Ronnie Hillman has taken over the role of feature back in the Denver offense. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ronnie Hillman has taken over the role of feature back in the Denver offense. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

In last year’s regular-season matchup between the Patriots and Broncos, New England dropped deep into coverage, yielding the run to Denver with the understanding that every run the Broncos called was one less chance for Peyton Manning to beat you downfield.

The philosophy meant the Patriots would go on to give up a staggering 280 yards on 48 carries. Knowshon Moreno had a whopping 37 carries for 224 yards and a touchdown, while Manning was 19-for-36 for 150 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception in New England’s 34-31 overtime win.

So if the Patriots approached this year’s matchup with the same overall philosophy — drop seven into coverage and dare them to run the ball — would Manning and the Broncos respond with a similar approach this time around?

“The amount of runs we called last year probably surprised me even a little bit — to stick with it that long, [it] probably a lot of other people as well,” said Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase when asked about last year’s contest. “It was good. [Running back] Knowshon [Moreno] had a great day and the line did a great job of opening up the holes, and they were probably a little surprised that we stuck with as long as we did. But at the end of the day we ended up losing, so it didn’t matter.”

This year, Broncos have moved on from Moreno. Montee Ball started the season as their lead back, but a groin injury meant that Denver has turned to backup Ronnie Hillman. Hillman is a third-year back out of San Diego State who has made a nice adjustment in taking over the starting role — the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder is in his first full year as a starter, and has 75 carries for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns through seven games. That includes at least 100 yards on the ground in two of Denver’€™€™s last three contests.

At the same time, Hillman certainly doesn’t possess Moreno’s pedigree.

“They have a system in place,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia when asked about the Denver running game. “Hillman is an explosive guy. He has great speed, great quickness, excellent vision. He can get through the hole in the run game very, very quickly and makes a lot of yards out of some tight spaces.

“It doesn’t really matter which back is in there,” Patricia said. “They come off the line, they block very well, they make sure the gaps are covered, the linemen are covered. [They] do an excellent job with their double teams, trying to work up to the second level and give those backs some room to work. And certainly Peyton Manning does a good job of getting to the running game and keeping things balanced and continuing [to] threaten you with the run game so his offense is wide open as far as trying to get the ball outside to the skill players.”

Gase suggested that weather could dictate at least a portion of Denver’s offensive game plan.

“I don’t know if I can call more runs than that — that was a lot,” Gase said of last year’s rushing attempts. “It hurt my soul a little bit, but a lot of it could be dictated by weather. We’ll just see what it is on [Sunday]. It seems like everything keeps changing from day-to-day. When we get up there, we’ll have plans ready to go as far as what we can do. If the weather changes, we’ll make adjustments before the game.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
The playmaker, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin checks in and helps us set the stage for Broncos and Patriots this Sunday in Foxboro.
Jimmy Garoppolo was all smiles this week playing the role of Peyton Manning in practice as the scout quarterback. (Mike Petraglia/

Jimmy Garoppolo was all smiles this week playing the role of Peyton Manning in practice as the scout quarterback. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO – It’s great to be Jimmy Garoppolo. After all, how many good-looking, always smiling 22-year-old NFL quarterbacks get to hold the clipboard for one future Hall of Fame QBs in games and play another in practice.

That’s exactly the scenario that unfolded in practice this week for the rookie out of Eastern Illinois.

Tom Brady‘s understudy played Peyton Manning this week, mimicking his drop step, intonation and mannerisms.

But there’s one obvious audible call Garoppolo didn’t get to use this week.

“He didn’t give the ‘Omaha’s’ but he did a really good job as far as all the mannerisms that Peyton does,” Dont’a Hightower said. “That’s the one thing Jimmy didn’t do.”

That didn’t keep Garoppolo from having fun with the job.

“How many different words he uses, probably [most fun],” Garoppolo said. “He’s all over the place, so I tried to expand my vocabulary a little bit and have some fun at the same time. Didn’t use ‘Omaha’ this week. I had my own set of words.”

For three days, Garoppolo did his level best to impersonate the man who has thrown more touchdown passes than any quarterback in NFL history. Who helped him the most?

“The defensive coaches help us out with that,” Garoppolo said. “They get us into the right play and making checks and all that stuff. We just try to imitate them the best we can.”

Hightower was sympathetic if only because he knows the talent he’s trying to duplicate.

