
Adalius Thomas getting surgery on Wednesday on his broken left forearm, most likely ending his terrific season for the Patriots. Randy Moss getting fined $20K for comments about the officials he made after the Colts game. David Thomas getting fined $7,500 for a football hit after the whistle in that same game, with Moss’ being rescinded after cooler heads prevailed.
The 6-3 Jets invading Foxboro to take on the 6-3 Patriots for first in the AFC East.
And then there’s the little matter of a former Pro Bowl cornerback coming back to the NFL with his former team just in time to help against another former team. Ty Law will “probably get a shot” to play Thursday night for the Jets, according to coach Eric Mangini.
How much and where on the field remains to be seen.
Reaction from the Patriots ranged from professional (Belichick, who else?) to warm (Ty Warren).
Warren gave us one of the more entertaining answers of the season on his reaction to Law returning just in time to face the Pats.
‘I talked to Ty before the season even started and I knew he would still be playing somewhere this year. I didn’t know it would be this late, but it’s definitely going to be a little bit weird. We did play against him after he left here that one year, but Ty is Ty. It’s like Manny [Ramirez] is Manny; Ty is Ty.’ To hear this, click here.
Consider this exchange between reporters and Belichick on Law’s return Thursday…
Q: Where surprised about Ty Law’s signing with the Jets?
BB: It didn’t surprise me that he signed with somebody. I didn’t think he was really looking at every team in the league so, no not really.
Q: Had you maintained contact with him?
BB: I haven’t talked to Ty in probably a couple of months.
Q: Will you spend time preparing for Ty Law?
BB: It will be as a defensive back in whatever role they put him in.
Q: You don’t really know where they will play him’¦.
BB: He was down there in 2005. We played him. I think we all know what Ty’s skills are. Where they put him or what they do with him, you never know that until the game starts.
Classic Belichick there.
Even Trags Take is on short rest this week as we prepare to break it all down for you on Wednesday.
|Webster’s place…||11.05.08 at 8:51 am ET|
The Patriots have made a move to strengthen their defensive backfield as the team deals with a potentially serious hand injury to rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley by signing veteran cornerback Jason Webster.
Webster comes back to New England this week in a unique position to offer immediate help. First, he played for the Bills last season and played against WR Lee Evans and QB Trent Edwards.
Secondly, he was signed by the Patriots in March and wasn’t released until the last week of camp, when a hamstring limited his playing time ability. He was not on the field for a single preseason snap.
The team also placed rookie linebacker Shawn Crable on the reserve/injured list. Crable will miss the remainder of the 2008 season with a shin injury.
Webster, 31, is a veteran of eight NFL seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2000-03), Atlanta Falcons (2004-06) and Buffalo Bills (2007). He was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on March 3, 2008, and was released by New England on Aug. 26, 2008. The 5-foot-9-inch, 187-pound cornerback has played in 87 career games with 74 starts and has recorded 393 tackles (324 solo), 11 interceptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns, 56 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
He has also played in three career playoff games with two starts for San Francisco (2001) and Atlanta (2004). Webster was originally selected by the 49ers in the second round (48th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M. He played four seasons in San Francisco, appearing in 53 games with 44 starts over that period. As a rookie in 2000, Webster played in every game with 10 starts and finished the year with 44 tackles and a pair of interceptions, including one returned 70 yards for a touchdown.
Over the next two seasons (2001-02), he started every game for the 49ers, totaling 75 tackles and a career-high three interceptions in 2001, while tallying 86 tackles and an interception (returned 37 yards for a touchdown) in 2002. His streak of 41 straight starts ended when he missed the first nine games of the 2003 season due to a knee injury, but he came back to play in five games that season and totaled seven tackles and an interception. Webster was signed by the Falcons as an unrestricted free agent on March 5, 2004, and spent the next three seasons in Atlanta, playing in 33 games with 29 starts in that time.
