Demaryius Thomas got the better of Darrelle Revis on this pass play from 2010 when Revis was with the Jets. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Demaryius Thomas got the better of Darrelle Revis on this pass play from 2010 when Revis was with the Jets. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll present The Darrelle Revis Report, a look at what’s on tap for the Patriots cornerback. This week, New England will host the Broncos in a matchup that will give the winner the inside track when it comes to supremacy in the AFC.

Last week: In one of the best performances of his relatively short career with the Patriots, Revis was able to render Brandon Marshall a nonfactor in Sunday’s win over the Bears. Revis allowed one catch (on six targets) for 8 yards while working mostly against Marshall.

(There was one play where it’s unclear as to whether or not Revis was the one at fault when it came to coverage — on a quick out to Alshon Jeffery when the Bears had receivers stacked on the right side, Revis was essentially blocked out of the play. The completion to Jeffery led to a 15-yard pickup. He was in the neighborhood, but it was hard to see who exactly was at fault in coverage.)

The Patriots appeared to work in multiple coverage sets throughout the game, with Revis and the rest of the defensive backs throwing different looks at the Bears throughout the contest. For the first time all year, he was almost exclusively on the left side. Of his 60 snaps on Sunday, we had him on the left side for 48 of them, while he was on the right for 12.

In all, by our highly unscientific count, in eight games, Revis has yielded 19 catches on 38 targets for 271 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Looking ahead: Revis and the rest of the New England secondary will face their biggest test of the season against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Denver has a fleet of talented pass catchers, including wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (47 catches, 767 yards, six TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (47 catches, 634 yards and four TDs), as well as tight end Julius Thomas (30 catches, 327 yards and nine TDs).

“It’s going to be exciting,” Revis said of the showdown with the Broncos. “It kind of reminds me of back in New York when we played against the Patriots.

“We know what’s at stake. We know Denver is a great team. At the same time, we’re trying to accomplish something like they are too. It’s the battle of the AFC. We understand. We totally understand. It’s two great quarterbacks going against each other. We’re going to have to duke it out.”

Revis has faced Manning three times in his career — twice in the playoffs — and has a 2-1 mark against the quarterback, with his only loss coming in the 2009 AFC title game.

Their first meeting came in 2009, and the Colts came into the contest with a 14-0 record. In that one, coach Jim Caldwell decided to yank Manning in the second half, which ultimately paved the way for a 29-15 New York upset. While it’s unclear how much man coverage Revis played against Indy’s top receiver in Reggie Wayne in that one, Wayne had three catches for 33 yards.

The two met again the following month in the AFC title game. The Colts won that one, 30-17, with Wayne coming away with three catches for 55 yards.

New York also took home a 17-16 win in a wild-card contest against the Colts on Jan. 8, 2011 — the last game Manning played as a member of the Colts. Again, Wayne was held almost completely in check with just one catch for one yard.

Overall, Revis has never picked off Manning, but he’s posted eight tackles in three games against the quarterback. Manning’s per game averages against Revis-led defenses are 19-of-28 for 264 yards, 1.3 touchdowns and no picks.

Possible man matchups this week (with the understanding that it won’t solely be one on one): There are a few possibilities when you’re talking about matchups with the Denver offense — and there remains the very real likelihood that Revis spends most of his time opposite Demaryius Thomas. Manning’s chief option in the passing game is Thomas has emerged as one of the best young receivers in the league.

Unlike Sammy Watkins — who was pretty sure he was going to face Revis when the Patriots met the Bills — Thomas said this week that he’€™s not sure who he’ll see when he lines up against New England on Sunday.

“I think so,” he said when asked if he’ll face Revis. “I can’t say, I don’t really know what they’re going to do because I’ve got [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] on the other side. For the Cardinals’ game, I thought I was going to have Patrick Peterson and [Sanders] had Patrick Peterson so I can’t say right now. I don’t really know.”

Revis has faced an offense with Thomas on two occasions, both when the cornerback was with the Jets: the first game was on Oct. 17, 2010, and Thomas had one catch for 17 yards (which went for a touchdown) in a 24-20 win for New York. (Revis had three tackles in the contest.) The second game was on Nov. 17, 2011, and Thomas had two catches for 37 yards in a memorable 17-13 win for the Broncos that featured a fourth-quarter comeback generated by Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. (Revis had a pair of tackles in that loss.)