“There’s no real way that you can actually [copy Manning] obviously,” Hightower said. “But I felt like the scout team did a really good job this week as far as getting out the ball quick and doing some of the things that they do down to the T. As far as the back steps, the ways guys pass protect. I definitely felt like on both sides whether it was practice squad guys or guys on the active roster or whatever, everybody did a real good job this week as far as playing a role.”

What a perfect way to celebrate Halloween Week in Foxboro.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — For a second straight week, Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones has been ruled out with a hip injury.

Chandler Jones. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Chandler Jones. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — For a second straight week, Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones has been ruled out with a hip injury.

Defensive lineman Alan Branch returned to practice Friday and is not on the injury report after missing Thursday with a non-injury issue. Also, in a bit of good news for the Patriots, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, battling a knee injury since the Chiefs game, was removed from the injury report altogether and is a full-go for Sunday against the Broncos.

Defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee), defensive back Nate Ebner (finger), offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) and special teamer Matthew Slater (shoulder) were all limited in Friday’s practice, as has been the case all week.

Here is Friday’s complete practice report:

Did not practice
DE Chandler Jones (hip) OUT

Limited participation
S Nate Ebner (finger) QUESTIONABLE
DL Dominique Easley (knee) QUESTIONABLE
OL Cameron Fleming (finger) QUESTIONABLE
WR Matthew Slater (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE

Full participation
QB Tom Brady (ankle) PROBABLE
CB Brandon Browner (ankle) PROBABLE

For more Patriots news, check out

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Tom Brady‘s friend Ben is apparently at it again.

The Patriots quarterback had a picture posted to Facebook Friday of him dressed up as the ‘Cowardly Lion’ from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween in 1991.

The photo had the caption, “Think I should bring back this lion costume from 1991? Too scary? ‘€ª#’€ŽHappyHalloween’€¬”

Dont’a Hightower was one of many Patriots to get a kick out of the picture that made its way around the locker room and the web.

Brady acknowledged on Wednesday that he has a friend Ben, whose job it is to post pictures to his Facebook page and socialize selected activity.

Earlier this season, he posted a picture of his resume from his senior year at Michigan. This week, prior to the Celtics season opener against Brooklyn on Wednesday, he posted a picture of himself as a kid in a green jersey holding a basketball with a Rajon Rondo-type green headband photoshopped in.

The social media bug is apparently going around in the Brady family. On Sunday, after the Patriots and Brady throttled the Bears, his supermodel wife Gisele posted a picture on Instagram of the two in the players’ lot. Brady, apparently with the help of Ben, shared the photo on Facebook.

What will happen Sunday? If the Patriots win, his Facebook page should have the answer.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Lonie Paxton models a "GoPro" video recording device. He works for the video recording company. (Mike Petraglia/

Lonie Paxton models a “GoPro” video recording device. He works for the video recording company. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — It’s one of the greatest celebrations in one of the greatest sports moments in New England history. Now the story can be told by its creator.

After Adam Vinatieri booted a 23-yard field goal in overtime against the Raiders in the final snap ever at Foxboro Stadium, the man who snapped the ball – Lonie Paxton – made a beeline to the end zone, flopped on his back and did a snow angel in the powdery white stuff on the turf.

Paxton, who was in the media workroom Friday to promote the Patriots’ celebration of three Super Bowl titles Sunday at Gillette Stadium, explained exactly why he went into the celebration and repeated it after his snap that led to the game-winning kick of Super Bowl XXXVI.

“It kind of started in the Raider game where it snowed and I had people from out of town that were all California kids,” Paxton said. “They literally brought flip-flops in six inches of snow. It’€™s like, ‘€˜Well, screw it, we’€™re just going to do snow angels after in the parking lots when you guys win.’€™ So that came up in my brain for some reason. I’€™m like, ‘€˜Hey, are we going to do this after the game?’€™

“[Defensive lineman] Dave Nugent, I remember, he was going to meet me out there and he never made it. He went to the pile in the middle of the field, and I was the only one, and (it’s) history. It was somewhat planned. The confetti was more of like, ‘€˜Hey, the media has only been talking to me from then until now about a snow angel. Never my snaps, never the production. All the snow angel, so I’€™ll just give them something for that for the showmanship.’€™”

Paxton actually admitted Friday that while all of New England remembers his endearing celebrations, including the one in confetti in New Orleans, his recollection isn’t nearly as vivid.