In his first season with the Falcons in 2004, Webster played in 10 games with nine starts and had 40 tackles, one interception and led the club with 10 passes defensed. He set a career high with 91 tackles in 2005, playing in 15 games with 13 starts that year. In 2006, his final season with Atlanta, Webster started seven of eight games and had 47 tackles and a pair of interceptions before being placed on the reserve/injured list with a groin injury on Dec. 30, 2006.
The Houston native was signed by the Bills as an unrestricted free agent on May 21, 2007. In his lone season in Buffalo, Webster played in one game, starting in the Bills’ season opener against Denver, but was placed on the reserve/injured list with an arm injury on Sept. 13, 2007, and missed the remainder of the season. Webster will wear number 23 for the Patriots.
Crable, 23, was selected by the Patriots in the third round (78th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan. The 6-foot-5-inch, 243-pound linebacker was listed as a day-of-game inactive for each of the Patriots’ eight games this season. At Michigan, he played in 47 games with 20 starts and tied for 10th in school history with 148 career tackles (101 solo).
|Trags Take… Pregame Colts||11.01.08 at 1:47 pm ET|
Well, we’ve made the point already here that these two teams are certainly not what they were last year and neither is playing the championship caliber football to which their followers have grown accustomed. But the Patriots do appear to be hitting their stride more and more with Matt Cassel calling the signals. Home field didn’t hurt in wins over Denver and St. Louis. But now, the task becomes much more formidable as the Pats take to Indianapolis and the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium for a match-up with the team that is a stunning 3-4 through seven games.
It may not be that much of a stretch to argue that Cassel is having a better year than Mr. Congeniality himself. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Cassel has the better credentials or that Manning’s career doesn’t get him into Canton on the first ballot because clearly he’s on that path. But consider… Manning has 10 TDs, 9 interceptions, a QB rating of 79.0 and his team is 3-4. Cassel has 7 TDs, 6 picks, 84.6 rating, a team that is 5-2 and tied for first in the AFC East AND Cassel has taken over for the greatest quarterback on the planet. The only thing missing from Cassel’s resume is a Super Bowl MVP trophy and a gig on SNL.
Here’s what to keep an eye out for as the Pats look to win three straight games for the first time this season.
1. Matt Cassel’s comfort zone on the road. He’s had it in certain stretches during road wins over the Jets and San Francisco but completely lost it in San Diego with the spotlight of Sunday night football glaring down on him.
2. Find out if the Colts secondary is up to the task. The Colts lost starting corner Marlin Jackson to a knee injury early in the week and another starter, Kelvin Hayden is coming back this week after missing the last three weeks with knee and hamstring issues.
3. Hope that Patriots secondary is up to the task. While Marvin Harrison is fourth on the Colts in receptions (23) behind Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark, don’t forget that he is still one of the best big-play receivers on the field. Combine that with Gonzalez and Wayne, and you see the clear need to keep the receivers in front of you.
4. Bear down in the Red Zone. Ask defensive coordinator Dean Pees and he will tell you that the big plays that have really burned the Pats this year are the ones that have ended in touchdowns, including the 69-yard bomb to Donnie Avery last week.
“Jonathan Wilhite went airborne to make the tackle and we held them out the first time down there in the red area, so they came away with three points,” Pees said. “It’s kind of the same way on that play. Yeah, we gave up a big play, but had we just made the tackle, who knows, we might have been able to hold them there in the red area. That’s where you just can’t do it. That was the thing that killed us in San Diego, going all the way back there was, it wasn’t only a big play, it was a big play for a touchdown. A big play is one thing. We gave up one against Kansas City, remember, and then we held them in the red area. We’ve got to secure the tackle. But on that particular play they got us in man coverage and it was a good route and the safety bit a little bit and they knocked each other off.”
“The scouting report looks like a phone book,” Belichick said. “Offensively, we all know what the story is there.” Manning is as good as we play.” They’ve gotten a lot better on defense the last couple of years. You have to be alert on them every play of the game. Last year it was a 75-yard touchdown on a two-yard screen pass.”
