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!
League official admits: a bad call was made
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
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
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
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.”
COLTS 38, PATRIOTS 34
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
|On Pro Football
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
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
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
EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA - Heroes wanted....These 10 Pats primed
to get the job done
Bruschi's return from stroke boosts defense
By: MICHAEL KLITZING - Staff Writer
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
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
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
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
"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
North County Times - Chargers - Bruschi's return from stroke boosts defense
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