INDIANAPOLIS -- Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Two seasons ago, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork played 51.8 percent of the defensive snaps. Last season, it was 69.8 percent. This year – 86.6 percent. The transformation to dominating three-down lineman is complete.
2. Some powerful stuff between Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and owner Jim Irsay this past week, much of it played out in public. It came across as if Irsay was reminding Manning who was boss and who was employee. That it could happen to Manning was part of what made it so surprising, given his standing in the franchise’s past decade of excellence.
3. Referees who didn’t work playoff games, which are awarded based on a grading system: Walt Anderson, Jerome Boger, Mike Carey, Walt Coleman, Scott Green, Terry McAulay, Jeff Triplette.
4. Six-year veteran defensive end Mark Anderson was one of the Patriots’ best free agent signings this year. He played on a one-year, $1.375 million deal and collected 10 sacks while logging 46 percent of the defensive snaps. Before he signed, I mentioned he more of a pure speed rusher who probably wouldn’t help much against the run. I was wrong on that, as he’s been effective in that run-stopping role too. Anderson has missed just two defensive plays over the last two games, with the team relying on him more.
5. Wow. What an inspiring story here, Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger on Curtis Martin. Is this the year Martin lands in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
6. Veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren gave the Patriots a lot in the AFC Championship Game. His 42 snaps were a season high. The week before, he had 39 snaps, which shows how in got-to-have-them games over the last few weeks, the Patriots turned to a trusted veteran.
7. Kickers stick together. One big takeaway from the AFC Championship Game was how sincere Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was in consoling Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff after Cundiff’s bad 32-yard miss. While happy the Patriots won, Gostkowski would have preferred he had a kick to win it instead of seeing a fellow kicker miss like that.
8. Two Pro Bowl facts of interest with the game being played today: Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey are each playing in their 11th Pro Bowl, which ties for the third most since 1970. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel and Chiefs guard Will Shields, with 12 games played apiece, have more. Also, no school had more players named to this year's Pro Bowl than Miami (7).
9. Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco totaled just 25.9 percent of the team’s offensive snaps this season, producing 15 receptions. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots would bring him back at his $3 million salary in 2012. In terms of players currently under contract, he would have the fourth highest base salary on the club.
10. One of the differences between the Patriots’ approach in the playoffs this year compared to the past two is that they seem more relaxed. It starts at the top with Bill Belichick.