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Patriots 2006 Post Season Page

NFL Playoffs

Patriots come up short against Colts in the AFC Championship Game... ending 2006 season one game short of the Super Bowl.  Good Luck next year, boys!


NE Patriots   34



Indianapolis Colts 38


Pats touch down in Indy

This one says it all....

Patriots.com complete coverage


League official admits: a bad call was made

Kyle Psaty

Rewind to the third quarter of last Sunday’s AFC Championship game, when Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs was flagged for pass interference.

It’s a second-and-seven play on the Patriots 19-yard line. Peyton Manning sets up behind center, checks the coverage and calls for the snap. He takes a three step drop and fires the football into the end zone, aimed for wideout Reggie Wayne, who’s given Ellis Hobbs the slip and is streaking down the sideline for a touchdown catch.

But Hobbs stays with the Colts No. 2 receiver. He closes on Wayne, chopping his feet to avoid bumping into the wideout, a sure penalty since his back is to the passer. Wayne’s eyes widen, indicating the ball is on its way. Free from contact, Hobbs jumps up but doesn’t turn to look for the football, which strikes Hobbs’ left biceps from behind and falls to the turf dead.

Penalty flags fly, and referee Bill Carollo turns on his mic to let everyone know that the penalty’s on the “Defense. Automatic first down. The ball will be placed at the 1-yard line.” Manning hits former Patriot Dan Klecko for a 1-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion follows, tying it 21-21.

“Face-guarding,” said CBS analyst and former Giants quarterback Phil Simms during the replay. “Ellis Hobbs jumps up, just tries to get in the way of Reggie Wayne. Does not see the football. Does not play it. Easy call.”

Not so, according to replay official Dean Blandino, who joined Bob Boylston in the booth that day.

In a recent posting by Vic Ketchman, Jaguars.com senior editor, Ketchman responded to a fan’s posting about the play, writing, “You are absolutely correct. Face-guarding was discontinued several years ago and I completely missed it.”

Apparently, Ketchman had already responded to questions about the play, attributing the call to face-guarding just like Simms and countless fans across the nation who tuned in to watch the most viewed AFC Championship game in over 20 years.
There is no NFL rule against face-guarding.

“I talked to Dean Blandino in the league office and he confirmed what you’re saying,” wrote Ketchman. “Ellis Hobbs should not have been flagged for pass-interference. He didn’t make contact with the receiver and in no way did Hobbs impede Reggie Wayne’s ability to catch the pass. Blandino confirmed that the incorrect call was made. … Referee Bill Carollo made no reference to face-guarding in his explanation, but CBS analyst Phil Simms did. Apparently, he, too, doesn’t know the rule no longer exists. The next time you hear a TV analyst say, ‘he wasn’t playing the ball,’ think of the Hobbs play, then turn down the sound.”


Indianapolis jolt
Patriots bowled over by Colts, defeated for the first time in an AFC title game
By Mike Reiss, Globe Staff | January 22, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS -- On their magical ride to three Super Bowl victories, the Patriots' trademark was their ability to finish strong and come through in the clutch.

This time, there was no magic.

After building an 18-point first-half lead, the Patriots couldn't withstand a furious charge from the Indianapolis Colts last night, as a game they were seemingly in control of early turned into a wild shootout. Rookie running back Joseph Addai scored on a 3-yard run with one minute left, giving the Colts their first lead of the game, and the Patriots' final drive ended with a Tom Brady interception as Indianapolis posted a thrilling 38-34 victory before a supercharged crowd of 57,433 at the RCA Dome.

The Colts advance to face the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI Feb. 4 in Miami, while the Patriots were left to swallow a bitter disappointment.

New England had been 15-0 all time in the playoffs when leading at the half.

"We never closed the door, and when you don't close the door on a good football team, they're not going away," said Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "They kept fighting, and they made the plays when they needed to make them. Usually, we're on the opposite end of the stick. We were 30 minutes away and just couldn't seal the deal."

The Patriots had led, 21-6, at the half, controlling much of the action. But quarterback Peyton Manning, who had been dogged by his inability to lead the Colts to the Super Bowl, finally had his day. He finished 27 of 47 for 349 yards and one touchdown, leading a final 80-yard drive to give the Colts the go-ahead score.

It was a stunning turn for the Patriots.