Money quotes: “The guy has been a perennial Pro Bowler. He’s got size. He’s got length. He’s a quality player at his position in the league. He’s been around a little bit, so he’s a smart, tough, athletic guy that covers very well.” — Denver coach John Fox on Revis

“I’ve gone up against some good ones. I went up against Aqib [Talib] last year and I can say he’s the best I went against last year. I know Revis is another great player and I’m looking forward to playing him, but I’ve gone up against some good ones.” — Demaryius Thomas on the prospect of facing Revis

“Certainly, it’s a great challenge playing against him. He’s just a top-notch cover corner that has great ball skills and great quickness, hip transition … all the characteristics of a great cover corner.” — Manning on Revis

One more thing: While a Demaryius Thomas-Revis matchup makes sense on paper, there is something to the idea of Brandon Browner spending some time squaring off against the speedy receiver. Thomas is one of the best receivers in the league when it comes to racking up yards after the catch. He’s fourth in the NFL with 342 yards. Brandon Browner is one of the best in the league over the last year-plus. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded just two YAC on three passes in Browner’s neighborhood last week against the Bears. Of course, this isn’t new for Browner — he’s always been one of the best corners in the league when it comes to limiting YAC. According to Football Outsiders, in his eight games in 2013, he yielded an average of just 1.8 yards after the catch, tied for the league lead with Jabari Greer.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Tim Wright has been a valuable red-zone presence this season for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tim Wright has been a valuable red-zone presence this season for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — With the 16th showdown between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning looming Sunday in Foxboro, it makes sense that most of the focus has been on the matchup between the two legendary quarterbacks. And while their performances ultimately will tell the story as to which team will win, in their previous matchups there’€™s almost always an under-the-radar performer who helps swing the balance of power. With that in mind, here are eight candidates — four on each side, plus two more who might not be relatively anonymous but could still surprise — who could have a sizable impact in Sunday’€™s game between the Patriots and Broncos.

Running back Jonas Gray — The Notre Dame product got his chance to shine Sunday against the Bears and took advantage, amassing 86 yards on 17 carries. The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder might not get the same amount of action this week against the Broncos — one of the reasons Shane Vereen might have been limited last week against the Bears was because he had the flu, but he apparently is better now — but he has earned the right to be part of the mix and certainly will be a part of the action in some form or fashion on Sunday afternoon.

Fullback James Develin — The Broncos defense is threatening on a couple of levels. Denver is capable of doing damage when it comes to getting after the passer with rushers like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, but it also is stout against the run with a league-best 72.4 rushing yards per game. That means if the Patriots are going to try to move the chains on the ground (or even do their due diligence when it comes to slowing the Denver pass rush), look for Develin, who routinely has been caving in defenders all season as a blocker.

Tight end Tim Wright — Wright has turned into an astoundingly dependable target for Brady, having caught 94 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction over the first eight games. The former Buccaneer really has distinguished himself as a nice complementary threat to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, especially when it comes to working in the red zone. Wright has three touchdowns on the season, with two coming from one yard out off play-action fakes. If history is any indication, look for him early as a red zone presence Sunday.

Punter Ryan Allen — Go back and check the box score — Allen certainly did his part in the AFC title game last season in Denver. Whether it was the thin air, good temperatures or the culmination of a pretty successful rookie year, he was impressive in the defeat, connecting on three early punts (putting them all inside the 20) and averaging 49 yards on the afternoon. That was on the heels of an impressive performance in the regular season against the Broncos, a game in which he averaged 44.5 yards on his six punts, two of which ended up inside the 20.

Bonus: Wide receiver/returner Danny Amendola — Amendola has been a forgotten man in the passing game over the last year-plus, but he has recently been able to inject a bit of life into New England’€™s kick return game. The 28-year-old delivered a jolt to the Patriots’€™ special teams unit with four returns for an average of 26 yards in a recent win over the Jets. Amendola showed some energy as a return man, finding some seams and running with some nice confidence. A solid special teams performance would go a long way toward New England coming away with a win over Denver Sunday afternoon, and a solid return game by Amendola against the Broncos (25th in the league in average kickoff yardage allowed at 26.2 yards) would be a big boost for the Patriots.

Punt returner Isaiah Burse — Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, Burse has become the Broncos’€™ top option this year when it comes to returning punts. The 5-foot-10, 181-pounder has 16 returns for 97 yards (overall, the Broncos are 26th in the league in punt returns), and while he’€™s displayed some sure hands in his first year in the league, the expected nasty conditions Sunday in Foxboro could present a challenge for the youngster, who has not had to deal with the elements to this point in the season. (It’€™s worth mentioning that last year’€™s regular-season classic turned when Wes Welker muffed a punt return in overtime.)

Running back Ronnie Hillman — Hillman recently took over the starting running back duties for Montee Ball after Ball went down with a groin injury, and he has done well to keep the chains moving on the rare occasion the Broncos turn to their ground game, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Overall, the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder has 75 carries for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns through seven games, which includes at least 100 yards on the ground in two of Denver’€™s last three contests. As a unit, the Broncos running game is relatively pedestrian — Denver is 21st in the league, averaging 101.4 rushing yards per game.

