|Another tough challenge — the Colts’ pass rush — awaits Tom Brady on Sunday. (Robert E. Klein/For The Globe)|
Brady (foot) steps back in
FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady returned to practice yesterday after missing Wednesday’s session, presumably to rest his sprained foot.
Brady was listed as “limited’’ on the Patriots’ injury report, and his practice schedule has followed the same pattern as last week.
There is a lot of leeway in the term “limited,’’ and with the media allowed to watch only stretching and one or two drills before being ushered off, it is unclear how limited Brady has been in practice. The number of throws he makes in practice is typically cut in the latter half of the season. He is also listed on the report, as always, with a right shoulder injury.
Brady will need to be as healthy as possible with the Colts’ defensive end tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming to town.
“When Dwight Freeney is bearing down on you, you learn to throw the ball pretty quick. I learned that pretty early on playing against him,’’ Brady said in a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. “He’s an incredible player. There is nobody in the league that rushes the passer like he does.
“And Robert Mathis on the other side, it’s like you can’t give Dwight all the attention, although most teams do, and then Robert comes from the other side. He’s had some huge games against us, so you just have to try to pick your spots with them.
“Believe me, every time the ball is snapped, we’ve got to understand where he’s at and what exactly he’s doing, because both those guys can change the game in one play.’’
Mathis was credited with two sacks of Brady last year; Freeney, who was matched against Sebastian Vollmer (filling in for injured left tackle Matt Light), did not have a sack.
Despite any pain or discomfort, Brady had his first 300-yard passing game of the season last Sunday against the Steelers, completing 30 of 43 throws for 350 yards.
Brady said he was “doing well’’ and “looking forward to the game’’ when asked about his health during the conference call.
Element of surprise Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has seen just about every coverage there is, and remembers all of them. So trying to surprise him is not easy.
“He’s a tough quarterback to try to confuse,’’ said Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. “He’ll confuse you more than you confuse him, so he’s a guy that you try to do your best to disguise stuff, but he’s really good at what he does and picking out coverages.’’
The Colts and Patriots have played at least once a year since 2003, despite not having been divisional foes since before the 2002 season, so Manning has quite the mental library of games against New England. Which is why Bill Belichick and the defense will work hard to trip him up.
“We have to be good in our disguise,’’ said linebacker Jerod Mayo. “It’s very difficult. He studies a lot of film, he’s a great quarterback. You have to try to show him some different looks, try to get a little pressure on him, send some different people, and see what happens.
“His pre-snap reads are amazing. He pretty much knows what’s going on before he even snaps the ball. So that’s the tough part.’’
Manning gets rid of the ball quickly, so the element of disguise is just one factor for the Patriots’ defense. Execution will be of utmost importance.
“This is a week where you know they’re a passing team, so coverage is key, and not letting them know what we’re doing is key, too,’’ said Banta-Cain. “It’s something we always work on no matter who we’re playing.’’
Though Manning has had several new receivers because of injuries, his numbers have not fallen off. He has completed 64.2 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. However, he has been sacked 12 times already, after being sacked 24 times total from 2008-09.
Hit not fine with Ward Steelers receiver Hines Ward wants someone to be fined for the hit that knocked him out of last Sunday’s game.
“I was falling down and I wasn’t expecting to get hit,’’ Ward told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He hit me, and that is what caused the head/neck or whatever you want to call it.
“I don’t know what the league wants. It was helmet-to-helmet, and I thought that is what usually causes a fine. I am not going to sit there and worry about if the guy got fined or not.’’
On the play, Ward tried to pull in a short pass from Ben Roethlisberger. He was hit low by Patrick Chung, then high by James Sanders, and wasn’t allowed to play the rest of the game because of a concussion. He has been at practice this week.
To the limit In addition to Brady, running back Fred Taylor (toe), guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) were limited at practice. Safety Jarrad Page (calf) and defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) were absent . . . The Patriots practiced on the upper fields and players were in shells (thin pads) on a Thursday for the first time in several weeks . . . Though the Patriots lead the league in points per game at 28.7, they are ranked 18th in total offense (15th passing, 17th rushing), and 29th in total defense (18th run, 30th pass). They are tied for fifth in turnovers at plus-6 (9 giveaways, 15 takeaways), and while they are sixth in offensive third-down efficiency (42.9 percent), they are last in defensive third-down efficiency (47.5 percent) . . . The Lions announced yesterday that the Thanksgiving game against the Patriots is sold out. It is the earliest Detroit has announced a sellout prior to a game in three years . . . Michigan native Kid Rock will perform at halftime of the Lions-Patriots game.