Manning delivering a message
INDIANAPOLIS — Even though the Colts and Patriots have met every year since 2003 (“It really has been like a division game,’’ said quarterback Peyton Manning) plus three times in the playoffs, it’s the first game in Foxborough since 2006 when Indianapolis won, 27-20, and went on to beat the Bears in the Super Bowl.
After years of failure (11 losses in 12 visits) the Colts have won the last two games at Gillette Stadium but they’re prepared for a difficult and deafening challenge.
“It’s a tough place to play,’’ said Manning, whose Route 1 record is 2-7 including the postseason. “We’ve certainly been letting our young players know how loud it is and how difficult it is to communicate. I know that’ll be the case this Sunday.’’
Healthy choices In this season of the lame and the halt hereabouts, injury reports from the Colt corral haven’t meant much. What’s the difference between “doubtful’’ and “questionable’’? Perhaps “hopeful’’? “If they’re not listed as out, that means that there is a possibility,’’ said coach Jim Caldwell. “They’re making progress and we’ll see what happens in practice. Things change in a matter of an hour sometimes.’’ The Colts, who’ve already lost tight end Dallas Clark, receiver Tony Gonzalez, and safety Melvin Bullitt for the season, were missing running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session, receivers Austin Collie and Blair White, and safety Bob Sanders last week. How many of them will suit up on Sunday? Who knows? “But I can tell you this,’’ confided Caldwell. “Guys that are not listed as out this week continue to get better.’’
He’s still kicking With the Colts struggling to score touchdowns in the absence of several of their top producers, kicker Adam Vinatieri literally has stepped up in recent weeks, booting eight straight field goals, including three against the Bengals last weekend. “I’ve been healthy this year and the ball’s flying all right,’’ said the Patriots’ former money man, who has made 17 of 19 this season. His 11 points against Cincinnati gave him 1,608 for his career, which puts him 12th in NFL history, just behind Jan Stenerud. “Just means I’ve been around a long time,’’ Vinatieri said with a shrug. Sunday’s meeting will be only his second visit to Foxborough since he decamped to the Colts as a free agent before the 2006 season. “I’m sure there’ll still be a few crowd members there yelling a few choice things at me,’’ said Vinatieri, “but that’s just one of those gamesmanship things that everybody does.’’
No surprise here It came as no surprise to Caldwell that Tom Brady had a monster night in Pittsburgh last weekend. “I’ve never seen him have a bad one, to be honest with you,’’ the coach said. “He’s a talented guy. He’s smart, courageous, a great leader. He knows how to put points on the board. He reads coverages extremely well. He has a great grasp of his offense and an overall ability to control a game. There’s not anything he doesn’t do well.’’ The players who checked out the Sunday night telecast took note of Brady’s animation as a sign that the Patriots are ramping up for another playoff run. “The passion he’s starting to show on the sidelines, getting on guys and all of that,’’ said cornerback Jerraud Powers. “That team’s pretty fired up. They’re playing good football right now so it’s going to be a tough challenge going to their place and beating them. But I believe we’re up for it.’’
Deep thoughts Just because Randy Moss is on a one-man barnstorming tour doesn’t mean the Colts defenders aren’t concerned with the deep ball this week. “It’s kind of the same,’’ said cornerback Kelvin Hayden. “Instead of  being out there, 19 [Brandon Tate] has picked up the slack. We just want to prevent him from getting vertical, just like when Randy was there. Nothing has really changed. They continue to play the same way that they have been playing. It’s just not  out there.’’ In last year’s 35-34 Colts victory here, Moss had a huge outing, catching nine balls for 179 yards and two touchdowns . . . Fans in both cities may be atwitter but Bill Polian is matter-of-fact over Sunday’s matchup at the Razor. “Most importantly, this game will not decide anything,’’ the longtime Colts president said on the club’s website. “There is a long way to go in this season. The winner of this game is not guaranteed to go to the Super Bowl and the loser is not guaranteed to miss the playoffs. It’s one game and it’s interesting and exciting but it’s only one game with seven to go.’’
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.