Broncos feel 'fortunate' to have Koppen at center

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Broncos feel 'fortunate' to have Koppen at center

FOXBORO -- Dan Koppen makes his return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday. And he won't be on the sidelines, as the Denver Broncos probably expected when they signed him not even a month ago.
The Broncos were expecting J.D. Walton to be starting at center against the Patriots. But Walton was placed on injured reserve with a broken and dislocated ankle, meaning Koppen -- the nine-year veteran -- will start under center against the team that released him before the regular season began.
"We haven't been together too long yet, but I'm sure glad we brought him in, because we lost J.D. Walton last week to an ankle fracture," said Broncos coach John Fox in a conference call on Wednesday. "Koppen's a guy that had gotten healthy, and we looked at him and brought him in to work him out. At no point were we thinking he was going to be lining up as the starting center as we head to Foxboro this weekend."
Peyton Manning was obviously disappointed to lose his starting center after just four weeks into the regular season. But Koppen's veteran presence to step right in and replace him has eased the quarterback's mental anguish.
"Well, certainly, I'm sick about J.D. Walton's injury," said Manning in a conference call on Wednesday. "I know how hard he's worked this offseason. He and I have spent a great deal of time together. It was probably the first thing I did when I got here, was getting snaps with J.D. and quarterback-center exchanges being vital. So, I was sick about his injury.
"And when you lose the starting center who's started every game for the past three years, it's very rare that you can replace him with a veteran like Dan, who's played in many huge games and is experienced. So we feel very fortunate. It's always nice having a veteran player -- who's been around winning for his entire career -- on your team."

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

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Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!

PLAY NUMBER: 4

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.
 

PLAY NUMBER: 3

THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.
 

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