New faces or not, Patriots expect to see the same Peyton Manning


New faces or not, Patriots expect to see the same Peyton Manning

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo admitted Thursday that he's played as Peyton Manning in Madden.

Sure, it's just a video game. But don't overreact to the news. It was something he enjoyed doing while at the University of Tennessee, not while a member of the New England Patriots.

And he wasn't the only one. Why wouldn't you want to play as the Colts, and their prolific offense while trying to dominate in the college dorms, especially if you have no affiliation with their biggest rival?

A lot has changed since the days that Mayo -- and most likely other young Patriots players -- used to re-create Manning's dominant offense on their video-game system of choice.

The Colts' offense looks much different these days. For starters, there's no more Marvin Harrison. It's Manning's second season without his favorite wide receiver.

Adding to the list of offensive Colts players who won't be on the field for Sunday's game against the Patriots is tight end Dallas Clark, who is out for the season after having wrist surgery. In his place has been third-year tight end Jacob Tamme, who has 24 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the three games since Clark went down.

"He definitely does have receiving capabilities, similar to Dallas," said Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. "Obviously, Dallas is a guy who's more proven, but Tamme is a guy who has been proving himself. And he's very capable of making plays down the field."

Also capable of making plays down the field is running back Joseph Addai, but his status is up in the air for Sunday. Addai has missed the last three games because of a shoulder injury, and if he misses another on Sunday, the Patriots will see a mix of Donald Brown and Javarris James in the backfield.

But as different as the Colts' offense will look on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the more it remains the same.

"They still get the ball around pretty well," said Banta-Cain. "He makes the best of the receivers he has. It's obviously different guys doing it, but it's the same stuff."

Mainly because, well, it's the same guy calling the shots. It's the same guy who's walking up to the line, then stepping back, changing the play, or at least, making it look like he's changing the play.

Manning is still the Colts' quarterback. And the Patriots know that regardless of the different faces in the offense, their defensive strategy will also remain the same in trying to mix and match their different looks in an attempt to confuse Manning.

"You're trying to trick him, basically," said Mayo. "He's a great quarterback. He has a great arm, and can make all the throws.

"It's very difficult," added Mayo. "He studies a lot of film. He's a great quarterback, like I said. We have to try, you know? We have to try."

Manning was only sacked 10 times last season, but nine games into this year, the Colts' quarterback has already been sacked 12 times. Still, he's only thrown four interceptions in those nine games, opposed to the 16 total picks he threw last season.

Bottom line: Manning's still got it. And while the Patriots will continue to try and fool him on the defensive end, Manning will certainly continue to bring trickery of his own, something that's made him a successful quarterback.

"His pre-snap reads are amazing," said Mayo. "He pretty much knows what's going on before he even snaps the ball."

"A lot of times, you don't really want to key on what he's doing, because you don't know if it's real or fake," said Banta-Cain. "It's not something you can fully rely on.

"He's a tough quarterback to try and confuse," he said. "He'll confuse you more than you confuse him. He's a guy that, yeah, you try to do your best to disguise stuff, and things like that. But he's really good at what he does, and picking out coverages."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival. 

Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco. 

As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league. 

Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens. 

"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’

“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs. 

“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.” 

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.

[And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't, as his last memories with the organization saw fans literally rip the team's stadium apart and throw it onto the field.]

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."

The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.

Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece. 

"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.

"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.

"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."