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