"It's hitting all of us in this locker room pretty hard," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "We know our season is over this year. It will take a little while to swallow this one."

Brady had promised a classic last week and the teams didn't disappoint. This was an indeed an instant classic. The second half was simply sizzling, adding another epic chapter to this still-growing rivalry.

In the end, it came down to this: Holding a 3-point lead with 3:22 left, the Patriots couldn't run out the clock and faced the challenge of stopping the Colts, who started at their 20-yard line with 2:17 remaining. It was too tall a task, with the big strike coming when Manning found tight end Bryan Fletcher down the left side of the field for a 32-yard gain.

After Addai scored the go-ahead touchdown -- with Manning thrusting his arms into the air in celebration -- the Patriots had one final chance. Taking over at their 20 with two timeouts and 54 seconds on the clock, Brady marched the team to the Colts' 40 before he was interceped by Marlin Jackson with 16 seconds left, setting off an eruption in the RCA Dome.

It capped a fourth quarter in which the Colts tied the score, fell behind, tied it again, fell behind, then went ahead for good.

The stunning, momentum-swinging second half started with Indianapolis opening the third quarter with a 14-play, 76-yard drive that chewed up 6:47. It was a nice mix of running and passing from the Colts, who kept it on the ground for eight plays, while throwing six times on a tempo-setting march. Manning capped the impressive drive with a 1-yard sneak, helping the Colts close to 21-13.

After the Patriots went three-and-out on their next possession, Manning and Co. kept the pressure on, suddenly finding a rhythm that had been missing throughout much of the first half.

Taking over at their 24, the Colts needed just six plays to cover 76 yards. Manning hit tight end Dallas Clark for 25 yards over the middle, then running back Dominic Rhodes ripped off a 19-yard run over the right side. When cornerback Ellis Hobbs was called for pass interference in the end zone on second and 7, the Colts took over at the 1, and Manning found defensive lineman and former Patriot Dan Klecko for a 1-yard score on a pass to the right side.

The Colts went for the 2-point conversion, and Manning hit receiver Marvin Harrison along the right side of the end zone to tie the game at 21 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Yet the Patriots had an answer, and it came from the unit they refer to as the "Answer Team" as Hobbs raced 80 yards with the ensuing kickoff, cutting his return up the right side. That gave the Patriots the ball at the Colts' 21. After a run by Laurence Maroney for minus-1 yard, Brady hit receiver Jabar Gaffney for 17 yards over the middle, setting up first and goal from the 5. After Corey Dillon lost a yard, and Reche Caldwell dropped a pass in the end zone, Brady hit Gaffney along the back of the end zone for a 6-yard score. Gaffney landed out of bounds, but was ruled to have been pushed out by defenders, which the Colts challenged. The call stood and the Patriots led, 28-21, with 1:25 remaining in the quarter.

But back came the Colts.

Starting at their 33, they sliced through the Patriots' defense once again. Seven plays later, the game was tied at 28, with two receptions by Rhodes (10 and 13 yards) getting things started and a 23-yard catch by Clark the biggest gainer on the drive. The Colts scored the tying touchdown when center Jeff Saturday recovered a Rhodes fumble in the end zone.

The teams traded punts before the Patriots went back ahead, 31-28, on a 28-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal after starting with terrific field position at the Colts' 43.

The Colts answered, with Adam Vinatieri hitting a 36-yard field goal. A 52-yard catch by Clark over the middle set it up.

The Patriots had taken a 34-31 lead with 3:49 left, when rookie Gostkowski booted a 43-yard field goal. But Manning had the final answer.

"The second half was all about momentum swings," Bruschi said, "but theirs was the one that finished it."

The Patriots, who had defeated the Colts by the same score in the 2003 regular season at the RCA Dome, controlled much of the first half.

After both teams punted on their opening possessions, the Patriots struck first, putting together an eight-play, 75-yard drive that covered 3:36. Sparked by a 35-yard run by Dillon on fourth down, the Patriots advanced to the Colts' 4. Maroney got a handoff to the right side, but the exchange was never made, the ball was loose on the ground, and left guard Logan Mankins recovered in the end zone for an unconventional touchdown at 7:24.

The Colts responded with a 42-yard Vinatieri field goal with 48 seconds left in the opening quarter.

