James Sanders, Patriots Stop the Colts, 31-28

James Sanders, Patriots Stop the Colts, 31-28

Final, Patriots 31-28: Jermaine Cunningham applied the pressure on Peyton Manning, whose throw died just a little short of the end zone, and James Sanders hauled in the biggest interception of his career. That was something else, that's for sure. Stay with NESN.com for full postgame coverage.

Fourth quarter, 2:33, Patriots 31-28: The Patriots' defense didn't get their chance to win the game on the full field last year, but they've sure got it this time. The offense went four-and-out after picking up first down on the first play of the drive, and Peyton Manning has the ball back on his own 25 after Zoltan Mesko's punt. Both teams have three timeouts, and this one has gotten tense.

Fourth quarter, 4:46, Patriots 31-28: The Patriots have seen this before. Peyton Manning threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Blair White, who made an outstanding diving catch toward the back of the end zone. That was one of those throws where, either the wideout catches it or no one does, and White rewarded Manning for his confidence. Tom Brady has one of those season-defining drives coming up. The Colts have three timeouts remaining, too.

Fourth quarter, 7:04, Patriots 31-21: The Patriots didn't gain a first down and didn't even eat up a minute of clock before punting it away to the Colts, who take over at their own 27. Two Brady incompletions — the second of which could have resulted in a pass interference penalty — hurt that drive.

Fourth quarter, 7:57, Patriots 31-21: Peyton Manning made short work of the Patriots' defense, which has struggled with big fourth-quarter leads this season. Peyton Manning hit Blair White for an easy five-yard touchdown after White beat safety Patrick Chung on a quick slant over the middle. The Patriots' offense needs a Pepto drive here, something to keep the stomachs calm.

Fourth quarter, 10:23, Patriots 31-14: Shayne Graham kicked a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead, but Tom Brady wasn't very happy after his third-down pass shot through Julian Edelman's hands on a crossing route. Still, Edelman probably would have gotten crushed and come up short of the marker if he did make the catch. It's looking good for the Patriots, but they had this same exact lead in this game last year. Obviously, this will be the latest chance to prove this year's team is a different, very much-improved one.

Third quarter, 0:18, Patriots 28-14: Peyton Manning can't be a big fan of Pierre Garcon, who cut off his route on a deep pass that was intercepted down the right sideline by Devin McCourty. The Gillette crowd then got a big rise out of the video boards, which zoned in on a befuddled Manning. By the way, Kyle Arrington has rushed the passer as a down lineman on three consecutive plays. This is interesting.

Third quarter, 1:11, Patriots 28-14: Wow, in a rivalry between two of the great quarterbacks of all-time, little Danny Woodhead might have the highlight of the game. Woodhead took the hand-off and busted out to the right side, which was sealed off by, I believe, Alge Crumpler and beat safety Aaron Francisco for a 36-yard touchdown. That was some electric stuff and a score that just came from nowhere. (Update: Then Woodhead made the tackle in kickoff coverage. Unbelievable.)

Third quarter, 5:53, Patriots 21-14: The Patriots bent a little bit there, but they eventually forced the Colts to punt and will take over at their own 21. Interestingly, on Indy's failed third-and-9, cornerback Kyle Arrington got down in a three-point stance at left defensive end in a four-man front, beat right tackle Ryan Diem to the inside and forced Peyton Manning out of the pocket before he threw an incompletion.

Third quarter, 10:47, Patriots 21-14: Darius Butler replaced Kyle Arrington at right cornerback for this series. Arrington is wearing his helmet on the edge of the sideline, so this isn't an injury substitution.

Third quarter, 11:54, Patriots 21-14: The Patriots were stopped for the first time, as Matt Light got beat by Dwight Freeney, who sacked Tom Brady for a loss of eight yards on first down. This Patriots offense, like many others, has a very difficult time making up for sacks and big penalties. That's why it's of the utmost importance to keep Freeney and Robert Mathis in check.

Third quarter, 14:53, Patriots 21-14: Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff 19 yards to the New England 27, and this thing is back underway.

