Patriots

Wilfork sees 'a lot' of Colts offense in Broncos offense

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Wilfork sees 'a lot' of Colts offense in Broncos offense

FOXBORO -- Much has been made of Denver's current offensive system, which is now controlled by Peyton Manning, of course.

The comparison to Manning's old Indianapolis Colts offensive system was first brought up on Monday -- in New England, at least -- by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Since then, some have agreed. Others have refused to give away too much.

On Thursday, Patriots veteran Vince Wilfork acknowledged just how much of the old Colts offense he sees in Manning's current Broncos system.

"It's a lot, it's a lot," said Wilfork before Thursday's practice. "It's a lot of stuff that he's accustomed to. It's a lot of stuff that made him Peyton Manning, that he's running. And it's very successful. He won a Super Bowl running it.

"When you have a guy like that, you have to be able to change up, and Denver has done a real good job of actually letting him come in and do what he does best, running things the way that he knows how to run it," added Wilfork. "I'm not saying that they totally threw away their game plan that they've been having, but you have to respect a guy at that level. And they have."

Wilfork said the strategy on Sunday will be to give Manning different looks, and to make it hard on the veteran quarterback who he knows will be well-prepared.

"He's one of the best," said Wilfork. "He works his tail off, and he's just a tough competitor. He's probably one of the toughest guys. You know, Philip Rivers is pretty competitive when you talk about quarterbacks. Tom Brady is very competitive. But that's what puts these guys in a whole different league, because they take it so seriously, and they want to win every down. They want the best out of everybody around them.

"It's never easy to prepare for this guy, never. He does a lot of things on the run. He brings the play count down to almost zero before snapping the ball, so he wants to make sure that he's got the best play called, to put his team in the best situation."

That, like everyone in New England saw when Manning's Colts teams would come to town, is no different.

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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