Kicker Brandon McManus — The Broncos dumped veteran Matt Prater after he started the year with a four-game suspension because of a violation of the league’€™s substance-abuse policy, and in the interim they’€™ve turned to the rookie out of Temple. He’€™s looked shaky at times — he hooked a 53-yarder and hit the uprights on a 41-yard make against the Cardinals — and is 6-for-8 on the season, with both of his misses coming from beyond 50 yards. Like Burse, he might be tested with some interesting conditions on Sunday afternoon.

Linebacker Brandon Marshall — The 24-year-old who has taken over in the wake of the injury to the steady Danny Trevathan, he’€™s gone from utilityman to a key part of the Denver defense in a relative heartbeat. The 6-foot-1, 242-pounder has been solid in coverage over the course of the season, and he could be one of the defenders who might be called upon to help try and slow down Rob Gronkowski. This year, he has 57 tackles (43 solo) and five passes defensed for the Broncos.

Bonus: Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. — An undrafted free agent out of Kansas, he probably doesn’€™t deserve a spot on this list, but Harris lands here simply because he doesn’€™t have the star power of some of his more high-profile defensive teammates like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Terrence Knighton and Aqib Talib. However, that doesn’€™t mean he doesn’€™t deserve just as much respect: The 5-foot-10, 188-pounder, who had his left ACL fixed in February, has 11 pass breakups and two interceptions, and he has teamed with Talib to form one of the more impressive cornerback duos in the league over the first half of the season.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO ‘€” Defensive lineman Alan Branch (not injury related) and defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) were the only two players who weren’t on the field for the Patriots at Thursday’s practice.

FOXBORO ‘€” Defensive lineman Alan Branch (not injury related) and defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) were the only two players who weren’t on the field for the Patriots at Thursday’s practice.

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 Thursday’s practice, similar to Wednesday.

Here is the complete practice report:

Did not practice
DL Alan Branch (not injury related)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)

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

Full participation
QB Tom Brady (ankle)
CB Brandon Browner (ankle)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower (knee)

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jonathan Casillas figures to help out with New England's linebacking depth, as well as on special teams. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Jonathan Casillas figures to help out with New England’s linebacking depth, as well as on special teams. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Jonathan Casillas hit the ground running this week, both literally and figuratively.

The linebacker, who was acquired by the Patriots from Tampa Bay on Tuesday, has been working to get ready for New England’s game against the Broncos Sunday.

“I’ve been running — I covered about six kickoffs today, full speed,” he said after practice on Thursday with a smile. “You want to test the hamstring out, I think that’s a good way to do it. I feel pretty good.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do,” he added. “[Special teams coach] Scotty O’Brien, as soon as I got here, he’s meeting with me and I’m doing extra work with him just to get caught up to speed, because they want me to go this weekend — and I want to go this weekend.

“I don’t like missing games, whether I’m new or not. I want to play. If I have to play all [on all] four special teams [units] and no defense to all four special teams and just a little defense, whatever that means, then I’m going to do it. I love this game. [Special] teams is something I do pretty well. I’m looking to get out there in all four.”

For Casillas, his best season for the 27-year-old came with the Saints in 2011 when he finished with 43 tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed in 13 games (five starts). In his five-plus years in the NFL, he has played in 55 games (20 starts), and has 138 tackles, three sacks and five passes defensed.

“We’ve known, watched Jonathan for a while,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “Athletic, smart guy. Has played defense — four-down player — played defense and in the kicking game. Been a productive player in New Orleans and Tampa. Played against him, practiced against him. I have a lot of respect for him, his experience, and his versatile skills.”

The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Casillas has been predictably overwhelmed by the events of the last few days, but appears to be the type who can step in and fill a role on special teams. He also has some positional versatility at the linebacker slot. Even though he’s a bit undersized at the position — and has seen more experience as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense as opposed to New England’s 3-4, where he might spend more time inside — he’s been able to roll with whatever has come his way over the previous 48 hours.

“Just [from] talking to Bill and [defensive coordinator Matt Patricia] and the linebacker coach, basically, they see me playing in some sub packages, passing situations — nickel and dollar personnel,” said Casillas, who added that he’s spent some time at inside linebacker this week. “Stuff like that. Just adding some depth.

“It’s different. The terminology is different, the communication is different. The alignment is different. I’ve never seen Vince Wilfork — I’ve seen him, but a player like that before and the scheme we run. Like I said earlier, I’ve had four or five defensive coordinators the last four or five years. It’s just catching on as fast as I can. Football is  football, at the end of the day. I have to be able to communicate with all these guys in here.”

He also has more than a passing acquaintance with the linebackers who are already on the roster.

