The Colts, like the San Diego Chargers before them, made it impossible yesterday for New England Patriots fans to buy tickets online for this Sunday's AFC Championship game in Indianapolis, according to The Boston Globe's Bruce Mohl.
Peyton Manning is pleading with Indianapolis fans not to sell tickets to the enemy, report Scott Van Voorhis and Anita Davis of the Boston Herald. "We need that stadium totally packed in blue, no Patriots," Manning said to an Indianapolis TV reporter.
Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe is worried the Patriots postgame antics could follow them into the Super Bowl, becoming too big a story. "Beating Peyton Manning and the Colts should be the easy part. It's the postgame celebration I'm worried about. The Patriots are 2-0 in the playoffs, but according to a lot of NFL people, New England is 0-2 in postgame etiquette," writes Shaughnessy. He elaborates on the concern.
Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald explains that the Pats have "been overlooked more often than Martin Scorsese and given up for dead more times than Jack Bauer." But not this week. Peyton Manning spent Saturday afternoon ducking and running from those vicious Ravens defenders, but he saved his best move for last. Manning was asked who he was rooting for in the Patriots-San Diego game, and he wouldn't make a choice, even though a Pats win would give the Colts a home game. Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints had no problem rooting for the Seattle Seahawks. Everyone wants a home game. But Manning wouldn't do it.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly report card on the Pats-Chargers game. "Put Bill Belichick in charge in San Diego and Marty Schottenheimer at the top of the masthead in New England, and the Patriots not only don't win the game, 24-21, they get rolled by about 35 points," writes Felger, who gives the Pats coaching an A.
Ian Clark of The Union Leader also offers a weekly report card, giving Brady a C-plus for his three interceptions.
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe speaks with Pats defensive end Ty Warren about the Colts. Warren talks about every game between the Pats and Colts in recent memory, going back to the 2003 season. His thoughts on this year's regular-season loss to Indy? "If you look at the past couple of games they've been successful against us, look at third down. That had us on the field for longer drives. Part of the reason for that is that we were losing the battle on first and second downs, allowing them to have third-and-shorts. You can't do that with Peyton, and I think that's been at the root of the problem."
Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports that the Patriots are preparing to meet the Colts for the third time in four years. "Little did we know it then, back in early November when Tom Brady's fourth interception of the game secured a 27-20 Indianapolis victory that the hyped-up, prime-time Patriots-Colts matchup would be a preview of another AFC Championship. Then again, maybe we knew it all along," writes Toland.
Jim McCabe of The Boston Globe reports from Baltimore, explaining that the Colts defense has looked surprisingly good in the playoffs, including last weekend against the Ravens. "We've always had confidence in [our defense]," said Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark. "As much as people wanted to say [otherwise], we've never lost confidence behind these walls, and that will never change." What's changed? Well, safety Bob Sanders has returned to the lineup after playing in just four regular season games, one of which was against the Pats on Nov. 5.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports on the Colts. "Whatever notions we've formed of the Colts in the playoffs over the last five years have flown out the window this postseason," he writes, going on to explain that the defense has been impressive, and the offense has managed just two touchdowns.
The Patriot Ledger's Eric McHugh offers a quick-hitting list of subplots entering this week's contest against the Colts.
The Boston Herald offers the results of its weekly poll to decide the Player of the Game. This week was a close one, as Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski and Jabar Gaffney all made big contributions.
*The Providence Journal* offers three observations on the Patriots in a piece called, "Patriots shine, Chargers whine, and Colts wait."
The *Boston Herald* sports staff offers summaries of a few crucial stands made by the Pats defense in the Chargers game.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant reports that even on an off day, Tom Brady walked away a winner. "I felt we probably hit him more than a lot of teams have hit him this entire season," said Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, the NFL leader in sacks (17 in 12 games). "We were the best team in the league," Chargers linebacker Randall Godfrey said. "You work so hard and go 14-2 and not finish what you're supposed to do. We were supposed to win the Super Bowl."
Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News explains that teams have been attacking the right side of the Patriots defense. The Chargers did it last weekend. "We had to hang in there, because we felt like they couldn't do it all day," Bruschi said. "There was going to be some point where they would have to go to the other side." "When they did, there wasn't as much there," explains Breer. "The Chargers, it seemed, were attacking the Patriots defense like the Bears did Nov. 26 after Junior Seau's season-ending injury, double-teaming Richard Seymour while targeting Bruschi and Tully Banta-Cain."
Shalise Manza Young of The Providence Journal reports that Tom Brady must have selective amnesia, because he didn't look like himself during the majority of the game, but executed when the game was on the line. "Even though we were down so much today, you'd have thought we were winning when you looked at him," said wideout Reche Caldwell.
Sunday in San Diego, it was the 'D' that saved Brady's bacon, writes Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald. Massarotti explains that Brady threw away three interceptions and missed a number of open receivers. "Still, on the road, against a top-ranked NFL offense that averaged 30.8 points per game, the Pats allowed only 21. For all of San Diego's entries into New England territory, the Chargers reached the red zone only three times, all producing touchdowns," he writes.
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson reiterated comments he made after Sunday's game, saying yesterday that he felt the Pats showed a lack of class after winning the game. Tomlinson was asked about the possibility of being coached by Belichick in the Pro Bowl, which could happen if the Patriots lose the AFC Championship game. "It will be pretty interesting," he said. "I don't know how that would go over, but obviously I probably wouldn't say two words to him. I definitely wouldn't. In the heat of the moment and competitive nature, sometimes you say things. I don't know if that's where they get it from, the coach or not." Also included are notes.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald also reports on Tomlinson. The Chargers were enraged after a number of players mocked Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman's sack dance in the center of the field and tossed their helmets. Tomlinson needed to be restrained from going after Patriots corner Ellis Hobbs."Yeah, it was Hobbs," Tomlinson said. "He just shook his head like I was right. He knew it was wrong. I think the Patriots guys kind of blew it up a little bit more by holding me back, like I was going to attack the guy or something." also included are notes.
Boston Herald writer John Tomase reports that the Patriots won by doing all the little things right and making subtly crucial plays. Tomase goes into depth discussing plays you may not have noticed, and lauds left tackle Matt Light. "Light simply dominated All-Pro Shawne Merriman, often locking him up and shutting him down 1-on-1. There is no shortage of examples to choose from," so Tomase details two from the Pats final two-minute drive of the first half.
Albert Breer of The MetroWest Daily News features Pats wideout Reche Caldwell, who had seven catches for 80 yards against his former team. "It was difficult at first, but this wasn't about me coming back here to San Diego," Caldwell said. "It was about us being in the playoffs and winning. It was about us making plays. That was a great defense we played. We took their best shots."
Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger also reports on Caldwell. Caldwell hauled in a bomb from Tom Brady and tightroped down the right sideline for a 49-yard gain inside the two-minute warning. Four plays later, rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski made like Adam Vinatieri, kicking the Patriots into an unexpected AFC championship game in Indianapolis next Sunday and booting the top-seeded Chargers from the playoffs with a 24-21 win in the divisional round. "I'm very happy," fellow wideout Jabar Gaffney said when asked about Caldwell's triumphant return. "All this week I was just like, 'I want you to score.' I wanted him to score against this team and he was able to get a touchdown and make some other big plays for us."
Michael Parente of the* Woonsocket Call* offers a feature on rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who broke Adam Vinatieri's franchise record with the longest postseason kick in Patriots history, a 51-yarder.
Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald report that Tom Brady may be dating Victoria's Secret model Gisele Bundchen. She was outside the Pats locker room with a friend of Tom's after the Pats beat the Chargers on Sunday.