Patriots ready for the same old Manning in Week 5

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Patriots ready for the same old Manning in Week 5

FOXBORO -- You know how it goes. Just a day after Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have already moved on to their next opponent, the Denver Broncos.

And of course, the Broncos are now led by old friend Peyton Manning, who makes his return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, after missing the entire 2011 season.

Four weeks in, Manning has led the Broncos to a 2-2 record, while throwing for 1,162 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

It looks as if Manning hasn't missed a beat.

"Well, I mean, I'm not that surprised," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Monday. "He's a pretty smart guy. He's got a lot of experience. He's got good skills. There are a number of other players that have missed a year with an injury and have come back the next year and are able to play at a high level. It's about what I would have expected him to be at.

"I'm not saying that I'm really excited about having to face him again," Belichick later added. "But, you've got to play somebody. Everybody's good in this league. Everybody has good skills. There's good players, good coaches, good teams. So, it's out of our control. Whoever our opponent is, it is.

"I can't say that this is the quarterback you really want to face."

The Patriots have had many battles with Manning in the past while he was the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback. And while the preparation for Sunday's game against Denver is in its early stages, New England sees some similarities with Manning's Broncos offense and his old Colts offense.

"It looks pretty much like the Colts' offense," said Belichick. "Two tight ends, three receivers. They're very similar to what they did in Indianapolis.

"He looks good," said Belichick. "It's him, it's everybody else, it's the entire offensive team. And he does a good job of managing that offense, getting the ball to everybody. Running it, throwing it inside, throwing it outside. All the things that they have, they have a lot of weapons, and you've got to be careful about giving him opportunities, because he'll find them. So you have to do a good job of disguising, keeping him off-balance, and try to make him figure it out after the snap, or as late as possible. You certainly don't want to just show it to him too many times and let him take a run at it."

Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty agrees that there are similarities between this year's Broncos team and Manning's Colts team. And he's also not surprised to see Manning back on top after last year's neck surgery.

"He's one of those guys that you have to put a little extra time in, to be able to just hold your own, let alone play well," said McCourty on Monday. "You've really got to put your time in.

"I don't think many guys are surprised about what he does. You know he's a great player, and you know he's a competitor. So, my short time time in the league, everything I've looked at from him has been great performances and great leadership. And I think it's incredible what he's been able to do to overcome that injury. I'm really not surprised by him being one of those guys that can do it."

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”