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AFC PLAYOFFS Groundskeeper possibly Pats best defense against Manning



Published: Fri, January 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots are preparing what may be the best defense against Peyton Manning and his speedy receivers: a slippery field.

The team left the Gillette Stadium grass uncovered through Wednesday's rain and Thursday's fog. With more rain or snow expected today and freezing temperatures for the weekend, the Indianapolis Colts' prolific offense could find the footing poor in Sunday's playoff game.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows a cold front may be as critical as his three-man defensive front in slowing down the Colts. But he certainly wouldn't turn the field into an ice rink or a quagmire just to help his team, would he?

"My job is not to pull weeds," he said Wednesday with an innocent-looking smirk. "I have a lot of other things to do. Or rake the field and all of that. I'm sure that will all be taken care of."

A coach like Belichick who delves into the smallest detail includes weather conditions in his planning, although he may not have the final say on field maintenance.

"I'm sure he's consulted on it," team spokesman Stacey James said Thursday, "but it's a collaborative effort between our stadium operations people and the grounds crew."

All-terrain offense

There's a 90 percent chance of rain or snow on Friday before a dry weekend with temperatures ranging from 20 to 34 degrees Saturday and 16 to 33 degrees Sunday with mostly cloudy skies. There'll be plenty of time for the moisture to turn to ice before the game's late afternoon start.

Some Patriots think a slippery field won't make a difference to the fifth highest-scoring offense in NFL history with 522 points and three receivers -- Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokely -- with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

"They beat people in cold weather. They beat people on turf," strong safety Rodney Harrison said.

"They're going to catch touchdowns. They're going to run the ball. It doesn't matter what surface they're playing on. They could be playing on hot coals. It doesn't matter."




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