Pees highlighted the fact that the Colts are similar to the Broncos in that they throw underneath a lot, looking for their skill players to make big plays out of small ones, like Belichick referenced above.
“Maybe even more so with Indy,” Pees said of the Colts’ ability to spread a defense thin. “The fact that-I think I’ve stated it once before-there are some quarterbacks that can make some throws. Not every quarterback can make every throw. Some guys can’t throw a 20-yard comeback, so they’re going to dump the ball down inside, dump the ball off to the backs, timing routes, things like that. They can’t just gun it in there. There are some quarterbacks that do nothing but just gun it in there, stare the receiver down and try to rely on their arm. The problem is with Manning is he is all of the above. He can throw a 20-yard comeback. He can put touch on it in the seam. He’s thrown some passes-he threw one, I still remember, against us up there two years ago that was a seven-route, post-corner route, that the guy was catching it just as his foot was stepping right on the sideline and it was a rope. You didn’t even realize-it wasn’t like it was John Elway standing back there and you could just see how strong his arm was. It was just a tight spiral. This guy can throw every route, so you talk about stretching the field, this team can stretch the field better than anybody. Denver does it because of scheme; this [team] can do it because of the quarterback. He’s a great quarterback, he really is.”
Bill Belichick on not having Brady against Manning this week: “I know this is hard to believe but we never sit there and say if we had Jim Brown we could run this, if we had Tom Brady we could run this or if we had Willie McGinest we could run this (defense). (Manning) sure is (dangerous as ever) he really doesn’t have any weaknesses.”
Dean Pees on what to expect from the Colts: “I see the same thing I’ve always seen from the Colts. It’s not a lot different this year. They’ve got so many weapons in Reggie Wayne, [Marvin] Harrison, [Dallas] Clark, and [Anthony] Gonzalez and they can run the ball. This is an explosive offense and some of the things that they have maybe missed on this year they’ve missed maybe by inches, where maybe a year ago or something they caught a same pass and this year it’s been off by inches. But I see the same explosive offense and they’ve just got a lot of people to defend; that’s always been the problem with them. It’s not so much that you get multiple formations and all this kind of stuff like some of the teams you play against where you’ve just got all these different looks and every week it’s going to be something different. They do what they do and they do it very well.”
Final Take: There can be no mistaking that Indy is the more desperate team. And as was the case against the Chargers on Oct. 12, the desperate team usually plays like it on their own turf.
Colts 27, Patriots 21
|Late hits for a Friday…||10.31.08 at 1:53 pm ET|
Another Friday and another day of Patriots potpourri.
Coach Bill Belichick reserves Fridays to concentrate on ‘Red Area’ situations, both offensively and defensively. Note to self, never call it Red Zone since that could be confused with a type of coverage. Belichick always thinks of these things.
“Red area day here with the Colts,” Belichick said. “As usual they’re the best in the league. That will be big this week.”
And Bill doesn’t lie. The Colts are tied with Detroit for the best TD conversion rate inside the opponents 20-yard-line. Indy has had the ball 20 times inside the 20 and scored touchdowns 15 times, for a 75 percent rate. Overall, the Colts have scored 18 of the 20 times in the ‘Red Area.’ So for all the supposed struggles of the Indy offense, they still are deadly inside the 20, and Belichick will be sure to remind his team of that all the way up until kickoff on Sunday night.
Defensively, even without run-stopper Bob Sanders, who returns this Sunday night, Indianapolis can stop you inside the 20. Opponents have been inside their 20 yard line 24 times and come away with only 10 TDs, the seventh-best stoppage rate in the league.
Remembering Jimmy Hoffa… Bill Belichick has heard all the wild rumors about what’s (or more to the point, who is) buried in a certain corner of Giants Stadium. Will he ask for anything from Giants Stadium when it shuts down after the 2009 season?
“No, I don’t think so,” Belichick said. “They will still be digging through looking for Jimmy Hoffa’s body.”
The subject of what he might ask for from Giants Stadium came up Friday when Belichick was asked to recall moments from the old RCA Dome, the home of many memorable Pats-Colts showdowns, including the 2006 AFC Championship game (bad) and last year’s 24-20 come-from-behind win (good).