The Patriots came back with their own lengthy drive, an 11-play, 72-yard surge that was once again sparked by a fourth-down conversion, this time a 27-yard catch by receiver Troy Brown over the middle on fourth and 6 from the Colts' 34. On the next play, Dillon went into the end zone over the left side, untouched by the defense on a 7-yard run at 10:18.

Leading, 14-3, and having quieted the raucous crowd, the Patriots then built on their lead in sudden fashion. On the Colts' second play of their next drive, cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of a Manning pass intended for Harrison and raced 39 yards untouched to the end zone. It was a Ty Law-esque play, giving the Patriots a 21-3 lead with 9:25 left in the second quarter.

The Patriots then appeared ready to deliver an early knockout punch, pinning the Colts at their 3 and forcing a punt. But the offense couldn't cash in on the ensuing drive, moving into field goal range (Colts' 27) before penalties knocked them out range, forcing a punt.

The Colts got the ball at their 12 with 3:06 remaining in the half, and went to the no-huddle attack. It proved effective, with Manning leading the team to the Patriots' 6. But the Patriots' red zone defense, which ranked second in the NFL during the regular season, held its ground, dropping Rhodes for a 2-yard loss on first down before forcing two incomplete passes, the second of which drew protest from the Colts as they felt a penalty should have been called on Hobbs in the back left corner of the end zone.

The Colts settled for a 26-yard Vinatieri field goal and coach Tony Dungy walked off the field still chatting with the officials, seeking an explanation for the non-call.

Bruschi compared the turn of events in the second half to Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Panthers, 32-29.

"It was a defensive struggle in the first half and in the second half it was an explosion," he said.

"They made the plays, and that's what wins championships. We've come out on top in a lot of these, against them also in the playoffs, and they got us this year.

"I wished all of them congratulations and wished all of them luck. You reflect on your season and you realize there is only one successful season in the entire league, the one that's holding the Lombardi Trophy."

Indianapolis jolt - The Boston Globe

Patriots hope to fly high in title game
Rivalry with Indianapolis brings out the best in New England
By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff | January 21, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS -- In many ways, this feels bigger than the Super Bowl, which will be played two weeks from tonight in Miami.

Super Bowl? We expect that little event will feature the favored Patriots against a representative from the decidedly weaker NFC. America's annual showcase of television commercials might wind up being a coronation for Messrs. Brady and Belichick, a fourth Lombardi Trophy to solidify Kraft's men as a modern NFL dynasty on a par with the Steelers of the 1970s.

Tonight's game? Patriots-Colts for the AFC Championship? This is better. This one has all the layers of tradition, pathos, and drama -- a storybook joust with all the trimmings of mystique and mythology.

Patriots-Colts is Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. It's Bill Belichick vs. the team of his youth. It's the Kraft family vs. Colts president Bill Polian. It's New England's rookie kicker vs. ex-Patriot kicking legend Adam Vinatieri. It's the horseshoes in the Patriots' pockets vs. the horseshoes on the Colts' helmets. It's the Patriots' mystique vs. the Colts' mistakes in past playoff games.

This is right up there with Red Sox-Yankees, Celtics-Lakers, Larry-Magic, and Russell-Chamberlain. Manning is Alex Rodriguez, Vinatieri is Johnny Damon, Tom Brady is Bill Russell, and Belichick, of course, is Red Auerbach.

Patriots-Colts in the AFC Championship game is the Kennedy-Nixon debate. We get to see Brady looking cool like JFK. We get to see Manning sweating like Tricky Dick. On national television.

There's plenty of pregame respect to go around, and it almost sounds sincere.

"It should be one of those classic games," said Brady, who in the last half-decade has produced some tournament moments that were instantly canonized.

There are no golden games frozen in time for poor Peyton. Remember the last time these teams met for the AFC Championship? It was three years ago at Gillette and Manning was intercepted four times in a 24-14 loss. Ty Law caught as many Manning passes as Marvin Harrison. Polian and the Colts cried foul and had the league address the rules regarding jamming receivers down field (the NFL's "Patriot Act").

The Colts came back for a playoff game one year later and Manning couldn't even get his team in the end zone, losing, 20-3. Cut that meat.

