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Collins’ athleticism a plus for Patriots

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Linebacker Jamie Collins is quickly becoming a star in the middle of the New England Patriots defense.

The third-year pro leads the team with 37 tackles while also collecting 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Over the last two weeks, while Dont’a Hightower was sidelined with a rib injury, Collins displayed his football IQ, serving as the play-caller for the defense.

But Collins will always be most notable for his freakish athletic ability, which was on full display on a blocked PAT late in the fourth quarter of the win in Indianapolis. Collins perfectly timed the snap to leap over the Colts long snapper, land and easily block Adam Vinatieri’s kick.

It was just the latest example of Collins’ ability to wow everyone, including teammates, with his athleticism.

“The Colts field-goal protection, they try to get real low and protect those guys from not getting knocked out of there by the defensive linemen,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the play that must be seen to truly be appreciated. “I thought we had an opportunity to go over the top of them, and Jamie did and made a great play on it.”

Meanwhile, Hightower did not make the trip to Indianapolis. He left last week’s win over Dallas in the first quarter due to the rib injury. Although he practiced on a limited basis last week, he wasn’t ready for live action Sunday.

–Running back LeGarrette Blount wasn’t quite as dominant Sunday night against the Colts as he was in a pair of recent playoff blowouts over that team, when the big back combined for more than 300 yards and seven rushing scores. Still, Blount churned out a game-high 16 attempts for 93 yards rushing, including a 38-yard touchdown. He also hauled in an 11-yard touchdown reception.

Blount was by no means bothered by the lesser role against a team the Patriots used at least 40 rushing attempts against in the last three meetings. This was a more balanced effort against an improved Indy run defense.

“Every win is satisfying,” Blount said. “We worked hard this week. We prepared for them, we prepared for everything that they were throwing at us. And they’re a really good team. They have a great quarterback, great receivers, obviously a great running back. And they’ve got great guys on defense, new faces, and we had to prepare for them well, and we got out with a grinding win.

“Everybody prepared for them, as we would do any opponent. Everybody was ready to play this game. We were excited about it, just like we would be excited about playing anybody else. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as we get the win, I feel we’ll be satisfied with it.”

–Running back Brandon Bolden, one of New England’s core-four special teams leaders, made a huge play on an ill-advised Colts fake punt formation Sunday night in the third quarter. Bolden dropped Colt Anderson for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-3 from the Colts 37 after the safety seemed surprised to actually receive the snap from wide receiver Griff Whalen.

The play included the rest of the Colts punt time lined up wide to the right, although none of that group was on the line of scrimmage so even if the play had worked it would have been negated by penalty.

In the end, the curious call and terrible execution gave Tom Brady possession on a short field for an eventual touchdown and 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

While Colts head coach Chuck Pagano deserves all the criticism for the play, Bolden and the Patriots deserve praise for being ready for the unique look.

“I think there was a lot of confusion out there, honestly,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “I don’t know what the goal of that play was, but I’m happy that we were able to defend it.”

According to Belichick, the Patriots expected some tricks in the game, which included a surprise onside kick earlier by the home team that New England was fortunate to recover and retain after a questionable replay review.

“We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game, the onside kick, some kind of fake — fake punt, fake field goal. The punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple weeks ago. That’s something they’ve done in the past,” Belichick said. “We didn’t know what the play was going to be obviously, but they went on the swing-gate type play. We went over to the overshift and made sure we covered the inside part, reacted well to it. It was a good heads-up play by our punt return unit.”

Notes: Marcus Cannon started at left tackle in place of Nate Solder (right biceps), who was placed on injured reserve last week. Cannon didn’t last long, though, as he left in the first quarter with a toe injury and did not return. … Wide receiver Matthew Slater limped off the field in the second half. The Pro Bowler and special teams captain appeared to be in significant pain on the New England sideline, but was walking and standing under his own power. … Defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle) did not finish the win over the Colts, missing the second half. … Defensive end Trey Flowers (knee/shoulder) did not make the trip, making it five straight games the rookie fourth rounder missed playing.


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