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

Brady concerned about ‘timing’ when he returns

Brady concerned about ‘timing’ when he returns

Tom Brady’s been throwing during his forced vacation. Sometimes it’s been Wes Welker. More often it’s been with local college-level players in undisclosed locations. But none of it has him feeling like he’ll be ready to stroll out next week when his suspension ends and pick up where he left off when he left the Patriots facility on September 3.

“I don’t think you can [flourish without practice],” Brady said during his weekly Monday Night Football interview on Westwood One with Jim Gray. “I do admire some guys, like [Patriots receiver]Danny Amendola. He didn’t practice at all in training camp and he goes out there and the first week of the year [and] has a great game. The second week of the year, he has two touchdown catches. I’ve played with a lot of teammates who have been off for extended periods of time and it looks like they’re flipping the switch, but I think for me, that’s not the way I really prepare. I like to take every rep in practice. I like to practice every day.

“I’ve been able to be very healthy over the course of my career, and I think that has really helped me, and I’m going to need to find that rhythm back. It’s going to take some work and some time. Like I said before, that’s some uncharted territory, too.”

Brady said that merely watching games isn’t much help at all.

“I don’t think there is any benefit to watching the team play these games from a football standpoint, because it takes time to get the timing and the practice reps,” he said.  “I’m trying to do the best I can to stay in shape and to keep the timing, and to really stay football ready. I’m hoping our team has a great week of preparation and can get to 4-0, and then I’ll have an opportunity to be back next Monday, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be ready to go for that week.

“It’s a big week for me, and it’s a big week for our team. Every week is a big week in the NFL, but not having been out there for four weeks, there is a lot of makeup time I’m going to need and the chance to be on the field with my teammates to see what kind of rhythm I can find in a short week of practice.”



Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32


Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.