“Probably not too much,” Belichick said. “All of the combines, it is an annual NFL convention and all of the college players and everything, there have been some interesting moments there – Deion Sanders running a 40 straight off into the tunnel and stuff like that. It is always a little bit of mixed feelings when you see these stadiums that had so many great moments in them, both ways, go. RFK [Stadium], The RCA Dome, now it is going to be Giants Stadium and even Foxboro [Stadium]. They all had their certain moments that were special. We are onto another age’¦ Mile High [Stadium] – We are all moving on.”
Greatest Pats-Colts games in RCA Dome history.
1. Colts 38, Patriots 34, Jan. 2007. Colts come from 21-6 down at half to stun the Pats in the AFC title game.
2. Patriots 24, Colts 20, Nov. 2007. Kevin Faulk’s dive at the goal line caps comeback from 20-10 down in the fourth.
My Old School… You would think No. 7 Texas Tech is the top-ranked team in college football heading into a showdown with No. 1 Texas this weekend at Texas Tech, at least the way Patriots WR Wes Welker (Tech ’04) explains it.
“I’m definitely trying to squeeze something out of him but he’s scared,” Welker bragged on Friday morning. “A night game in Lubbock, Texas… I like my chances.”
So, in honor of Welker’s unabashed confidence, we’d like to take you back to his glory days in Lubbock when the Red Raiders won a shootout over the aforementioned Longhorns of David Thomas (UT ’06).
This being the election season, in the interest of equal time, here’s Vince Young connecting with Thomas when the two were on a championship team in Texas back in 2005.
As will be the case on Tuesday, may the best man win.
|Not the same this time around…||10.29.08 at 11:40 am ET|
Anyone who can read the records in the AFC knows this is NOT the same Patriots-Colts midseason match-up of recent memory. That’s not to say a match-up of a 5-2 Patriots team and a 3-4 desperate Colts squad won’t provide entertaining and riveting football from Lucas Oil Stadium.
But facts are the facts. Neither team is undefeated as they were a year ago, when the perfect Pats came in 8-0 and the Colts were 7-0. The Pats came back from a 20-10 fourth quarter deficit.
The AFC title is not on the line as it was in January 2007 at the RCA Dome.
The Patriots lost earlier in the 2006 season to the Colts, 27-20, as Indy improved to 8-0.
In 2005, the Colts beat up on the Pats, 40-21, en route to a 10-0 start.
This year, the Pats are without Tom Brady, Laurence Maroney and Rodney Harrison while the Colts are off to a 3-4 start. If they lose once more, not only will they have a dogfight on their hands for making a return trip to the playoffs, they will see their streak of at least 12 wins come to an end at five seasons, an NFL record.
But ask Belichick and the players and they will be quick to tell you the record doesn’t matter, nor does the lack of superstars. A game is a game.
“I know this is hard to believe but we never sit there and say if we had Jim Brown we could run this, if we had Tom Brady we could run this or if we had Willie McGinest we could run this (defense),” Belichick said, adding there is still plenty of reason to fear Peyton Manning.
“He sure is (dangerous as ever) he really doesn’t have any weaknesses,” Belichick said.
The Patriots had one of their own back at practice on Wednesday as LaMont Jordan returned from a calf injury that kept him out of the team’s last three games.
One player the Patriots apparently won’t be missing is defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who met with Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday in New York about allegations of dirty play, including an alleged elbow to the head of Denver quarterback Jay Cutler on Oct. 20.
“It was very productive,” Wilfork said. “He got to know me as a player and a person. I learned a lot about him. I play and sometimes I play too hard and I told him that. The meeting was productive both sides are happy. I think both sides were happy. They got a chance to hear my side and how I play the game. I’m still waiting. I walked pretty happy and satisfied with the way it went.”
Wilfork figures to be a key to the defensive line’s mission to control the line of scrimmage and contain both Manning and Addai.
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