Pity the poor Colts. Indianapolis has pro football's best overall regular-season record since 1999 (89-39), but the ponies have no rings on their hooves. Manning is a two-time MVP and has won a couple of impressive games against the Patriots since the playoff stinkers . . . but those weren't postseason games. It's like A-Rod hitting three-run homers in 10-1 games in June. We all know Belichick saves special stuff for Manning in January.

We also know that Brady is 12-1 in postseason play and has never lost (10-0) in a dome. The Patriots are not going to come out and tell you they think they are the better team, but they think they are the better team. And if we could inject the Colts with sodium pentothal, I believe the majority would rather have gone on the road against the Chargers than be required to win at home against the Patriots.

Winning tonight would make the Patriots the first NFL team to get to the Super Bowl by defeating two teams on the road that were unbeaten at home during the regular season. This is just another challenge for a team that thrives on walking into your homeroom and stealing your lunch money.

The manner in which the Patriots beat the Chargers suggests they are primed for another one of these magical rides to City Hall Plaza. Marlon McCree's interception of Brady's fourth-down pass last Sunday stands as this year's "tuck" play. Truly. In this instance, the San Diego defender merely had to bat the ball down or catch it and fall down -- do his job, in other words -- and the game likely would have been over.

Instead, he attempted to make himself a "SportsCenter" highlight. Taking advantage of McCree's exuberance, Troy Brown stripped him of the football, Reche Caldwell recovered, and Brady had a chance to start a new drive. It was Walt Coleman all over again. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. The Patriots are the guys that win, even after they appear to have lost.

Bill Russell tells a story of the mentality that served him so well when he was winning 11 championships in 13 seasons. It was late in a game against the Lakers, the Celtics were down by a couple, and all LA had to do was dribble out the clock. Archie Clark had the ball and Russell put his mind to work.

"I knew I didn't have to foul him," Russell recalled. "Archie Clark is a scorer. I knew if I just cleared a path to the basket, he'd try to score, even though they didn't need any more points. So I cleared a path and sure enough, he tried to score and I came up from behind and blocked his shot and we got the ball back and won the game."

It's thinking like a winner. It's what Russell did. It's what Belichick does. It's what Bruschi and Vrabel and Brady do.

And that is why even though the Colts are at home . . . even though Vinatieri hasn't ever missed a kick in this building . . . even though Indianapolis's defense has been ferocious in two playoff games . . . even though the Colts have beaten New England the last two times they played . . .

That's why it feels like the Patriots will win tonight.

Patriots hope to fly high in title game - The Boston Globe




NE Patriots  24



SD Chargers 21

Patriots Game Recap Page


NE Patriots  37


New York Jets 16

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On Pro Football

Hector Longo

FOXBORO - Victory on the natural grass at Qualcomm Stadium won't come easily for the New England Patriots in tomorrow's AFC divisional playoff game.

To beat a team like the 14-2 Chargers - they are rested from the bye week and unbeaten at home this year - all the stars will have to be aligned.

Not the stars in the sky, mind you, but stars on the field, wearing Patriots colors in, as coach Bill Belichick says, "all three phases of the game."

So who will it be? Tom Brady, as usual? Nope, even a typical Joe Montana-playoff level effort from the Pats' postseason money man won't be enough on its own.

New England needs one of those games where as many as a half-dozen guys deliver career efforts or game-changing plays.

But from who? From where and when? Here are 10 candidates primed to step into that spotlight:

1. Laurence Maroney - The rookie remains New England's one answer to a LaDainian Tomlinson explosion. He can break a kickoff return (28.0-yard average, second in the NFL) or beat you out of the backfield. He's just due to rip a draw play for 80 yards, especially with San Diego's suspect safeties.

2. Tedy Bruschi - He's been inches away from a pickoff or big defensive stick the last couple weeks, and Bruschi is so due. What Patriot run to the Super Bowl is complete without a Bruschi highlight or two?

3. Reche Caldwell - The storyline is there, now all he has to do is go stick it to his old team with a career receiving effort. 10 catches for 120 yards and a pair of TDs would do the job. You can almost hear the San Diego fans muttering on the way out of Qualcomm, "Why can't we get players like that?"

4. Tully Banta-Cain - What better reason to deliver in the postseason than for your bank account. A free-agent to be, each Banta-Cain postseason sack could be worth hundreds of thousands in the free-agent market.

