FOXBOROUGH -- Last week, several Patriots said the Chargers weren't showing them the proper respect. That doesn't appear to be an issue this week, and it starts at the most important position on the field.
Consider this: Not long after the Patriots clinched a berth in the AFC Championship game against the Colts, quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were chatting about yet another meeting between the superstars.
"We have a great relationship. We talked the other day," Brady said yesterday. "I think very highly of him as a player, as a person. Tremendous quarterback, tremendous leader. It's always fun to go up against him."
This marks the ninth time Brady and Manning will clash since 2001, with Brady holding a 6-2 edge, two of the victories coming in the playoffs. However, Manning has won the last two games -- including a 27-20 victory Nov. 5 at Gillette Stadium -- in rather convincing fashion.
The friendship between Brady and Manning is well documented -- they met in 2001 when both were competing in the Quarterback Challenge at the Pro Bowl -- and Brady said the feelings they share for each other are reflective of the way the teams view each other.
"I know there is mutual respect -- their players have a lot of respect for us, we have a lot of respect for their players and coaches," Brady said. "It should be just one of those classic games.
"It's fun for the players. You develop very much of a rapport with those guys. We've played them every single year, sometimes twice a year. It feels like a division opponent, going back to the days when they were in our division [before 2002]. These games have counted for a lot, and this one is just as big as all the rest. So it's quite a rivalry."
This is the seventh meeting between the teams since 2003, but the last five games have been played in Foxborough. The last time the Patriots played in the RCA Dome was Nov. 30, 2003, when they recorded a 38-34 victory with a last-second stop near the goal line.
The Colts haven't lost at home this season, putting the Patriots in position to hand an opponent their first home loss for the second week in a row, as the Chargers were the only other NFL team to post an undefeated record at home. As for the Colts, Brady noted that their speedy defense -- led by ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and safety Bob Sanders -- seems to be that much faster in the RCA Dome.
"They play very well at home. They play very well on the turf," said Brady, who brings a 23-1 career record on turf, a 10-0 record in domes, and a 12-1 playoff record into Sunday's game. "They have a bunch of very skilled defensive players, and when it is very loud in that dome, I think they take advantage of that as well."
Partially because of that, the Patriots practiced inside the Dana-Farber Field House yesterday, where the option exists to pump loud music so Brady and his linemen can work on their silent snap count. The Patriots are 8-1 on the road this season, with Brady noting that the team has put together some of its best performances in hostile environments.
Fullback Heath Evans said the Patriots' solid execution on the road, specifically utilizing the silent snap count, starts with Brady.
"I think the reason he has probably been perfect is because he is so good at communication with the wide receivers and with the backs," Evans said. "He is so thorough in his weekly preparation that I don't want to say it makes it easy, but his preparation allows him to perform at a high level in those situations."
Brady touched on part of that preparation yesterday, noting that his weekly routine includes a one-on-one meeting with coach Bill Belichick, the details of which Brady revealed for what is believed to be the first time.
The meeting usually takes place Tuesday, a regular day off for the players, and highlights the importance of a positive dynamic between a head coach and a quarterback. It lasts one to two hours.
"We just get a feel for what he saw in the previous game and what he saw in the upcoming opponent," Brady said. "Sometimes it's all football. Sometimes we talk about other stuff. We've been doing that for four years. So it's a great relationship."
At first in the meeting, Belichick primarily would go over the defensive coverages played by the next week's opponent. Of late, Brady said the meeting has focused less on coverages and more on the personnel of the opposing defense. It's one example of how a coach with an expertise on defense can help his offense.
"I always get a pretty good feel for what he is thinking and how he wants to approach that week," Brady said. "He is always pretty consistent with the way he thinks and the way he reacts to the team and the way he coaches. I think that is a great thing from a player's perspective because he is so consistent, he's never up and down."
This week's meeting naturally touched on the challenge of facing the Colts in a charged environment. Whenever the discussion includes a Manning-led team, Brady knows he'll have to elevate his play. The two quarterbacks have been known to exchange e-mails, although they'll probably be too busy the rest of the week to be checking their inboxes.
"You know that you have to go in there and play your best game because you believe Peyton is going to, as he [has] the last few times we've played him," Brady said. "He's played great. He's always looking at other quarterbacks and how they play, and I respect the way that he prepares and how he leads his team."
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.