Patriots praise Manning's neck surgery recovery
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn't hesitate Tuesday when asked about Peyton Manning's arm strength three years after major neck surgery.
''I think Peyton Manning's arm strength is just fine,'' Patricia said on a conference call, as the Patriots began to prepare for a visit by Manning and the Denver Broncos Sunday. ''I think it's pretty evident in his play that he makes all the throws necessary in order to score them a lot of points.''
Manning clearly had trouble throwing when he began his comeback and people have offered all kinds of opinions on him since.
''You can definitely see him push the ball downfield,'' Patricia said. ''He has some extremely fast receivers and big receivers that can push the ball, push the routes vertically. Obviously (Emmanuel) Sanders - you can really see him take off downfield and the ball get down to those guys.''
Overall, the Patriots have had success against Manning in his days with both the Indianapolis Colts and Broncos.
Manning has gone 8-14 against New England - 6-12 in the regular season and 2-2 in the playoffs.
In 18 games, he has thrown 41 of his record 510 career regular season TD passes against New England, but has also had 24 of his 222 interceptions. In the postseason, he has three TDs and eight interceptions against the Patriots.
He lost his first two postseason games against New England, but has gone 59 of 90 for 629 yards in winning the last two - 32 of 43 in last season's AFC title game. But even in those wins, Manning has thrown just two touchdown passes and three interceptions against the Belichick teams.
Manning is having another great year as the Broncos come to New England 6-1 to face the 6-2 and streak Patriots.
''He's good because he does everything good,'' said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ''Really, I don't think there are any weak points in his game. He's very smart. He has a great understanding of concepts and timing, game management, clock management, situational football - third down, red area - great utilization of the field from sideline-to-sideline and attacking the deep part of the field, very accurate, great decision-maker, quick release.''
NOTES: The Patriots, who lost Jerod Mayo for the season to a knee injury, traded for their second linebacker in as many weeks when they picked up veteran Jonathan Casillas from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Terms were not disclosed. Last week, New England acquired Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans and he debuted Sunday against the Chicago Bears, picking up a sack. New England also released offensive lineman Chris Barker.. The Patriots are bringing back 17 of the 22 players Sunday who played on all three title teams back for a 10th anniversary celebration of the last one. Two - Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri - are still active while three - Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans), Larry Izzo (New York Giants) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are on coaching staffs and can't make it.