“I think our linebackers are good, man,” he said. “Watching Jamie [Collins] and Dont’a [Hightower] on film — they’re big guys who can run. Very physical. I’m just helping to add a little different element to that. A little speed, a little quickness.

“I’ve been watching these guys for a while. I’m a big fan of Jerod [Mayo] — I played against him when I was a junior and he was a senior in the Outback Bowl, and he had, like, 15 tackles. I’ve always watched these guys – I’m a fan of the game an definitely a fan of these guys, with [Devin] McCourty back deep. It’s a great scheme for me to be in, and just helping to add wherever I’m needed. Wherever they called me for and whatever they need me for, I’m there for.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO — When Peyton Manning and the Broncos look to go deep on Sunday against the Patriots, it’ll be strength against strength.

The Denver passing game is one of the best in the league, averaging 297 passing yards per contest, third-best in the NFL. Manning has a fleet of talented pass catchers at his disposal, including wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (47 catches, 767 yards, six TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (47 catches, 634 yards and four TDs), as well as tight end Julius Thomas (30 catches, 327 yards and nine TDs).

When it comes to looking deep, the Broncos are tied for seventh in the league with 28 pass plays of 20 yards or more. (Indy is first overall with 20.) In addition, Denver is fifth in the league when it comes to pass plays of 40 yards of more with seven on the season. (Washington leads the league with 12.)

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have allowed 210.9 yards per game passing this year (second-fewest in the NFL) compared to 239.0 (18th in the NFL) last year. They’ve also made sizable gains when it comes to defending the deep ball. This year, through eight games, the Patriots remain the only team that has yet to allow a pass play of 40-plus yards. Also, passes of 20-plus yards are down significantly — 74 in 2012 (worst in NFL), 55 last year (tied for 20th), 23 this year (tied for 15th).

“We talk about it, with every [team], that there’s a way to stop it,” said veteran safety Devin McCourty said when asked about some of the specifics in defending the deep ball. “The credit goes to the guys out there on the field, whether it be the guys coming off the edge and maybe somebody was free and somebody makes a big play or the guys in coverage.”

New England went out and spent heavily at cornerback this offseason, and the results have paid off. With the addition of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, it has changed the way Manning looks at the Patriots defensive backs.

“With the excellent cover corners, it allows them to do a lot of things,” Manning said. “It’€™s a matter of trying to be good at what you’€™re doing, and you know you’€™ve got to be prepared to handle the different adjustments that they can certainly make you go through during the course of a game.

“Certainly, it’€™s a great challenge playing against him,” Manning added when asked about Revis’ impact. “He’€™s just a top-notch cover corner that has great ball skills and great quickness, hip transition ‘€“ all the characteristics of a great cover corner. So, it’€™s a challenge, certainly. With the receivers we have, we’€™re trying to get everybody involved. To get everybody involved, that keeps the player involved and obviously you spread the ball around, and hopefully that can put pressure on the defense. But if you’€™re throwing against him, you better be accurate and you better be running really good routes.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots made a move to their practice squad Thursday when they re-signed offensive lineman Chris Barker and released defensive lineman Ben Bass. Barker was released on Tuesday when the team traded for Buccaneers linebacker Jonathan Casillas, but cleared waivers, while Bass was traded to the Patriots from Dallas just prior to the regular season for defensive back Justin Green.

Here is a portion of the release from the team:

Barker, 24, had been released on Oct. 28 to make room on the 53-man roster to make room for recently acquired LB Jonathan Casillas He began the season on the practice squad and was signed to the 53-man roster prior to the Jets game on Oct. 16 and played in the game on special teams. He was inactive for the Bears game. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder is in his second NFL season after spending the entire 2013 season on the New England roster. Barker was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from Miami on Sept. 1, 2013. Barker was originally signed by Miami as a rookie free agent out of Nevada on May 3, 2013, but was released on Aug. 31, 2013.

Bass, 25, was acquired by the Patriots in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for DB Justin Green on Aug. 15, 2014. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder, was released by the Patriots on Aug. 26 and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 26. He originally joined the Cowboys in 2012 as a rookie free agent out of Texas A&M on May 14, 2012, and spent most of the 2012 season on the Cowboys’€™ practice squad before being activated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 13, 2013. Bass appeared in two games as a rookie before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 1, 2012. He went to training camp with the Cowboys in 2013 but was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has issued a statement on the passing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has issued a statement on the passing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

‘€œToday is a sad day for so many in Boston who are mourning the loss of  Mayor Menino. Personally, my three favorite memories were the phone calls that I received from the Mayor after each of our Super Bowl victories inviting the Patriots to celebrate with our fans in downtown Boston. I was so happy to accept his invitations. My thoughts and prayers are with Angela and the entire Menino family today.”

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Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Mike Klis discusses Brady vs. Manning, Welker and Belichick, and the rest of the Pats-Broncos story lines.