|Rodney Harrison on D&C: Peyton Manning will ‘battle some demons’ Sunday in Foxboro||10.31.14 at 10:22 am ET|
NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss the Patriots’ upcoming game Sunday against the Broncos. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
If the Patriots lose Sunday, that would give the team three losses for the season. The hosts wondered if a loss to the Broncos would end any chance at home field advantage in the playoffs.
“It’s the eighth, ninth week of the season,” Harrison said. “A lot of things can happen. Peyton [Manning] gets hurt, or there’s devastating injuries. The course of any team’s future can change, obviously. But I think this is an important game confidence-wise. I think, yeah, if you’re talking about playoffs and home field advantage, these are the two best teams in the AFC at this point in time. But you’ve still got to remember, you’ve still got to be respectful of the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, they’re one game behind in the division.
“And I know you’re probably shaking your head saying that they don’t have a chance. But like I talked about, with injuries, with other things that may happen in this league, this is a funny league. Just hasn’t been a lot of consistent football play. I think the Denver Broncos have been the most consistent team over the course of the season.”
Much of the talk in the week leading up the highly anticipated game has been centered on Manning, although Harrison said we shouldn’t forget his supporting cast.
“It’s really unfair to all of his teammates because so much of the attention. And Peyton does a good job deflecting that attention off of himself and trying to put it with his teammates,” Harrison said. “But ultimately, that team goes as Peyton Manning goes. If they have a backup quarterback, that team, they might finish 10-6 or 9-7. That’s how good he is and that’s how much of an impact he has. The biggest thing you have, just like Tom Brady, he has the ability to make other people better and really other people believe in themselves. And I think that’s what you see from Emmanuel Sanders, who’s gone from a pretty good receiver to really one of those on the verge of being a top, elite receiver.
“And that’s just the power of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But I think it’s unfair to all of his other teammates because they’ve got some really good players, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
With Sunday being the 16th meeting between the two legendary quarterbacks, every stat imaginable has been compared between the two, but what are the two like behind the scenes? How do the quarterbacks compare in practice, off the field and even who is funnier?
Defensive tackle/fullback Dan Klecko is one of the few players to play with both Manning and Brady. In fact, he won Super Bowls with both of them – 2003 and 2004 with New England and 2006 with Indianapolis. Klecko was a member of the Patriots from 2003-05 and the Colts from 2006-07 so he was able to provide us with some tidbits on the two quarterbacks with a very unique perspective.
What are the two like during practice?
“During practice Peyton is running the everything,” Klecko said in a phone interview this week. “I mean everything, from how long the periods are going to be, if we are going to repeat a period. From what I remember — look, I loved Tony Dungy — but Peyton ran everything out there. He really did, and I honestly believe he had a hand in being a general manager out there, too, but Peyton ran everything.
“Bill [Belichick] still is going to run everything in New England — with Tom’s input. I think Tom more lets Bill do his thing.”
|Deep drive: When Peyton Manning and Broncos look to attack downfield, Patriots have defenders to answer challenge||10.30.14 at 3:23 pm ET|
The Denver passing game is one of the best in the league, averaging 297 passing yards per contest, third-best in the NFL. Manning has a fleet of talented pass catchers at his disposal, including wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (47 catches, 767 yards, six TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (47 catches, 634 yards and four TDs), as well as tight end Julius Thomas (30 catches, 327 yards and nine TDs).
When it comes to looking deep, the Broncos are tied for seventh in the league with 28 pass plays of 20 yards or more. (Indy is first overall with 20.) In addition, Denver is fifth in the league when it comes to pass plays of 40 yards of more with seven on the season. (Washington leads the league with 12.)
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have allowed 210.9 yards per game passing this year (second-fewest in the NFL) compared to 239.0 (18th in the NFL) last year. They’ve also made sizable gains when it comes to defending the deep ball. This year, through eight games, the Patriots remain the only team that has yet to allow a pass play of 40-plus yards. Also, passes of 20-plus yards are down significantly — 74 in 2012 (worst in NFL), 55 last year (tied for 20th), 23 this year (tied for 15th).