Halftime, Patriots 21-14: Tom Brady has been phenomenal, and Peyton Manning has been pretty good himself, but Manning's opening-drive interception is the difference in the game through two quarters. After Manning's latest touchdown pass, this is shaping up to be yet another classic between these rivals. Brady has completed 12-of-14 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while Manning is 19-for-26 for 209 yards, two scores and a pick.

Aside from Manning's interception, the Patriots have two big things going for them. First, they can run the ball — BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 10 carries, 42 yards and one touchdown — while the Colts' running game has been fitted with cement shoes (just nine rushing yards as a team). And second, the Patriots have converted all six of their third-down attempts. The Colts haven't been so bad, either, with a 6-of-8 rate.

Second quarter, 0:04, Patriots 21-14: Peyton Manning just fit a square peg into a round hole. He hit Reggie Wayne with a perfect 11-yard touchdown pass in the left side of the end zone, and that's a score the Colts absolutely needed to keep pace before the half. Cornerback Kyle Arrington, whose missed tackle on Wayne earlier in the drive played a role in the touchdown, had great coverage on Wayne, but he still made a tremendous toe-tapping catch.

Second quarter, 0:54, Patriots 21-7: Colts receiver Austin Collie, who has five catches for 60 yards in his comeback from a concussion, looks like he's out for the game. His pads, jersey and helmet are behind the bench, and he is not with them. My common sense kicks in sometimes.

Second quarter, 3:34, Patriots 21-7: The Patriots have been absolutely perfect on offense Sunday, and they just scored their third touchdown on their third drive of the game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis got low and burrowed through the hole for a five-yard touchdown run. However, with 3:34 to go, Peyton Manning has a ton of time to construct an answering score. With the Patriots set to receive the second-half kickoff, the Patriots' defense could come up with a game-altering stop here.

Second quarter, 7:53, Patriots 14-7: Peyton Manning hit Gijon Robinson for a one-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. Robinson was left wide open after Rob Ninkovich ran to the backfield toward Manning, just after a nice play-action. With this rivalry's history and Manning's ability, who didn't see the Colts scoring on that drive? Also, Adam Vinatieri was loudly booed during the extra point. The fans just won't forgive him for going to Indy.

Second quarter, 12:05, Patriots 14-0: Austin Collie dropped an easy pass over the middle of the field that would have gone for a first down, but how can you blame him? The last time he was in that area, he got knocked unconscious by a member of the Eagles. On the next play, Collie sat in the middle of the zone for a couple of seconds, but Peyton Manning hesitated to throw to him initially. With Manning looking directly at Collie for the majority of that play, I can only believe his confidence in his receivers is waning — or Wayne-ing, if you like plays on words.

Second quarter, 13:15, Patriots 14-0: Well, this is impressive. Tom Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for an eight-yard touchdown pass on third down to double the lead. That was a 15-play, 82-yard drive that spanned 7:46 and had a good mix of run and pass. Middle of the field, all day.

End of first quarter, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots are off to their second straight really good start, and they've got a third-and-1 coming up on the Indy 10. Tom Brady is 6-of-7 for 72 yards and a touchdown, and Peyton Manning is 6-of-9 for 66 yards and an interception.

First quarter, 6:01, Patriots 7-0: Another good showing by the Patriots' defense, which has only been burned for one bad play in two series — the result of Patrick Chung losing his footing prior to an Austin Collie reception — and the Patriots take over at their own 18 after the Colts' punt. Cornerback Kyle Arrington tweaked his right leg on the last play, and he's loosening it up on the sideline with trainers. It looks like a minor thing.

First quarter, 7:54, Patriots 7-0: The Colts were bagged for another penalty on a kickoff return, and they're going to start their second drive on their own 13. If their first possession was any indication, the Colts aren't going to be able to run the ball on the Patriots, and that means Peyton Manning's receivers are going to have to step up against the Patriots' multi-look defense. They did a couple of different things on the last drive, putting Kyle Arrington and Patrick Chung — on three-safety sub formations — on Reggie Wayne.

