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Manning: Patriots 'playing excellent football'

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  November 17, 2010 03:24 PM

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Q: How much time, if at all, have you spent away from the field talking with Coach Bill Belichick and have you guys picked each other’s brains at all? How have those conversations been?
I don’t know. I have run into him on occasion. [There’s] probably nothing too much to report there. He’s an excellent coach, there’s no question about it. They’ve had different defensive coordinators through the past few years, but I’ve always said that he’s had his stamp on it from the get go. And it’s no different this year. They’re playing such sound football. Especially with all their young guys playing, you can tell he’s got these guys caught up to speed real quickly. He really has some young outstanding players that have really developed in a short period of time. It’s always a challenge playing against – I’ve always just called them ‘his defenses,’ even though he wasn’t always the coordinator. I guess maybe he does have the title as the coordinator now, I’m not even sure. He seems to be calling most of the defenses. It’s always a challenge going against that defense, no question about it.

Q: You mentioned the challenges your team has had and you mentioned that the Patriots are playing well right now. Is this a measuring stick game for your team?
I certainly consider the Patriots to be one of the top teams right now. They certainly seem to be playing at a high level. We’re still just sort of taking it week-to-week. It definitely has been a different type of season because of the abnormal amount of injuries we’ve had and different guys playing. Every week presents a new challenge. We’re sort of trying to form the identity for our team that week depending on who is playing. That’s why it’s a great challenge in a week like this because you have to do certain things just to take care of the Colts, and then you also have to get ready for the Patriots. It’s sort of a double whammy there. And it is a tremendous challenge to get ready to play against such a good opponent at the same time while you’re still working on getting on the same page with some of the new guys. Brandon James last week played in his first NFL career game, so you do have to spend time working with him [and] getting him on the same page. And then you’ve got to prepare for the opponent as well. It has definitely been a challenge from a preparation stand point, but you have to get it done.

Q: Do you think it took you a while to get a handle on Bill Belichick’s schemes? It seemed early on you had some difficulty but now it seems you’ve had a lot more success going up against Belichick’s defense.
Those are your words and not mine. I don’t think I have a handle on any defenses. Like I said, every game takes on its own identity. Certainly, if you ask about a certain year, there have been certain times where our offense has executed better than in years past. It’s really hard to summarize them all, put them into one. And I’ve never admitted to having a handle on anything. My goal each week is to try to get our team in the end zone, try to protect the ball. Like I said, it’s been a core group of the same players for a number of years. Last year, was the first time you saw a lot of different faces out there when you don’t see a [Tedy] Bruschi or a [Mike] Vrabel out there or a [Rodney] Harrison. It’s a different feel. But they have some young guys that can really fly around: [Jerod] Mayo, [Patrick] Chung, [Brandon] Meriweather can make a lot of plays. They still have the same integrity of a typical Patriots defense of just being so sound. Every week just kind of presents something new. It’ll certainly be a new challenge this year.

Q: What do the four MVP awards you have represent to you?
I don’t really think a whole lot about it in the middle of the following season. I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it. I guess just to give you some kind of answer, I’ve always accepted those just on the behalf of my teammates and my coaches who have just given me great help throughout my career. I’ve always kind of considered them to be team awards.

Q: The Patriots played two games without Patrick Chung and then he came back last week. Watching the defense on film, what does Chung bring to their defense?
They have three excellent safeties at the get go between [James] Sanders, [Brandon] Meriweather and Chung, but Chung’s a guy that they move around a lot. He’s a guy that can cover a slot receiver in nickel defenses. He can cover a slot receiver one-on-one. He can cover tight ends. He can play the deep half of the safety. So he’s very versatile. He’s got excellent speed, big play capabilities, and just seems like he has a real knack for the football. Last year, being his rookie year, like I said, he got great experiences as a rookie and just seems like he’s taken a big step into his second year, which I can relate to. After playing as a rookie, things become more comfortable for you in the second year. And you really see Chung flying around out there.

Q: Losing Dallas Clark obviously must have been tough for you. How is Jacob Tamme made up for that loss?
We’re still dealing with it. It’s a week-to-week transition. Out of respect for Dallas, I’m not sure if you can replace Dallas Clark. I think you just adjust. I think Dallas is that good of a player and deserves that much respect. Jacob has really been working hard. He’s been learning on the run. Even though he’s been here for three years now, he really hasn’t played a whole lot in games, so he and I are getting good game experience together. He’s really done a good job, made some huge plays, a couple of huge touchdowns for us. And we’re throwing a lot at him as well. We’re asking a lot of him. He’s really responded well. I think each week presents a new challenge for him as he gets used to playing against different types of defenses and different types of opponents. And it will be a great challenge for him this week.

Q: Will you ever grow your hair long like Tom Brady?
Oh, no. I pretty much have had the same haircut for the past 32 years I think for the most part. Nothing too exciting.

Q: Who’s the better actor?
I can’t tell. The one thing, let me make it very clear, I am a football player. I am not nor have considered myself to be that. I’m a football player. That’s what I want to be. Let’s make that real clear. There’s no confusion about that.

Q: You were talking about adjustments, specifically last Sunday against the Bengals you had just 185 passing yards, but your defense stepped up huge. Can you talk about the support they’re giving you right now?
Certainly. It’s a team game. It takes team effort. That’s just been happening a lot this year. Defense has been picking up the offense. Offense has picked up the defense. We’re still looking, hoping that both sides of the ball play their best game of the year at the same time. That’s what you always want. But there’s no question that our defense did a great job on Sunday against the Bengals, causing turnovers, forcing Cincinnati into mistakes, and giving our offense great field position. They were outstanding on Sunday. They’re certainly in for a tougher challenge this Sunday. There’s no question that you’ve got to have both sides of the ball doing a good job and trying to keep the other out of tough situations.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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