5. David Thomas - Just have a hunch here that the Chargers have forgotten him with all the concentration on Dan Graham and Benjamin Watson. A breakout game, like Jabar Gaffney's last week, could be in order.

6. Kevin Faulk - Won't see the football much, but again, it's quality not quantity that's made Faulk's career. Again, it's the screen game that could make Faulk's day and slow the Charger rush.

7. Rosevelt Colvin - This time, catch the lateral.

8. Steve Gostkowski - His work has been so underestimated in the second half of the season. He's had the best kickoffs in the game over the last two months, regularly backing up opponents. And you just get the feeling he's ready to nail a game-winning field goal.

9. Corey Dillon - Yep, the old man, even with his tired legs, could deliver one more top playoff effort in the offense's bid to keep LT on the sidelines.

10. Larry Izzo - The special teams tone-setter was flying all over the field like a rookie last week. If he keeps it up, something good in the kicking game could rock the home team.

Hector Longo is an Eagle-Tribune sportswriter. E-mail him at hlongo@eagletribune.com.

EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA - Heroes wanted....These 10 Pats primed to get the job done




Bruschi's return from stroke boosts defense


SAN DIEGO ---- Tedy Bruschi was a mere spectator the last time the Chargers and Patriots played. And, in his recollection, it wasn't pretty.

"They just had their way with us," Bruschi said, "especially in the second half."

The drubbing in question came in Week 4 of the 2005 season, as the Chargers marched into Gillette Stadium and beat the defending Super Bowl champions 41-17.

At the time, the Pro Bowl linebacker and mainstay on all three of New England's championship teams was stuck on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a stroke some nine months earlier. From the sideline, he was living and dying with every snap.

That Sunday in particular, he surely did more dying than living. Such experiences were part of what spurred him to press on in a comeback attempt few thought was possible ---- or advisable.

"Being out last year and just watching and not being able to contribute gave me a lot of motivation to come back," Bruschi said on a conference call Wednesday as he and the Patriots prepared for their rematch with the Chargers in Sunday's divisional playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium.

This season, the 11-year veteran might have reclaimed the level of play he was known for before his health scare. Bruschi followed up his much-chronicled comeback in 2005 ---- he returned to action less than a month after the Chargers' game and was named the Associated Press co-Comeback Player of the Year ---- with a team-best 124 tackles.

Does he feel all the way back? That's a question he has consistently declined to answer since his return.

But after his scare, he admits he's "having a blast."

"I feel great," Bruschi said. "I'm having fun out there, I'm flying around out there (and) I still believe that I'm making major contributions to make this team win."

LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns last year against the short-handed Patriots, would agree. He knows the impact of Bruschi isn't merely statistical.

"Obviously, he's their leader," Tomlinson said. "He's the one that is able to diagnose a lot of plays and make plays for them. And also just understanding what's going on out there, he can coach them up and let them know what he's thinking.

"Before they didn't have that, and I think it hurt them at the time. But now he's back, and you can see he makes a lot of difference on that football team."

How much of a difference? Patriots coach Bill Belichick ---- hardly a sentimental sort ---- scoffed at the notion that having Bruschi on the field could have stemmed the tide of the 24 unanswered points the Chargers tallied after halftime in last year's meeting.

"They dominated the game and deserved to win and won convincingly," Belichick said. "I don't think one player would have made any difference in that type of outcome in the second half at all."

Bruschi is also well aware of the challenges he and his defensive teammates will face come Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

No surprise, first and foremost on his mind is Tomlinson, who has rushed for a combined 351 yards in his past two meetings with New England. Bruschi marvels at the way the NFL's MVP puts defenders in bad position to make tackles, calling his cutting ability and burst of speed "just better than everybody else."

"You've got to find a way to get LaDainian to the ground," Bruschi stressed.

That won't be easy ---- even with Bruschi on the field this time.

But it sure couldn't hurt.

-- Contact staff writer Michael Klitzing at mklitzing@nctimes.com.

North County Times - Chargers - Bruschi's return from stroke boosts defense

Jets Tailgate



NFL.com Full  Post Season Schedule

AFC Playoff Seeding Chart
Jan. 6-7
Jan. 13-14
Jan. 21
San Diego
 (Jan. 14, 2007)
(Jan. 21, 2007)
New England
New England
(Jan. 13, 2007)
New England


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