First quarter, 8:00, Patriots 7-0: Tom Brady quickly made Peyton Manning pay for his mistake by hitting Wes Welker over the middle for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Remember, due to middle linebacker Gary Brackett's injury, the Colts are going to be extra susceptible over the middle of the field, and the Patriots quickly exploited that weakness.

First quarter, 10:02, 0-0: Peyton Manning's pass for Blair White sailed a little bit — Manning threw off his back foot due to the collapsing pocket — and it was intercepted by Brandon Meriweather, who returned it to the Indy 32.

First quarter, 14:54, 0-0: The Colts will begin the game at their own 11-yard line after an illegal block in the back during the opening kickoff. It's rivalry time, folks.

4:14 p.m.: The Colts called tails and lost the toss, and the Patriots elected to defer. The Colts will receive the opening kickoff in a moment.

4:13 p.m.: The Texans are the most un-clutch team in the history of football. The Jets scored a potential game-winning touchdown while the national anthem was being sung at Gillette stadium.

4:01 p.m.: The Gillette Stadium crowd just erupted — I mean, loudly — when the video boards showed the clip of Mark Sanchez's late interception that all but sealed the Texans' win against the Jets. The Patriots will be taking the field with sole possession of first place in their sights.

3:25 p.m.: Tom Brady has started to warm up, and for the first time in 2010, Brady and Peyton Manning are on the field at the same time.

2:51 p.m.: Running back Fred Taylor will have to wait another week. Taylor is among the Patriots' eight inactive players, which also includes right guard Stephen Neal, cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, safety Jarrad Page, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, wide receiver Taylor Price, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger and tackle Mark LeVoir. Cornerback Darius Butler is back in the lineup after being inactive last week, while wide receiver Brandon Tate (flu) and quarterback Tom Brady (right foot, right shoulder) are the two players in the lineup after appearing on the injury report.

2:34 p.m.: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Sammy Morris have been out on the field warming up for the last few minutes, but there's been no sign of Fred Taylor, which means his status for Sunday's game was already determined Saturday or early Sunday morning. The inactive list will be released in a few minutes.

2:22 p.m.: Peyton Manning has been throwing passes to his receivers for the last few minutes. Interestingly, because of the Colts' no-huddle offense, Manning began his warmups by throwing a pass, running 20 yards down the field and then doing it all over again. He only did that a few times, but it was a unique way to get it going.

1:40 p.m.: The inactive lists will be announced in about an hour, but the Colts have already ruled out six players: safety Bob Sanders, middle linebacker Gary Brackett, outside linebacker Clint Session, cornerback Justin Tryon, running back Joseph Addai and running back Mike Hart.

The loss of Brackett might be the most significant because of his responsibilities over the middle of the field in that Tampa-2 system. The Colts need their middle linebackers to make smart decisions right off the snap to limit the weaknesses in the middle of that zone. With Addai and Hart out, the Colts have lost their two hardest runners, and they'll turn to former UConn running back Donald Brown and former Patriots practice squad running back Javarris James.

1:30 p.m.: Stephean Neal went back to the locker room after loosening up and jogging around the field for a few minutes, and he was never eyed by trainers. Neal, who was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt, is never out on the field this early and was on the injury report with a shoulder issue. I'm guessing this all means he is good to go, but I'm not positive.

1:20 p.m.: Patriots right guard Stephen Neal is loosening up on the field, which is an indication that he is a game-time decision due to the shoulder injury that kept him out of last week's game against Pittsburgh. He is currently jogging around by himself, and there aren't any trainers near him.

1:17 p.m.: It's a cold but beautiful afternoon at Gillette Stadium, which is still quiet about three hours prior to kickoff. Fans are outside tailgating in winter gear, and that's always a cool sight to see for the first time in the season.

12:00 p.m.: Enjoy this one, and try to take it all in. The Patriots and Colts have played a number of classics, and with each team again contending at the top of their respective divisions, Sunday's showdown should be as fun to watch as all the rest.

It's the 12th meeting between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and Brady has a 7-4 edge in the series, despite Manning's recent surge against New England.

Stay with NESN.com's live blog throughout the day, and we'll keep you up to speed with all the action from Gillette Stadium.

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