By Tom E. Curran
With the Patriots telling Nick Kaczur to take a pay cut from his scheduled 3.4 million salary in 2011 or expect to be released, it got us thinking about New England's line depth.And one guy we've forgotten about a little is tackle Steve Maneri. Undrafted out of Temple last April, Maneri was signed by the Texans. They started to convert him from college tight end to NFL offensive tackle. He was released in the final cuts and the Patriots quickly claimed him. He had to be placed on the active roster for his first three games with the team. Then he was passed through waivers and signed to the Patriots practice squad. And there he remained through the rest of the season. The Patriots signed him to a future contract in late January, retaining his rights. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, the 22-year-old Maneri is a very good athlete (he's run a 4.8 in the 40) and was, according to experts, one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft. He impressed at enough practices in 2010 to earn the coveted black jersey the team gives out weekly to players who showed well in practices. Kaczur had been supplanted at right guard by Sebastian Vollmer in 2009, but Kaczur also had the versatility to play guard. When Kaczur hurt his back and had season-ending surgery last year, Dan Connolly ably took over as the depth guy at guard (he played on both the left and right sides). Now Maneri, it seems, will be the depthdevelopmental guy at tackle, along with Quinn Ojinnaka. What happens with pending free agent Matt Light may determine how much we see of Maneri. Meanwhile, Thomas Austin - a 6-4, 310-pounder out of Clemson - is in a situation similar to Maneri's. He's guardcenter depth and - with Logan Mankins irritated, Stephen Neal coming back from another injury and center Dan Koppen nearing the end, Austin may find a role sooner rather than later.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
There was no postseason clunker for Tom Brady Sunday. In fact, his performance Sunday was one of the best of his NFL record 24 playoff wins.
PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9
Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. His passing yard total is a Patriots postseason record.
No. 12’s dominance helped Chris Hogan set a Patriots postseason record with 180 receiving yards on nine catches. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker in the second quarter.
The previous Pats' postseason record was held by Deion Branch, who had 153 receiving yards in the Patriots' divisional round loss to the Broncos in the 2005 season.
Hogan’s performance ranks tied for 17th all-time in terms of receiving yards in a postseason game. The record is still safely held by former Bills receiver Eric Moulds, who had 240 receiving yards on Jan. 2, 1999 in a loss to the Dolphins.
Hogan wasn’t the only Pats receiver to finish with gaudy numbers. Julian Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.
FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 36-17 victory over the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game:
PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9
-- The Patriots are headed to their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. The Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers have each been to eight.
-- The Patriots are now 9-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 6-1 in games played in Foxboro and 5-1 at Gillette Stadium.
-- The Patriots are now 3-0 against the Steelers in AFC Championship Games, and 4-1 overall against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
-- The Patriots are 31-19 in postseason games, including 20-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 17-3 at Gillette).
-- The Patriots won their 31st postseason game tonight, moving them past the 49ers into fourth place on the list of all-time playoff victories in NFL history. They trail the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).
-- The Patriots' .620 winning percentage (31-19) in postseason games is now second-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652). The Packers' loss today drops them to third (34-22, .607).
-- The Patriots have now won eight conference championships with Robert Kraft as owner, setting an NFL for most conference titles in the Super Bowl. Kraft had been tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.
-- Bill Belichick is now 25-10 in postseason games as a head coach and is in a tie with Bill Walsh (10-4) for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.
-- Belichick is advancing to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, most in NFL history. He had been tied with Don Shula at six. Belichick's Super Bowl record is 4-2, Shula's is 2-4.
-- Tom Brady had his ninth three-touchdown-pass postseason game, tying Joe Montana for the NFL record.
-- Stephen Gostkowski, who entered the game with 142 career postseason points, scored 12 points today and moved past Gary Anderson into third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.