“We talk about it, with every [team], that there’s a way to stop it,” said veteran safety Devin McCourty said when asked about some of the specifics in defending the deep ball. “The credit goes to the guys out there on the field, whether it be the guys coming off the edge and maybe somebody was free and somebody makes a big play or the guys in coverage.”
New England went out and spent heavily at cornerback this offseason, and the results have paid off. With the addition of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, it has changed the way Manning looks at the Patriots defensive backs.
“With the excellent cover corners, it allows them to do a lot of things,” Manning said. “It’s a matter of trying to be good at what you’re doing, and you know you’ve got to be prepared to handle the different adjustments that they can certainly make you go through during the course of a game.
“Certainly, it’s a great challenge playing against him,” Manning added when asked about Revis’ impact. “He’s just a top-notch cover corner that has great ball skills and great quickness, hip transition ‘ all the characteristics of a great cover corner. So, it’s a challenge, certainly. With the receivers we have, we’re trying to get everybody involved. To get everybody involved, that keeps the player involved and obviously you spread the ball around, and hopefully that can put pressure on the defense. But if you’re throwing against him, you better be accurate and you better be running really good routes.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview 16th edition of Tom Brady-Peyton Manning and what it all means||10.29.14 at 6:40 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the big showdown between the 6-1 Denver Broncos and the 6-2 New England Patriots and the 16th edition in the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry. Brady holds a 10-5 lead in the series and had won the last four meetings before losing to Manning in the AFC championship last January in Denver. The two met in an epic contest last year at Gillette Stadium, when the Broncos raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead, only to see Brady and the Patriots execute a miracle comeback and win, 34-31, in overtime on field goal in the last minute.
|Tough enough: Even into their 30s, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning remain two of NFL’s most durable quarterbacks||at 4:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When you’re talking about football toughness, it’s easy to overlook the quarterback position.
They’re the ones who draw the multimillion dollar deals, marry the supermodels and get too much of the credit when their team wins and too much of the blame when they lose.
But at the same time, they remain some of the toughest players on the roster. And on Sunday, two of the most durable quarterbacks in the recent history of the game will do battle when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet for the 16th time in their careers at Gillette Stadium.
“I think really to play in the National Football League, you have to be tough. It’s a tough way to earn a living,” said Denver coach John Fox. “In my opinion, [the quarterbacks] earn every penny.”
Brady and Manning can be measured using a wide variety of metrics, but one thing that certainly sets them apart from their contemporaries is their durability. Brady had started 88 consecutive games, fourth-best among current NFL quarterbacks. (By way of comparison, Eli Manning is first overall with 158 straight games played, all of them starts. San Diego’s Philip Rivers is second with 137 straight games played, while Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is third with 104 straight games played.)
Before he sat out the entire 2011 season following neck surgery, Manning had a consecutive start streak of 227 games (including the postseason), one that dated back to his rookie year of 1998.
When talking about durability on Wednesday, both referenced Brett Favre, who started 297 straight games over 19 seasons.
“His toughness and his durability [have] been similar to Brett Favre,” Brady said of Manning, who has started 43 straight games with the Broncos since e took over as the starter prior to the 2012 season.
“That’s probably why he’s been breaking all those records because he’s been so consistent and durable [and] dependable for his team,” Brady added. “He’s off to another great start this year. He does everything right. I don’t know what more else I can say about him as a player. It means a lot to him. Obviously, he’s got great leadership, and that’s what it takes at the quarterback position.”
As for Manning, his durability comes down to a simple philosophy.
“Certainly, I think quarterback’s job — first and foremost — is to be out there,” Manning said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve always wanted to be there.