“I actually don’€™t remember a thing,” Paxton said. “In the moment, you’€™re just like, ‘€˜OK, this could go one of two ways. It could go very bad or it could go very good, so try to just stay in the middle and don’€™t lean to one side or the other. Forget about what is happening and just do what you do, be repetitious as a snapper.’€™ I remember immediately following, the tackles and the cheering and the crying and the after party and the days following and the Pro Bowl. That was cool.”

Paxton is among 22 players who were on three Super Bowl winners with the Patriots and will be honored Sunday in a halftime ceremony. Paxton played on four Super Bowls with the Patriots before leaving for Denver in 2009, signing a five-year, $5.3 million contract, at the time the second-richest contract ever bestowed upon a long snapper in NFL history.

Paxton spends his days now working for “GoPro,” a video recording company and going around the country promoting the many uses of the devices, including some by sports teams. He is married to a former Patriots cheerleader and they have 2-1/2-year-old twins.

The only active players are Tom Brady and Vinatieri. The special 10-year reunion that will include a panel discussion featuring former Patriots DL Richard Seymour and a couple of his teammates at The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon on Saturday, Nov. 1, from 5-6 p.m.

Fans can attend Saturday’€™s panel discussion in the Grand Hall by purchasing an admission ticket to The Hall at Patriot Place. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for children ages 5-12. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door. Please note there will be no autographs at Saturday’€™s event.

A first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft, Seymour played eight seasons with the Patriots (2001-2008) and an additional four seasons with the Oakland Raiders (2009-2012). He is a seven-time Pro Bowl and five-time All-Pro selection. When the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at the end of the 2004 season, Seymour became one of 22 Patriots players to earn a third Super Bowl title in four years (2001-2004).

The Patriots became just the second team in the Super Bowl era (1966-present) to accomplish the feat and the only franchise to do so in the salary cap era (1994-present). Seymour also joined an exclusive group of players to claim back-to-back world championships, which has been done only eight times in NFL history.

This season marks the 10th anniversary of the Patriots third Super Bowl championship. On Sunday, the Patriots will honor 17 players who captured the franchise’€™s three Super Bowl championships with a halftime ceremony during the team’€™s game vs. the Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Three of the players expected to return to Gillette Stadium this weekend are also the last three players inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame: Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013) and Ty Law (2014).

Patriots QB Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts K Adam Vinatieri are still playing. The only other former players unable to attend Sunday’€™s reunion are currently coaching. Larry Izzo (New York Giants) and Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans) are currently assistant coaches in the NFL and Adrian Klemm is an assistant coach at UCLA.

Three-time Super Bowl Champions to be honored at halftime on Sunday

1. Joe Andruzzi 6. Je’€™Rod Cherry 11. Willie McGinest 16. Roman Phifer
2. Tom Ashworth 7. Kevin Faulk 12. Stephen Neal 17. Richard Seymour
3. Troy Brown 8. Ted Johnson 13. Patrick Pass
4. Tedy Bruschi 9. Ty Law 14. David Patten
5. Matt Chatham 10. Matt Light 15. Lonie Paxton

Every year, the Patriots honor their alumni and legends of the game as a part of the NFL Homecoming initiative. Earlier this year, in a prime time game against the New York Jets, the Patriots honored Law as their 2014 Hall of Fame inductee.

The Hall is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Kyle Arrington, filing in for Devin MCcourty, previews Pats-Broncos

[0:00:14] ... joins us in the past we get ready for the gators to Denver Broncos and Sunday Kyle how aria. Unger umbrella. Haven't thought in advance of the game on how to practice been this week is ...
[0:01:30] ... There and win and I wanna ormat. A colleague Tucker I think Rodney Harrison even said earlier in the week and their Teddy Bruschi said that opponent they just pretty much ignore. Everything that Peyton Manning does when he's under senator I mean is that something that you kinda got to preach as well just sort of be ...
[0:02:12] ... how important was it for him to be able to mimic. What Peyton Manning does to give you guys a true test of what you're really gonna see on Sunday. All of these in the court ...
[0:02:48] ... scary for the Broncos and pat since Sunday in Foxboro. Kyle with. Wes Welker not seeing the ball thrown his way quite as much in recent games Peyton Manning went out of his way following their most recent wind say he's got to get him more involved in the offense Welker ...

Adam Schefter, ESPN Insider, joins the guys to talk Pats-Broncos, Brady-Manning and the rest of the NFL.

According to the Reddit NFL page, someone has been tracking Bill Belichick‘s record by hoodie style and color. Moral of the story: Belichick should probably stick to grey.


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