Sanders bails out Patriots' defense


Sanders bails out Patriots' defense

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- If the New England Patriots' defense wanted to make astatement to its doubters, it was going to have to come on Sunday night, duringthe Indianapolis Colts' final drive of the game.

Peyton Manning had already taken his team into the end zone twice in the fourth quarter, cutting New Englands 31-14 lead to 31-28. After the Colts' 'D' had forced the Patriots to punt, Manning had 2 minutes and 25 seconds to drive 74yards for the win at Gillette Stadium.

Manning took his offense down to the New England 24-yardline after connecting with Reggie Wayne for a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-6. Withless than a minute remaining, the Colts had a first down, and were perfectlyset up in field-goal range.

But on that first down play, Manning set up his no-huddleoffense while in the shotgun formation, looked his tight end off, and attempteda pass down the right sideline for Pierre Garcon.

There would be no game-tying field goal from former PatriotAdam Vinatieri, and there would be no game-winning touchdown for Manning atGillette.

Credit that to safety James Sanders, who leaped out ofnowhere and picked off Manning's pass at New England's 6-yard line, giving thePatriots the ball with 31 seconds left and sealing the deal on a three-pointwin.

"As a defense, we knew if we didnt make a play, we weregoing to lose the game," said Sanders. "Manning wasn't going to just give itto us. So we had to go out there and take the win."

The Pats' defense held Manning and the Colts' offense tojust 14 points and picked him off twice through the first three quarters, whiledisguising their coverages.

But Manning came out in the fourth and threw two touchdownsin his first two possessions of the quarter.

Something had to be done on histhird possession. And Sanders was the one to step up and make it happen.

Sanders credited linebacker Gary Guyton for jamming Coltstight end Jacob Tamme at the line of scrimmage, prior to his interception.Sanders and Guyton were double-covering Tamme on the play, but because ofGuytons tight coverage, it allowed Sanders to read Manning a little longer.

Sanders saw Manning notice the double coverage, which causedthe Colts' quarterback to become wide-eyed at the single coverage on Garcondown the right sideline. He went for the big play with the game onthe line.

As the throw was made, Patriots linebacker JermaineCunningham was rushing in from the left side, and just got a piece of Manningsthrowing arm, disrupting his attempt.

From there Sanders dropped back, leaped up, and made theinterception while falling backwards to the ground. It was the only thing thePatriots could have done to guarantee victory.

"It feels good when the defense comes through and kind ofwins the game for you," said Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "They were afield goal away from tying it up, a touchdown away from winning the game, butwe were forced to step up big and win it with a turnover. That was huge for us.I'm very proud of our guys out there.

"I think going into this week, the offense realized they hadto score points," said Wilfork. "And I think our defense, we realized, 'Hey,theres going to come a point where we're going to have to stand up andbasically be a man out there.' And we did. With a minute left in the ball game,whatever it was, James Sanders came up with that interception, that turnover.That felt good."

Cornerback Darius Butler got to see some second-half action after Patriots coach Bill Belichick made some halftime adjustments, moving cornerback Kyle Arrington mostly as an outside pass-rusher.

Belichick said after the win that the move was part of the game plan heading in.

"Yeah, yeah, we planned it," said Belichick. "We don't draw them up on the dirt now."

Arrington was beaten several times in the first half by Reggie Wayne, including on an 11-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline with four seconds remaining in the second quarter.

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"The coaches are very confident in my ability to rush thequarterback, or get to the quarterback," said Arrington.

But it was wasn't as easy as it looked.

"Tackles get paid to block, so it was very different," he added. "I had a few opportunities. I got close to Peyton a coupletimes, but in the trenches, its very different."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Patriots release OL Chase Farris with non-football injury designation


Patriots release OL Chase Farris with non-football injury designation

The Patriots made a move on Thursday that opened up a roster spot exactly one week before the start of training camp practices. 

The team announced that it waived offensive lineman Chase Farris. It did so with a "non-football injury" designation. Farris spent most of last season on the Patriots practice squad after catching on with New England's 10-man unit in October. The former Ohio State product was a reserve option on the interior for Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia. 

With Farris now out of the mix, the Patriots have 89 players on their roster and can add one more before camp begins.

Interior offensive linemen on the Patriots roster now include David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Jamil Douglas and James Ferentz. A handful of rookies -- including undrafted rookies Cole Croston and Jason King -- could also see work inside.

Rookies will report to camp on July 24, and veterans will do the same by July 26. On July 27, training camp practice will be held for the first time on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will practice for four consecutive days at 9 a.m. to kick off camp. All practices will be free and open to the public. 

NFL scout on Garoppolo: 'Bill thinks he's got the next great one'

NFL scout on Garoppolo: 'Bill thinks he's got the next great one'

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.


The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: Why is Jimmy Garoppolo still here?

Scout 1 (AFC) -- "He's Bill Belichick. He doesn't give a [damn] about what you, or me or anyone else thinks. I know teams called about Garoppolo. I don't believe they were ever given a realistic price. Why? To me, the answer is simple: Bill thinks he's got the next great one. I watched his snaps. I think he can be that. [Garoppolo] has a great base, and his mechanics are close enough to [Brady] that you appreciate his willingness to learn and the coaching he's gotten there."

Scout 2 (AFC) -- "I absolutely loved the kid coming out of college. When we interviewed him, [it was obvious] he's got those qualities you want in a QB, as a leader. I begged our guys to take him at the end of the first round. That's how good I thought he was then. He's a hell of a lot better now. The job Bill and [offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels] have done with him, the work he clearly has put in, wrap all that up and it makes all the sense in the world to keep him. They can win with him. That's all you need to know -- in my opinion -- as to why they kept him. The moment that Brady guy starts to show cracks, the next guy is in already there, already knows the locker room, the system, the environment. I think it's genius."

Former Pats player -- "I played against him every day in practice. He's all that." Why? "He can make all the throws. He can process all the information. He is a gamer. He can slow it down. He can spin it. I'm going tell you this, if he had gotten traded to Cleveland, they're a borderline playoff team. I really believe that."

Scout 3 (NFC) -- "I know teams called and got nowhere. Easy conclusion is they see Garoppolo as the next QB. But I think it could be as simple as the value there. He's the player one snap away. Weigh that against the third guy (Jacoby Brissett) or some vet and maybe it was just too wide a gap to risk it. Keep him. See how the year plays out and then decide, do we want to franchise him? Ink him to some kind of bridge deal? Or let him go off into free agency?"

Front Office (AFC) -- "Bill knows something we don't. That's the way I read it. Whether it's Brady's future, or what they didn't see in Brissett, or something about the makeup of Garoppolo, he just couldn't part company with him. I can't say as I blame him. Finding one good QB in this league is hard enough. Two? Maybe only a handful of teams in the league can say they have that. Plus, with Bill, he's not worried about coaching for his job. He can think big picture -- two, three, four years down the line. That's not something too many other coaches/front offices in this environment get. He can afford to pass on a handful of draft picks to keep a player he really likes."