“I’ve always had great respect for Favre’s consecutive start streak because he was always there. He played hurt and had great toughness and durability. I think Eli holds the longest streak now, which speaks to his [durability],” he added. “That was always one I was always kind of proud of — making all those starts until I got injured. That was kind of difficult, because I couldn’t always be there. I wanted to get back out there. I’ve been pleased I was able to be there for these two and a half years.”
Despite the fact that Brady was sidelined for most all of the 2008 season because of a knee injury he suffered in the regular season opener, Manning views Brady through the same lens.
“Brady is always there,” Manning said of the New England quarterback. “He’s always there. He had his long season where he was injured [in the first half] of the first game of the season, I think. I know I’ve talked to him. I know that was difficult for him for a lot of those same reasons. He couldn’t be there to help his team. Now, he’s been back, and he’s been playing like Tom Brady does.
“That’s one of his real strengths — always answering the bell.”
FOXBORO — One of the many storylines in Sunday’s Broncos-Patriots game is Rob Gronkowski facing Broncos safety T.J. Ward for the first time since last December when Ward was his the Browns and he hit Gronkowski low on his right knee, tearing his ACL in the process and ending his season.
Gronkowski was asked if he has any hard feelings towards Ward for the hit, but the tight end sidestepped the question.
“Just going out there playing like I play every day,” he said. “Just going out there trying to make some plays and do my job out there on the field and play to my max ability.”
He was later asked directly if Ward ever reached out following the season-ending hit.
“No,” Gronkowski said.
Gronkowski had a monster game last Sunday against the Bears, catching nine passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns, before leaving with dehydration after catching his third touchdown pass at the beginning of the third quarter. He echoed what he said after the game, saying he’s just fine and could have returned if he had to.
“Very well,” he said of his health. “Like I said, I could have come back into the game very easily.”
“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable especially playing at home in front of the home crowd,” said Gronkowski. “It’s going to be a great game. The Denver Broncos are a very, very, very good team. One of the best in the league, if not the best team in the league.”
Obviously the biggest storyline, among many in the game, is the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning matchup and is something Gronkowski is looking forward to being part of.
“It’s honor to be out there with both of them,” said Gronkowski. “Brady versus Manning can’t get any better. [They are] two great quarterbacks and two legendary quarterbacks. It’s an honor to be a part of it. And I definitely want to be on the winning side.”
But as is usually the case, there’s a lot of truth in humor. Brady is 37 and Manning is 38. Brady came into the NFL in 2000 while Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Brady holds a 10-5 advantage in the series, including 2-2 in the playoffs.
Brady was asked about what it is about the rivalry that gets him fired up every year.
“I’m pretty self-motivated,” Brady said. “He’s always been someone I’ve really looked up to, studied and admired. He is older than me. Maybe when I’m his age I’ll be playing as well as that.”
Brady then turned very serious and complimentary, detailing exactly why it is he respects Manning so much.
“Every week it’s so consistent, you can just count on a great performance,” Brady said. ‘A lot of people who have played don’t do it on a consistent basis. When you see someone who does it at a high level, I have a lot of appreciation for that. I understand what it takes. It’s not just a daily commitment, it’s a life commitment.
“Every decision you make is a conscious decision to try and help your team win, whether that’s in March, whether that’s in September, November. You just can’t flip the switch when it matters. You’ve gotta communicate that to all your teammates. The competition is always on. It never goes away. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. I’ve always respected him because he’s someone who’s chosen to get better.”
What was very apparent Wednesday is Brady’s understanding of his margin of error when Manning is running the offense on the other side.
“You just know you’re gonna get one of the best offenses in the league, so what that means to me is our offense has to be at our best,” Brady said. ‘You can’t think you’re gonna go out and score 10 points and win the game. I don’t think any of our games have really come down to that. It’s really an important week for our team and all of us on offense have to play our best because we know we’re playing against one of the best offenses in the league.”
Does Brady ever get tired of the hype year after year when they meet?
“You wait a year to play this game,” Brady said. “You got one of the best teams in the league against us and we feel we’re a pretty good team. It’s why you play the game. Doesn’t get any better than this.”
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