Patriots prepare to face third straight backup quarterback

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Patriots prepare to face third straight backup quarterback

FOXBORO -- It's going to take some digging, but the Patriots are determined to find out all they can about new Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Dan Orlovsky before Sunday's game.

Orlovsky, who will replace Curtis Painter under center for the 0-11 Colts, has completed 14-of-21 passes for 122 yards with no touchdowns and no picks in three appearances this season. His last NFL start came in 2008, when he quarterbacked the Lions in the final game of their historic 0-16 season. In seven seasons, he's 0-7 in seven career starts.

Needless to say, the Patriots don't have a library full of tapes labeled 'Orlovsky,' but they're making due with what they can find.

"Whatever we have, the coaching staff will get it," Vince Wilfork said. "I don't care where it's from. It's tough when you have a guy you haven't really seen much from and you have to dig and dig and dig. But if that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do."

The Patriots faced a situation like this one two weeks ago when they went up against Kansas City's Tyler Palko in his first-ever NFL start. Similarly, they had to do some sleuthing to find some video of Palko under center. Some of his most relevant film came from his work in preseason exhibitions.

Defending inexperienced quarterbacks may seem to make for light study weeks, but the Patriots insist that's not the case.

"It can be tough at times," Wilfork said. "You just don't know how teams are going to attack you certain weeks. Seems teams always attack us a little different than everybody else.

"We have to be prepared. Whatever it may be, we definitely have to be prepared for it. Whatever they give us. If we have to figure things out on the run, we will. That's where our sideline adjustments, our halftime adjustments come in."

Sterling Moore has become accustomed to long hours in the film room during his first few weeks as a regular in the Patriots secondary. This will be his third straight week of seeing a backup (or in the Colts' case, a backup to the backup) quarterback, and he's digesting whatever old footage the Patriots can scrape together.

"You gotta go back and watch a lot of film on him," Moore said. "You gotta spend a little more time in the film room, but that's every week at this point."

Of course, it's not all about the quarterback. The Colts will likely run similar schemes to what they ran with Painter, and the Patriots will break down that film as well. That Orlovsky is now the quarterback doesn't change everything.

"We're just trying to understand their tendencies offensively," Moore said. "Then we'll watch Orlovsky and see how he throws."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)