Fan Files: The Danger Zone

<p>It's not the offense. It's not the defense. Wondering what stopped Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts? It's the weather and the fans. Foxboro should be considered the Danger Zone for all high flying franchises thinking about rolling through the Playoffs. </p> <p> Shannon Sharpe's comments notwithstanding, The Patriots were the better team on Sunday. Michelle V. Talks about what she saw, and why snow and Patriots football go hand in hand.</p>

PHOTO: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick raises his arms with seconds left in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Indiinapolis Colts as injured defensive end Richard Seymour, right, looks on, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2005, in Foxboro, Mass. The Patriots won 20-3. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Fan Files: The Danger Zone
Patriots Defeat the Colts 20-3
by Michelle Vitagliano, Fan Commentator

I don't know what it is about the combination of snow and the New England Patriots playing in Foxboro but the two get my blood rushing like a stiff drink! And Sunday's game was no different. The conditions were perfect and typical of a post-season game in New England… cold, wind, heavy snowfall and a stadium full of hyped-up fans waiting to watch the home team make fools out of those who thought the Colts would gallop to game two of the playoffs and put an end to the Patriots winning season.

As the snow began to fall, I could feel the excitement building all around us and probably because our fans know that when the white stuff falls in Foxboro, the Pats suddenly have one leg up on their opponents. Unlike other teams, the Pats play well in the snow, really well, as we've seen over the last few years. So when it started to fall on Sunday, we knew that nature was on our side. I also think the jets flyover adds a little excitement too, especially when the resident DJ at Gillette plays Danger Zone just as they fly out of sight.

As we have seen before, the Pats once again showed Payton Manning that there's no place like home as they whipped the Colts 20-3 to advance to the divisional playoffs. It must have been a quiet flight back to Indianapolis for the Colts, especially after trash-talker Mike Vanderjagt's comments about the Pats being ripe for the picking backfired tenfold.

Indianapolis, whose defense was ranked top in the league and whose quarterback Payton Manning broke Dan Marino's record of 49 touchdowns in a season, just couldn't get their act together. It was a slow starting game with no score in the first and a slight Pats lead going into halftime. But there were some notable key plays that kept the Pat's momentum going including Asante Samuel's devastating hit on Brandon Stokley in the end of the first half. Corey Dillon had a nice 42-yard run and caught 5 passes and powerhouse Teddy Bruschi had a great tackle and then managed to rip the ball right out of the Colt's hands. Troy Brown, who has proven to be a key player no matter what position he's in, had 2 catches for 13 yards and a 20 yard punt return. Brady was sacked a few times and still managed to stay focused and get the ball within scoring range while injuries kept Richard Seymour and Ty Law watching from the sidelines.

The Colts certainly didn't look like a team that would be making a Super Bowl appearance any time soon and they got no help from the noisy fans who did a great job of making it hard for the Colts to hear each other calling the plays. What we saw Sunday was football at its best. The Pats used the clock to their advantage, the defense allowed only 3 points and the offense scored enough to allow us to comfortably watch the last home game until next season.

At times when I could hardly see the field, never mind the players or the ball, due to the almost white-out conditions, the Pats were working away, running the ball down field or stopping the Colt's offense dead in their tracks.

These are the games you remember. The ones where you can't even feel the freezing cold because the excitement of the game keeps you warm. They're the games that you talk about for a long time and they're the ones that make you realize that the Pats are one hell of a football team. These are the games that make every penny you pay for the ticket worthwhile. These are the "remember when" games that you look back on and smile because you were part of it all. And these are the games that make you think "son-of-a-bit@# do we really have to wait until next season to see them play in Gillette?"

Thanks to the Jet's missing an overtime field goal that Adam Vinatieri could have made blindfolded, next weekend, the Pats play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Pittsburgh and have a chance to advance for a second year in a row to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Steelers earlier in the season on Halloween night but this time, it's our turn to go trick-or-treating and to come home with the win. If the Pats play on Sunday as well as they did against the Colts, they have every chance in the world of making an appearance in Jacksonville next month and how great would it be to get our sweet revenge on the team that stole a win from us just a few months ago! Are you ready for some football? Go Pats!

Michelle Vitagliano, passionate Boston sports fan that she is, can be found in the insiders forums under the screen name Patriette. Her weekly fan commentary can be found here on the Patriots Insider site, or you can search for her articles on the Insiders by searching for "Michelle Vitagliano". If you're a local, you can find her mostly around the Boston scene on game night, hanging out with her friends.

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