Patriots

Manning adds to horrific playoff legacy

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Manning adds to horrific playoff legacy

We were told last February you can't spell "Elite" without E-L-I?

Well, you still can't spell "Maddening Disappointment, yo..." without Peyton Manning.

He did it again.

Peyton Manning, quarterbacking a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, took the horse behind the barn and gave it one behind the ear.

This time, it was a Bronco and not a Colt.

Ravens 38, Broncos 35. In two overtimes.

It was a fun and fascinating game in frigid cold that turned on a stupid decision by Manning. It's a choice that undid the good Manning did earlier in the game and cast a pall over his tremendous comeback season of 2012.

The smoking gun? Let the record show, this wasn't a singularly brilliant defensive play or a bad-luck tipped ball like the pick-six Manning had in the first quarter of the game.

On the play in question, the throw was delivered while Manning rolled right and threw softly across his body. It was second-and-6 and Manning was at his own 38. The only play at that point was to whip it into the shivering players on the bench. But no. Manning threw it toward Brandon Stokley and it was picked by Corey Graham at the Broncos 45. Six plays later, the Broncos were dead and so was Manning vs. Brady XIV and Broncos vs. Patriots with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

And New England's road to New Orleans got a lot less Rocky, if you know what I mean.

If the Patriots polish off Houston on Sunday, the Ravens will be in town for a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game,

And they'll be coming here after playing a 76-minute rock fight at altitude in sub-zero wind chill. Of course, after watching what happened to the Broncos Saturday night, Patriots fans may be staring at the sky and whistling aimlessly on Sunday rather than get too full of schadenfraude. Karma and all.

But back to Manning because, brilliant as he's been - and he is one of the top-five of all-time - his postseason resume is, well, pretty crappy.

He's been one-and-done eight times in 12 playoff seasons. He's won one Super Bowl (in a 2006 postseason in which he threw three TDs and seven INTs) and threw a game-sealing pick-six in crunch time in his other Super Bowl appearance back in 2009. He also rode the top-seeded 2005 Colts right out of the playoffs in similar one-and-done fashion.

The line of Manning-worshipping media eager to pin the blame on anyone other than Peyton is already a hundred miles long. It was the Denver secondary that allowed a game-tying moonball from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones. It was head coach John Fox for...I don't know, ask Woody Paige. Fingers will point in myriad directions instead of settling on Peyton. Which is ironic because the story from June through December was all about how the Broncos were Manning's team and John Fox was just their KC Jones...

(My early clubhouse leader for best Manning quote came from Troy Aikman who said after the clip of his pick was played during the NFC Divisional Playoff game, "You're not expecting Peyton Manning to make a throw like that." Yeah, Troy got chased from the game by concussions.)

Peyton Manning did what Peyton Manning does.

Jamba. Laya.

Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

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Brady enjoys 'unique experience' of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: