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Patriots notebook

Coach quite open about Colts’ Wayne

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 17, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots cornerback Jonathan Wilhite spent most of Sunday night sprinting and diving and doing anything he could to keep up with Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

Wilhite was one of the busiest guys on the field as Peyton Manning found Wayne for catch after catch. Wayne led the Colts with 10 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick attributed that more to the receiver’s talent than his second-year defensive back’s play.

“I mean, I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne,’’ Belichick said. “That guy is the best receiver we cover every year and it seems like he just keeps getting better. I thought the routes he ran and the catches he made were nothing short of spectacular, with the go route, the two touchdown catches, the third-down conversion on the corner route in front of our bench. He’s a tremendous receiver and he had some production against us.’’

Wayne gained a step on Wilhite on both touchdown catches.

“I thought Wilhite played well and covered him well,’’ Belichick said. “There were some great throws and great catches.’’

Belichick added, “It would be hard to say much to Wilhite. He did about all he could do on a couple of those plays.’’

While the Patriots were unable to shut down Wayne, they did contain tight end Dallas Clark, who had gained at least 99 yards in his previous two games. Brandon McGowan challenged Clark most of the game. He got open on a couple of critical plays, but overall, Belichick said he was pleased with McGowan’s performance.

“I thought Brandon challenged him well and played him well,’’ he said. “Plays he was open on, both of them were play-action passes and we kind of got out of position on the play-action a little bit and the coverage that we had on him just wasn’t there.’’

A slight catch
With rookie Brandon Tate out for the year with a knee injury, the Patriots were unsure of what options they would have at receiver until just a couple of hours before game time. Rookie Julian Edelman, who is recovering from a broken forearm, was a game-time decision.

When the team placed Tate on injured reserve Saturday, it signed Isaiah Stanback to the active roster for depth. Stanback is a quarterback who was converted to receiver in his two seasons with the Cowboys. Injuries prevented him from settling into a rhythm at the position, but he did catch two passes for 24 yards last season.

On Sunday, Edelman hauled in two passes for 14 yards, including his first career touchdown, a 9-yarder. Stanback made two grabs for 17 yards.

Edelman had missed two games with the forearm injury.

“We really weren’t sure about [Edelman] until, literally, a couple of hours before the game,’’ Belichick said. “So Isaiah was the fourth receiver for the game and we felt like we needed that.’’

No stumbling block
Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer may have faced his toughest challenge in Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney. Vollmer is a rookie who has picked up playing time as Matt Light heals from a knee injury suffered against Denver.

Vollmer kept Freeney busy most of the game and prevented him from picking up a sack for the first time in nine games dating to last season.

“Sebastian competed hard. Freeney got a couple plays on him, but Vollmer certainly held his own and he blocked him a lot of times,’’ Belichick said. “Freeney’s the defensive equivalent to Reggie Wayne. You can do everything right and there are still a few plays that those guys are going to make, but I thought Sebastian played well against him.’’

A minor scrape
One of the Patriots’ team buses scraped a police cruiser while leaving Lucas Oil Stadium following the game. The lead bus made a tight turn around a curve and scraped the police car, said Stacey James, the team’s vice president of media relations. The bus was one of five carrying staff and players to the airport. There were no injuries and the incident delayed the team’s travel by about five minutes . . . The win was the Colts’ 18th in a row in the regular season, tying them with the Patriots for the second-longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots won a record 21 straight from 2006-08.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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